The Church is a mystery in the sense that it is not a problem to be solved but something which stretches our reason leading us to faith. This is why we proclaim in the Creed: I believe in the Holy Catholic Church (the Apostles Creed) or I believe in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. Because the Church is a mystery, there are many images of the Church that comes from the Scriptures that highlights aspects of the Church:
– the Body of Christ (the identification of Christ in His Church)
– the Bride of Christ (the love of Christ for His Church)
– the People of God (we belong to Christ, anointed and set apart for mission in His service)
– the Temple of the Holy Spirit (we bear God in our bodies through the sacrament of Baptism)
Yet, from all of these images, one particular thing stands out: the intimate union of the Church and Christ. The Church is not merely an institution or a building that we come to worship in, but in reality is an organism: something that is alive – human and divine. That is why we profess faith in the Church – the belief in the Triune God begins both the apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed which leads us to believe in the Church. It is the Holy Spirit which gives life to the Church – which guides it along its way here on earth. In the liturgy we pray about the pilgrim Church on earth (Eucharistic Prayer III) – we are continually moving towards Christ until He comes again in glory. In the words of St. Joan of Arc – “About Jesus Christ and the church, I know only this: they’re simply one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”
Using the image of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ – Christ is the head and we are the members with the Holy Spirit bringing us together. St. Paul on his road to Damascus came to this vision of the Church (Acts 9:1-9). Another profound Scriptural reference that points to this reality of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ is found in the parable of the sheep and goats in Mt. 25:31-46. In the Gospel of John, Jesus uses the image of the vine and the branches (Jn 15:1-11). When we are baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, we are literally grafted onto Christ like a branch is to the main vine. We can always be assured then that Jesus abides in the Church but we as disciples depend on Christ fully in order to grow in our faith.
Let us then, as we enter into this final week of the Church’s liturgical year pray for an increase in faith in the Church. 2000 years+ and it is still going, I think that is reason enough to believe the Church.
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