More Light to the Nations

4 Dec

light of ChristLast week, I offered a reflection on the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), the central document of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which sets forth how the Church is called to bring the light of Christ to the world (cf. Lumen Gentium, no. 1). I focused on the document’s emphasis on the Church as the “People of God,” or “Family of God.”

Before continuing to the next document in this “Year of Faithseries on the sixteen documents of Vatican II, I thought I would point out some additional significant teachings from Lumen Gentium, which is incredibly packed with beautiful teaching on the nature and mission of the Church. I limited myself to a “top ten list” of other teachings found in that document that I have found to be especially significant. I’ve obviously omitted many topics, but I hope this approach nonetheless gives readers some helpful “snapshots.” I have chosen to let the quotes speak for themselves rather than “spin” them through the use of commentary.

 (1) Church as sacrament of our “family unity” with God and with one another (no. 1)

“Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission.”

(2) The Catholic Church is “not just another Christian denomination” (no. 8)

“This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Savior, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth.’ This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.”

(3) The ordained priesthood is distinct from the priesthood of the laity (no. 10)

“Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.”

(4) Maintaining both our “visible communion” with the Church (e.g., believing what the Church teaches) and even more our “invisible communion” by persevering in charity (no. 14)

“They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity.”

(5) Pope and bishops as teachers with the authority of Christ (no. 25)

“For bishops are preachers of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and they are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. . . . Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will.”

(6) Restoration of the permanent diaconate (no. 29)

“At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.’ For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God . . . Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: ‘Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.’

“Since these duties, so very necessary to the life of the Church, can be fulfilled only with difficulty in many regions in accordance with the discipline of the Latin Church as it exists today, the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy.”

(7) The special role of the laity (no. 31)

“What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. . . .[B]y their very vocation, [the laity] seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”

(8) Holiness is for everybody! (no. 40)

“Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.”

(9) Mary’s unique role in the mission of Christ (nos. 57-58)

“This union of the Mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ’s virginal conception up to His death. . . . [T]he Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, grieving exceedingly with her only begotten Son, uniting herself with a maternal heart with His sacrifice, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this Victim which she herself had brought forth. Finally, she was given by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross as a mother to His disciple with these words: ‘Woman, behold thy son.’”

(10) Mary’s ongoing role in the mission of the Church (no. 60)

“There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, ‘for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all.’ The maternal duty of Mary toward men in no wise obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows His power. For all the salvific influence of the Blessed Virgin on men originates, not from some inner necessity, but from the divine pleasure. It flows forth from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation, depends entirely on it and draws all its power from it. In no way does it impede, but rather does it foster the immediate union of the faithful with Christ.”

2 Responses to “More Light to the Nations”

  1. Christadelphians December 23, 2012 at 8:17 am #

    Jesus was the man who had to bring more light in the world but many churches and religious institutions brought darkness in the world. Soon civil bureaucratic rules were introduced and those wanting to keep their power agreed to accept pagan rites, holy days, philosophical teachings, even heathen ideas instead holding to the truth of the Holy Scriptures and following Jesus as their master teacher, funding communities in brotherly love and equality of brethren and sisters in Christ.

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  1. Undivided Heart « - January 25, 2013

    […] In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) we have an overview of the various states in life in the Church. In some of these subsequent documents, specific […]

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