The Church Section 1: The Church; Christ’s Continued Presence and Work in the World
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • The Church was always part of God’s plan, instituted by His Son, Jesus Christ, and given life by the Holy Spirit. • The word Church refers to an assembly of people called together to be in a special relationship with God. • The Church is both a means of God’s salvation and the goal of God’s plan for humanity since all those saved at the end of time will be gathered into the perfected Church.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • God’s first covenant with Israel foreshadowed the New Covenant made in Jesus’ death and Resurrection with the Church. • The gift of the Eucharist and Jesus’ death gave birth to the Church, as early Christians gather together to commemorate both those important moments. • Jesus’ teachings inaugurated the Church and its mission, a mission Jesus gave to Peter, the first Pope, and the other Apostles, forming a structure for His Church that will last until the end of time.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • The word “church,” used in everyday language, can have a variety of meanings, from reference to a building, a parish, a Christian ecclesial community, and the Catholic Church herself. • The New Testament Greek word for church is “ekklesia,” which means “to call out,” referring to God’s calling people together to be in a special relationship with Him. • The Old Testament Greek uses “ekklesia” to refer to Israelites; the first Christians then used the work ekklesia to show they were heirs to the assembly of Israel.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • The word Church has 3 meanings when used in a Christian context, all of which refer to God’s call: • The entire community of God’s people around the world • The local community, such as a diocese, or a local church community based on region in which people gather in different parishes, all of which is headed by a bishop • The community assembled for the liturgy, or the Church’s official, public communal prayer, especially the Mass
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • Those three meanings of Church cannot be separated from each other since the Church is composed of all people gathered in the world, but concretely exists in local communities and made real when people gather for the liturgy in their own parish. • God wishes to gather all people together to Himself in the Church established by Christ when He proclaimed the Kingdom of God. • But even before the Church was instituted, God’s want of a holy people was already taking shape.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • God called Israel, before the Catholic Church was established, to be a holy people and enter into a covenant relationship with Him. • God, however, does not only wish the Israelites to be holy people; He wishes all people be His holy people, thus why God planned from all eternity the Church for that purpose. • God’s call to the Israelites to be holy people was a clear sign of preparation for all people to be called by Christ to be God’s people, no matter color, culture, race, or homeland.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • The Old Testament composes more than half the Bible and tells of salvation history before the time of Christ, from Creation to God’s covenant with the Israelites, foreshadowing the Church to come. • The community of Israel foreshadows the Church, or Israel represents/ prefigures the Church before she even comes into existence. • God calls us all to be part of His Church, just as He called the Israelites to be saved.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • God made numerous covenants in the Old Testament, including: • With Abraham, first calling him to leave his homeland, then telling him he would be the father of many descendants, and giving him land for him and his descendants to live on • With the Israelites, in the Sinai Covenant, through the 10 Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai • With King David, promising that from David’s line a king shall arise to save Israel, that king being Jesus Christ
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • God’s relationship with Israel was not just about Israel; it had a universal meaning for all people. • Nations are to gather with Israel into one nation that worships God and makes up His people. • The perfect fulfillment of the Sinai Covenant was Jesus Christ since He was born a Jew, under the 10 Commandments, and took the sins of the people against the 10 Commandments upon Himself so God and His people could be reconciled fully.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • Jesus transformed the Law from the Law written on stone tablets, to a Law based in the human heart and on love. • Jesus did not abolish the Sinai Covenant, but rather fulfilled it by establishing the New Covenant. • We hear Christ establish this New Law of Love at the Last Supper when He says, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • Jesus Christ, at the appointed time in human history, became fully man without losing any of His divinity; the mystery of this union of full humanity and full divinity in one Divine Person of Christ is called the Incarnation. • Jesus inaugurated the Church through His preaching of the Kingdom of God. • This Kingdom of God coming to Earth was foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, connecting Jesus’ ministry with the Old Testament prophecies.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • Jesus’ message was for all people, but especially directed to the poor and the sinner. • Jesus said nations would be judged on how they took care of those who were hungry and thirsty, both physically and spiritually. • Jesus taught through parables, or stories that were relevant to the time period yet explain a profound truth in simpler terms, as well as through His actions of healing miracles, all of which proclaimed the Kingdom of God already was beginning on Earth.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • To help establish the Kingdom of Earth, Jesus sent out disciples, or Jesus’ first followers, to all the nations, calling people to join Christ’s Church. • The disciples became the Church herself, as Jesus’ true family and the seed of the Kingdom of God on Earth. • The Church then is a sign and beginning of the reign of God present in our world, which brings perfect happiness and peace to all her members.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • Jesus established the Church primarily by the saving gift of Himself, by hanging on a cross and giving His body and blood for the sake of all humanity, past, present, and future. • Jesus gave us the Eucharist to commemorate this gift to us, so it can be relived and remembered throughout the ages that there was a man, 2000 years ago, who was also God and died so we might have life. • The Eucharist unites the People of God, just as it brought His first followers together in homes to commemorate His love for us.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • Jesus set up the structure of the Church Himself that we have told, governed by a pope and bishops throughout the world. • Jesus appointed the Apostles as leaders of the community gathered around Him and gave Peter a special role as the head of that community. • Christ shared His mission with His Apostles by giving them the power to act in His place. • The bishops are the successors to the Apostles. • The Pope is the successor of Peter as the Bishop of Rome.
Part 1: The Origin of the Church • With the Pope as head of the Church and bishops acting throughout the world, this forms what is called a Hierarchy, or the line of authority in the Church. • This hierarchy of the Church will remain until the Kingdom of God is fully established at the end of time. • Jesus’ choice of 12 Apostles reflects God’s calling of the 12 Tribes of Israel. • The 12 Tribes of Israel were scattered throughout the world in exile, yet Christ’s sending forth of the 12 Apostles was recalling the hope that the 12 tribes would be reunited again one day as a symbol that all people will be joined together in worshipping God in His Church.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit is alive in the doings and life of the Church today. • The Holy Spirit is revealed throughout Scripture, yet was not fully revealed until Pentecost, after Jesus died, was raised, and ascended into Heaven. • The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinitarian God, symbolized usually as a tongue of fire, a driving wind, or a dove of peace. • The Holy Spirit and Christ are inseparable in Their mission to bring about the Kingdom of God.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit first appears in the Book of Genesis during the Creation story. • He appears as a mighty wind that sweeps across the newly created waters. • The Holy Spirit is at work throughout the Bible, but His greatest participatory work of salvation can be found in the New Testament. • We find the Holy Spirit in the New Testament starting with the Incarnation and being fully revealed at Pentecost, when He descended on the Apostles and Mary as tongues of fire.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • Jesus spoke about the Holy Spirit throughout His Earthly mission to His Apostles, yet did not fully reveal the Spirit until Pentecost. • The mission of Jesus and the Holy Spirit are conjoined; Whenever God sends His Son, He also sends the Spirit. • The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of the Church’s mission by revealing the mission of Christ. • That mission entails sharing in Christ’s poverty, obedience, service, sacrifice, and sometimes even giving of one’s life for another.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit leads the Church by bringing people into communion with God. • Since people are only in harmony with one another when they are in communion with God, the Church is a vehicle to create unity among all people. • The Church is a sign and instrument for the perfect union we will all have with the Trinitarian God at the end of our life when we are in Heaven, just as the Three Persons are in perfect union with one another.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Church was revealed on Pentecost, which was the 50th day after Easter on which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and Mary. • The Church is a means of communion between humans and between humans and God. • The communion between God and man has its origin and high point in the celebration of the Eucharist, which takes place during the Mass in Church.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Jewish Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, is a celebration fifty days after the Jewish Passover. • The Apostles gathered in an upper room in Jerusalem on Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus ascended into Heaven. • As they sat in the upper room, a driving wind surrounded the room and filled it as tongues of fire rested above the heads of the Apostles and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Apostles began to preach the Gospel in different languages, languages they did not know, to people who were also gathered in Jerusalem from around the world for Pentecost. • The crowd was amazed because they realized these people were not from their homelands, yet were speaking to them in their own language. • Some though the Apostles were drunk, yet Peter clarifies that Pentecost was foretold by prophets in the Old Testament.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Apostles preached the message of Christ’s salvation and told the crowd to repent from their sins and be baptized so they too could receive the Holy Spirit. • Over 3,000 people were baptized that day alone, which is why Pentecost is known as the birthday of the Church. • Pentecost in the New Testament is the counterpoint to the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament; God confused the speech of people trying to build a tower to Heaven so they could not succeed; now, God allows the Apostles to speak in their tongues and be understood so people could get to Heaven not by a tower of their own hands, but through belief in Christ.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • Pentecost is sometimes called the “birthday of the Church;” however, that does not mean that the Church began on Pentecost. • The Church was primarily “born” from Christ’s total giving of Himself, anticipated at the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled in His death on the Cross. • We can view Pentecost as the Church’s birthday in this way: at a child’s birth, we see the child for the first time; however, the child was formed over a period of several months prior before seeing him or her.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • At Pentecost, the Church was, for the first time, revealed to the entire world, even though the Church was part of God’s plan since before the time of Creation. • At Pentecost, God as the Trinity was fully revealed for the first time also. • The Jews who followed Jesus believed in God the Father (as do Jews today), and that Jesus was the Divine Son of God; at Pentecost, the Jews who believed in Jesus also encountered God as the Holy Spirit for the first time.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The central mystery of our faith, that of the Blessed Trinity- One God in three individual, Divine Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- is made known to us by God alone. • Pentecost marked the beginning of the Church’s mission on Earth, its day of birth before the eyes of the world. • Jesus was no longer present in the same way He was before His death and Resurrection since He now ascended; however, He was now with the world through His Church and through the sending of His Spirit. • “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • When we hear the term “school spirit,” we think of a kind of energy or atmosphere in a group or organization that we cannot see but know is active and real. • When that energy brings people together and strengthens their ability to share in a common mission for other people, that is a glimpse of what the Holy Spirit does for us. • The Holy Spirit has 3 elements to His mission: • Build the Church • Animate the Church • Sanctify the Church
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit animates, or gives life, to the Church. • Saint Augustine compared what the soul is to the human body with what the Holy Spirit is to the Church. • On Pentecost, the fearful Apostles, not sure what exactly to do now that Jesus was gone and ascended, received the presence of God in a different way than before: by the Holy Spirit, which transformed their fear into faith and boldness to preach the Gospel.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit sanctifies, or makes holy and helps us become closer to God and holiness, the Church. • The Holy Spirit sanctifies the Church through: • The Sacraments • Virtues by which we live a moral life • Gifts of the Holy Spirit given to each person • We first receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism, for it is then that we first become part of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit helps build up the Church, which was clearly seen at Pentecost. • 3000 people were baptized on the first Pentecost day alone. • The mission of the Church is to bring people into communion with the Trinity, which is why Jesus told the Apostles that after they received the Spirit, they were to go out and make disciples of all nations. • The Holy Spirit helps build up our own individual faith lives, the community, and attracts new members to the Church, continually bring people closer to God.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The gift of the Holy Spirit calls us to make conversions in our lives, especially to turn away from sinful actions. • We, however, have free will to either accept the Spirit’s calling or to “live according to the flesh,” as Saint Paul says. • A person who lives “according to the flesh” only is concerned with their immediate satisfaction and fulfillment of their desires with no time to consider the needs of other people around them.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • Saint Paul contrasts living according to the flesh with living “according to the Spirit.” • If we live according to the Spirit, we receive such gifts as love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. • A person who lives according to the Spirit is concerned with the needs and well being of others, not on themselves. • The Holy Spirit allows us to see we are to be in relationships with one another that are mutually beneficially, caring for one another as the Trinity cares for one another and all Creation.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit has a teaching role within the Church and helps us to understand the truths of our faith. • The Holy Spirit teaches us how to pray, especially in times when we want to pray, yet do not know what to say; the Spirit guides our thoughts and words in prayer to express our needs. • The Holy Spirit is the “master of prayer,” inspiring us to pray in different ways with basic prayers.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • Basic prayer types include: • Blessing • Petition (Asking God’s help and forgiveness) • Intercessions (Prayer of behalf of another person) • Thanksgiving • Praise • The Holy Spirit is endlessly creative in our life of prayer, inspiring prayers for thousands of years, from the prayers we say during the day and at night, to the prayers at Mass, i.e. the Eucharistic Prayer and songs of worship.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • The Holy Spirit gives us various gifts, called Charisms, which help build up the Church by giving graces to individuals or the community at large. • Saint Paul spoke about the following charisms in his first letter to the Corinthians: • Expression of knowledge or wisdom • Faith • Gifts of healing • Mighty deeds • Prophecy • Discernment of spirits • Gift and interpretation of tongues
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • However, these charisms should not be confused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are dispositions rather than specific skills (which are charisms): • Wisdom • Understanding • Right judgment • Courage • Knowledge • Reverence • Wonder and awe of God
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • There are different types of charisms too, some that are ordinary, others that are extraordinary. • Ordinary charisms may be a teacher sharing their knowledge, a nurse taking care of someone, and a friend helping another person with their homework. • Extraordinary charisms are spiritual powers beyond normal human abilities, i.e. a person curing someone of a disease without any scientific explanation or speaking in tongues (praying in a spiritual language).
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • We sometimes say a person or leader is charismatic in their ability to speak to others and their personality that draws people to them. • The Church also has charisms of leadership, which are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that enable leaders to provide benefits to the whole Church. • Spiritual leaders who created religious orders are sometimes considered to have specific charisms, i.e. Saint Francis’ embracing of poverty led thousands of other people to follow in his footsteps in the Franciscan order today.
Part 2: the holy spirit and the church • One charism of the Church that the Pope has is the charism of infallibility, or the gift given by the Holy Spirit to the Pope and the bishops in communion with him to teach on matters of faith and morals without error. • The Pope can declare a doctrine of the Church as infallible so that way the Church can avoid error in her teachings, i.e. when Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. • The Pope can also exercise infallibility when he and all the bishops in an Ecumenical council agree a teaching is divinely revealed.