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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Church -What is it?

When you hear or read the word "CHURCH," do you immediately think of a building, or

do you think of "PEOPLE" being "Church?"

I think of PEOPLE.

Vatican II was the source of many remarkable developments that including a further understanding of God's revelation to us.

One of the documents that emerged from the Vatican Council of the 1960's was

Lumen Gentium

(Light of the People)

Within this document the following chapters existed:

1. Mystery of the Church

2. The people of God

3. The Church is Hierarchical

4. The Laity

5. The Universal call to holiness

6. Religious

7. The Pilgrim Church

8. Our Lady

The ordering of these chapters do not lack significance.

The document begins with the concept that Church is a Mystery. Mystery in the sense that it is continually developing further understanding of itself through God's revelation. It even mentions that the Church is like a piece of land to be cultivated, the village of God. The Church was established By Christ and He is the head of the Church and we are His mystical body.

The idea that "The people of God" precedes the "Hierarchical Church" in chapter placed was intentional. It is a reminder that all are God's children and loved without limitation or preference. A Priest, Bishop, or Deacon do not hold a higher status than a lay person. We are all children of God. We are called together as "One Body," a body who acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. Jesus established a covenant with all of his people, not individuals. There are many different citizens of different nations, but through Christ we all become citizens of a kingdom of a heavenly rather than earthly nature.

The idea that the church is Hierarchical doesn't mean that there is an ascending or descending order of worth, or importance, but rather each and all play a special and unique role as the Body of Christ as Church. A church might need a pastor, but it also needs parishioners, one without the other would not be Church. This revelation was much different than had been understood and taught in the past for the Church. Religious were elevated and placed on a pedestal by many in the church. They were thought to be "More Holy" that everyone else. The document reveals the understanding that the laity, through the sacrament of baptism, are in their own way sharers in priestly, prophetical and kingly functions of Christ and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole christian people in the Church and in the world. This chapter also discusses the unique role that Bishops, Priests, and Deacons play, especially in the sense that they are to follow the example of Christ, they are to minister to others, not be ministered to.

The section on Laity (Ordinary Man and Woman) specifies that all the faithful of Christ no matter what rank or status are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. There is a special role that the laity maintain in regard to spreading holiness, charity, and love in the workplace and in the secular world. The laity compose the majority part of the Body of Christ here on earth, and should also represent the majority of action in regard to the expression of love, kindness, and evangelization to the world.

The section on a Universal Call to Holiness represents that 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. Specifically stating "God is love, and He who abides in love, abides in God and God in him." We are all called toward perfection in holiness.

The section on the Religious (Brothers, Nuns, etc.) hold an appropriate placement in the placing of chapters. The religious are included in the mystery of the church, included in the people of God, included in the hierarchical nature of the church, hold a special relationship with the large group known as laity, and are included in the universal call to holiness. The religious play a special role in the overall nature of the church.

The idea that we are a Pilgrim Church expresses that we are on a journey. A journey that will not be complete until we as a whole are united completely with Christ in heaven.

And Finally, The chapter on Our Lady, who is the mother of the members of Christ. She is to be revered and the one chosen by God to bring forth, through God's grace, His Son, our Savor and Lord. Her acceptance and faithfulness is the supreme example of the human relationship with God and our Lord. It was through Mary's fiat that Christ came to us and she will continue to be a catalyst and intercessor for her children. She is not the mediator, there is only one mediator to god, that is Christ, but she holds a special relationship with our Lord Christ, and she can help through her intercession and guidance, always directing us to Him.

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