In this essay, we will get down by remembering how the early Christian Church lived as communities. We will retrieve the mission that they shared. We will see what the footings Communion and mission mean, and see that together they make up the really life of the Church. We will mention to the instruction of Vatican N, and research the apprehension developed there of the Church as Mystery. We will see how the Church exists merely because of the invitation to portion in the Divine Life ( Communion ) , and it ‘s merely purpose is to widen and advance apprehension of that Divine Invitation ( Mission ) .
The Early Church as Communion.
The early Church differed in many ways from the Catholic Church of the present twenty-four hours. We now recognise an Institutional Church which is hierarchically structured, but it has non ever been so. This is of import to advert because in order to understand the life of the Church as Communion and Mission, we must get down to believe of the Church as a
community of trusters with a shared intent. We must raise up a image of the early Church as a new motion of people dedicated to a Mission unfastened to others, instead than as an Institution with an sole rank.
The word Church has its beginnings in the Grecian word ekklesia, and the Hebrew word kahal. Ekklesia referred to secular assemblies of citizens in the Hellenistic universe, and Kahal to the spiritual assemblies ‘ of the Judaic people. Together, in the word Church, they convey a assemblage of people who portion a common and particular individuality. The word Church is used in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of Paul to depict a local assemblage of trusters. Each Church seems to hold it ain distinguishable characteristics, and jobs. In Paul ‘s missive to the Ephesians, Church besides comes to intend a community of adherents who, whilst local, are portion of a broad household: a world-wide Church.[ 1 ]
The typical characteristics of these earliest Christian communities were that they were initiated through a common baptism in the name of Jesus, they met together to pray and interrupt staff of life ( Holy Eucharist ) and that they shared belongings and resources. The early Church communities relied on the instruction of the apostles, and others were attracted to fall in them.
( Acts: 2.38-47: 4.32-37 ) .[ 2 ]The attractive nature of this common life must hold been impressive so, given that to go a Christian in the apostolic Church meant to be prepared for persecution and martyrdom.
In his book ‘Models a/Church ‘ Avery Dulles describes the early Church as communities of people who demonstrated great attention and love for each other, who were besides prepared for persecution and decease.[ 3 ]
Following the illustration of Jesus ‘ life with the apostles,[ 4 ]this was how the early church expressed itself as a community, or Communion. A people gathered together through a common baptism in Jesus, who shared a life based in love of one another. ( There were of class differences and statements amongst the early Christian communities. The Communion was non ever expressed in perfect harmoniousness ) .
So we can see that it is in garnering together as a community to pray and hear the Word of God, proclaimed in our assembly, that the word Communion can foremost be applied.
Communion besides means integrity, through baptism, as adherents, or followings of Christ. This unity extends to a shared apprehension of how we should populate, in love for one another.
The breakage of staff of life in the Eucharist is the sacramental look of our Communion, with each other and with God. .
In “ The Church as Communion and Mission ” , Morris Pelzel writes:
“ … the Holy sacrament… at one time symbolizes and creates the Communion of God the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit, with us.[ 5 ]
Therefore we can understand Communion to intend the integrity between trusters, as expressed in all facets of Church life, and the integrity of that Church with the Triune God.
In this sense Communion refers to the ‘inner life ‘ of the community of trusters, the Church.[ 6 ]
The Early Church as Mission.
Jesus clearly instructs his adherents to convey God ‘s message of redemption to others. He gives them their missional authorization. ( Mt: 28: 16-20 ) . Initially the early Christian Church understood this authorization to widen merely to the people of Israel. After some difference, they came to understand this Mission as widening beyond the Jewish community to include heathens every bit good.[ 7 ]
This Mission is to distribute the Good News of the coming Kingdom or Reign of God ( Mk:1.15, Mt:4.l7,23 ) . Indeed, Jesus asks that his followings be a mark of that Kingdom, in order that others might “ laud our heavenly male parent ” ( Mt: 5.13-16 ) , and calls his adherents to work for the realization of that Kingdom ( Lk: l0.1-11 ) .
The early Church pursued this Mission in several ways. As already indicated they were, by their illustration and typical life style, witnesses to the Kingdom values[ 8 ]that Jesus taught them. They besides proclaimed the Word of God. There was a preaching ministry in the early church. In Acts we read many narratives of the missional activity of the apostles.
They travelled widely, establishing new Church communities.
There were other identifiable ministries, gifts or charisms that were exercised by the early Christians as a agency of distributing the Good News. These included healing, talking in linguas, prognostication, cordial reception and good plants. These ministries were intended both for
the support and attention of the baptized, every bit good as being a mark or informant to God ‘s presence for non-believers ( fifty Cor. 12-14 ) .
The Mission of the Church is to distribute the Gospel: to evangelize. In so making, the Church continues the work of Christ guided and inspired ever by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus promised. ( In: 14.16-18,26 ; 15.26-27 ) .
So so, a sense of Mission is built-in to the Church. Jesus instructed His adherents to go on His ministry, and promised that the Holy Spirit will be present in the Church to enable that ministry to go on. Therefore, the Church can non be without this sense of Mission. It is the really ground that the trusters come together, in order to travel out aJ ; 1d
distribute the Good News. We call this mission undertaking, evangelisation. As Pope Paul VI wrote in 1975, “ evangelizing… all people constitutes the indispensable mission of the Church ” . ( ENI4 ) .[ 9 ]
This facet of Church life is besides referred to as the ‘outer ‘ life of the Church.[ 10 ]
Sacramental manduction and Mission Rooted in the Trinity.
It is from our apprehension of the Three that we derive our perfect illustration of Communion.[ 11 ]That is, in the Three we see the integrity of relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit absolutely expressed. All of humanity is invited by God to portion in this Divine Life, and it is the Mission of the Church to widen this invitation, this call to Communion with God, to the universe. In this manner the Church participates in the go oning activity of the Trinity.[ 12 ]
In Lumen Gentium[ 13 ]the council male parents describe the Church as a “ sacrament – a mark and instrument… of Communion with God and of the integrity of the full human race ” ( LG 1. ) .
They go on to recite the narrative of God the Fathers invitation to humanity, to portion in His ain Godhead life ( LG2 ) ; how Jesus was sent to carry through this invitation, out of love for us, ( LG2, 3 ) ; and how the Holy Spirit abides in the Church to consecrate it continually, in order that we might be
“ a people made one by the integrity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit ” ( LG4 ) .
So we can see that in order to come on the Mission, the first evangelical undertaking of the Church is to be such a mark and informant.[ 14 ]A mark of Communion in the manner we live together as Christians in the universe. Thus Mission and Communion are inter-dependent in the life of the Church. Communion, the interior life ofthe Church, gives rise to Mission:[ 15 ]
The Mission is to widen and complete Communion in Christ.[ 16 ]
Pelzel summarises therefore:
“ … ecclesial life is defined by Communion and mission… ( because ) … these same worlds are first of all feature of godly life. God is a Communion of individuals, each equal to one another and sharing a life of common giving and having. And, in the gracious and loving program of God, this Godhead Communion is opened up to the created universe through the
Missions of the Son and the Spirit in the universe ” .
Pre Vatican II
Prior to the Council of Vatican n, many Catholics in the U.K. would hold viewed the Mission of the Church chiefly in footings of the abroad activity of missionaries. Few would hold understood the word ‘evangelise ‘ to intend anything other than in relation to protestant fundamentalism[ 17 ]. Surely, the mission of the Church was understood to be undertaken chiefly by appointed curates, and those with a particular naming to ‘religious life ‘ .
There was besides a common experience of the Church as efficaciously separated, between the clergy and the temporalty. For illustration, in some divinities prior to VaticanII, this was expressed in the footings of differentiation: ecclesia docens, the instruction Church ; and ecclesia
discens, the acquisition Church.[ 18 ]We might retrieve being portion of that Church, Where the clergy undertook the ‘work ‘ of the Church, and everyone else was instructed in how to populate, and in what to believe by the clergy, locally and internationally: where the clergy were viewed as a opinion elite, with power to govern over the temporalty.[ 19 ]A mostly ‘passive ‘
Church. This experience of Church was besides characterised by a popularly held apprehension that the clerical ( celibate ) province was of a higher religious order in the Church, and that those laic people, married or individual, were in some sense taking a ‘less perfect ‘ signifier of Christian life.[ 20 ]
Given the importance of relationships between individuals ( Divine and homo ) , in understanding Communion and Mission, we might appreciate how a Church divided, fails in that grade, to be ‘Sacrament of Communion ‘ . Besides, how a Church marked by ‘passivity ‘ , ( with the bulk of its members ‘infantilised ‘ ) , will be a less effectual instrument for Mission.
Vatican II sought to right what many theologists understood to be an instability in our ecclesiology. The Council set out to depict more clearly the “ nature and cosmopolitan mission o/the Church ” ( LGl. ) Pope John XXIII who convened the Council, sought reclamation ofthe Church. We might see the work of The Holy Spirit in post-concilliar developments brought approximately because of that accent.[ 21 ]
Lumen Gentium has as it ‘s concentrate the interior life of the Church, and Gaudium et Spes is oriented to the outer life of the Church. As we have indicated already nevertheless, these two facets of Church life can non genuinely be separated one from the other.[ 22 ]
Get downing with the gap chapter of Lumen Gentium, the male parents of the Council refer to the Church as ‘Mystery ‘ . This can be understood as being really like the description of the Church as ‘Sacrament ‘ ,[ 23 ]in that both pertain to that which is Godhead, transcendent and salvific, but is besides revealed in some seeable manner[ 24 ]. Yet we need faith to understand the significance of both Sacrament and Mystery. We eat the Eucharist, and see the Waterss of baptism, for illustration, but it is a affair of religion to accept that in themselves they are agencies by which we receive ‘grace ‘ , through the working of the Holy Spirit, and by which we are brought into Fuller Sacramental manduction with God?[ 25 ]In the same manner, the Council describes the Church itself as portion of God ‘s manner of pass oning with us.
The Church is described as:
“ … a mark and instrument a/intimate brotherhood with God… “ ( LGl )
and that the Church is:
“ … the Kingdom a/Christ already present in enigma… ( which ) grows visibly in the universe through the power a/God ” ( LG3 )
So the Church is the seeable look of God ‘s Kingdom ‘budding Forth ‘ in the universe and continues to construct the land of God, which although nowadays now, will non be to the full realised until the terminal times. Both vehicle of Communion and vehicle of Mission ( LG3,5,9GS 91,92,93 ) .
These two constituents of Church are given other cardinal images in Lumen Gentium, in order to foster depict this Mystery. We are named the “ Body a/Christ ” ( LG7 ) , and “ Peoples a/God ” ( Chapter Il ) . Taken together they present the Church as a whole, as a brotherhood of people who portion every bit in the treble Mission of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King, by virtue ofbaptism.[ 26 ]
The Council following describes the Church as organised and structured hierarchically ( Chapter Ill ) , in order that the whole “ Peoples of God ” might carry through it ‘s Mission in history.[ 27 ]
The construction and instruction of Lumen Gentium serves to re-align the image of the Church, off from that ‘passive ‘ Church ( described above ) , to a Church within which all members portion actively in the Mission.
This displacement of accent has lead in the old ages since the Council, to a turning consciousness amongst the temporalty that they do non simply help the clergy to advance the work of the Church. Our call is more than that. Each of us is commissioned by Christ “ to that apostolate ” ( LG33 ) .[ 28 ]We continue to see a turning consciousness of and coaction in ‘Ministry ‘ to this terminal, by the temporalty.
As Richard Reichart puts it in his book “ Renewing Catechetical Ministry ” ,
“ The Council initiated a displacement… toward.. organizing adherents of Jesus… willing and capable of take parting in a community committed to proclaiming and advancing the reign of God in today ‘s society ” .[ 29 ]
Gaudium et Spes clarifies the “ presence and map ” of the Church in the universe today ( GSl,2 ) The Council rejected the ‘dualism,[ 30 ]of predating centuries, which emphasised the Church as being separate from the universe, above the universe, a better and more perfect Society.[ 31 ]The gap phrases align the Church with the status of humanity, most particularly the laden and the powerless:
“ The joys and hopes, the heartache and torment of the people, … particularly of those who are hapless or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the heartache and torment of the followings of Christ as good ” . ( GSJ )[ 32 ]
It promotes the equality and self-respect of every homo ( GSI2,26,27,29 ) . It asserts that it is the responsibility of all Christians to portion in the salvific Mission of Christ, conveying the Gospel values to world in every domain and activity of human life ( GS53-90 ) .
We are left in no uncertainty that as Church we are formed to ask for all human existences into Communion with God. Again the nature and significance of the relationships enjoyed between individuals is foundational. We strive in love to be a community of adherents, following the expressed illustration and instruction of Jesus, to see each other as brothers and sisters. ( GS32 ) .
Some 17 old ages after the UN Declaration on Human Rights, the Church specificies that worlds, as boies and girls of God are meriting of certain inviolable Rights, everything from nutrient and lodging to freedom of scruples ( GS26,27,29 ) .
Since the Council this accent on self-respect and justness has lead to a flourishing of Justice and Peace groups within the Church, every bit good as an increased consciousness amongst the community of trusters that we are called to be agents of alteration in the universe, locally and Internationally, in solidarity with the hapless or oppressed.
Division in the Church.
As we noted in our consideration of the early Church, we are a Church that has ever been in difference. Most notably, we are cognizant of the go oning divisions between Christians since the Reformation. History is filled with disgraceful grounds of this division being manifest in war and ill will, including those divisions in our ain state in the struggle experienced in Ireland. How frequently do we hear people say that our faith is more a cause of inharmoniousness and agony, than a mark of Communion with each other or with God?
We have non attempted to analyze in any deepness the inquiry of mending the divisions between Christians, here. Yet the inquiry of struggle within the Christian Church is excessively of import to travel without reference. We hope that the reader might see from the statement presented above, the obvious deductions for the oecumenic enterprise.
All Christians, and non merely those in the Roman Catholic Church, are called to be a sacrament of Communion in the universe. Even within the Catholic Church there are divisions and hostilities.[ 33 ]In Gaudium et Spes the inquiry of deciding struggle between states is addressed, ( GS77-90 ) . In respect to divisions amongst Christians the Council
“ For the ties which unite the faithful together are stronger than those which separate them: allow there be integrity in what is necessary, freedom in what is dubious, and charity in everything ” ( GS92 ) .
So we have seen how the early Church, clearly sought to populate together in Communion, with each other, in Christ Jesus. They besides pursued the Mission that Jesus had entrusted them with, to all peoples, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, with bravery and passion. We have considered the reclamation instigated by Vatican 11, and how the impressions of
Sacramental manduction and Mission are at the bosom of the Council ‘s penetrations and learning. We have seen how the Church is called to witness to the presence of God in the universe, ask foring all people to react to the invitation from God, to portion in the Divine life. We have suggested that this realization of the Kingdom is amiss expressed in the Church, but that it is our Mission to work for the fullest realization of it, both within the community of the faithful, and without.