Lumen Gentium 7

We’ll start reading longer sections as we hit the core of Lumen Gentium in the days ahead. We start with the impetus given to believers by the Paschal Mystery:

In the human nature united to Himself the Son of God, by overcoming death through His own death and resurrection, redeemed (human beings) and re-molded (them) into a new creation.(Cf Gal. 6, 15; 2 Cor. 5,17) By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers (and sisters), called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body.

The Body is defined first, not in a legal sense, but in a sacramental view, with particular emphasis on Baptism and Eucharist:

In that Body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified.(Cfr. S. Thomas, Sumtna Theol. III, q. 62, a. 5, ad 1.) Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”(1 Cor. 12, 13). In this sacred rite a oneness with Christ’s death and resurrection is both symbolized and brought about: “For we were buried with Him by means of Baptism into death”; and if “we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be so in the likeness of His resurrection also”(Rom. 6, 15) Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”.(1 Cor. 10, 17) In this way all of us are made members of His Body,(Cf 1 Cor 12, 27) “but severally members one of another”.(Rom. 12, 5)

Sacramental orientation, though the start, alone is not enough. The metaphor of the Body developed by Saint Paul is recalled in fair detail, and we are reminded of the gifts of each and every member of the Church, and the role of the Holy Spirit:

As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ.(Cf. 1 Cor. 12, 12) Also, in the building up of Christ’s Body various members and functions have their part to play. There is only one Spirit who, according to His own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives His different gifts for the welfare of the Church.(Cf. 1 Cor. 12, 1-11) What has a special place among these gifts is the grace of the apostles to whose authority the Spirit Himself subjected even those who were endowed with charisms.(Cf. 1 Cor. 14) Giving the body unity through Himself and through His power and inner joining of the members, this same Spirit produces and urges love among the believers. From all this it follows that if one member endures anything, all the members co-endure it, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.(Cf. l Cor. 12, 26)

In the following paragraph, I note the use of the ancient Christian hymn text from Colossians. An artist would approve of the notion that poetic language seems to communicate some mysterious aspects so much better than the attempt of a formal definition:

The Head of this Body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in Him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the first place.(Cf. Col. 1, 15-18) By the greatness of His power He rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with His all-surpassing perfection and way of acting He fills the whole body with the riches of His glory (Cf. Eph. 1, 18-23)

Christ is the model for our daily lives, and believers are described as “pilgrims in a strange land.”

All the members ought to be molded in the likeness of Him, until Christ be formed in them.(Cf. Gal. 4, 19) For this reason we, who have been made to conform with Him, who have died with Him and risen with Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His life, until we will reign together with Him.(Cf. Phil. 3, 21, 2 Tim. 2, 11; Eph. 2, 6; Col. 2, 12 etc.) On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified.(Cf. Rom. 8, 17)

The importance of service and love:

From Him “the whole body, supplied and built up by joints and ligaments, attains a growth that is of God”.(Col. 2, 19) He continually distributes in His body, that is, in the Church, gifts of ministries in which, by His own power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we might through all things grow unto Him who is our Head.(Cf. Eph. 4, 11-16)

And the section concludes with a reminder that renewal is not an occasional event, but is an “unceasing” experience for the Christian.

In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in Him,(Cf. Eph. 4,23) He has shared with us His Spirit who, existing as one and the same being in the Head and in the members, gives life to, unifies and moves through the whole body. This He does in such a way that His work could be compared by the holy Fathers with the function which the principle of life, that is, the soul, fulfills in the human body.(Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl Divinum illud, 9 maii 1897: AAS 29 (1896-97) p. 6S0. Pius XII, Litt Encyl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp 219-220; Denz. 2288 (3808).S. Augustinus, Serm. 268, 2: PL 38 232, ct alibi. S. Io. Chrysostomus n Eph. Hom. 9, 3: PG 62, 72. idymus Alex., Trin. 2, 1: PG 39 49 s. S. Thomas, In Col. 1, 18 cet. 5 ed. Marietti, II, n. 46-Sieut constituitur unum eorpus ex nitate animae, ita Ecelesia ex unil atc Spiritus…..)

At the end of section 7, we return to Christ, and the image of lover and spouse is underscored. Christ’s headship has a purpose, according to Saint Paul, that the Church may express and utilize its gifts to the fullest extent possible.

Christ loves the Church as His bride, having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body;(Cf. Eph. 5, 25-28) the Church, indeed, is subject to its Head.(cf. Eph. 5, 23-24) “Because in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”,(Col. 2, 9) He fills the Church, which is His body and His fullness, with His divine gifts (Cf. Eph. 1, 22-23) so that it may expand and reach all the fullness of God.(Cf. Eph. 3,19)


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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