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The Myhic Fire

Association

Church02

PART 1-(Article 1-25)]
PART 2 (This Page Article 26-50)
PART 3 (Article 51 on)
NOTES

26. A bishop, marked with the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, is "the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,"(48) especially in the Eucharist, which he offers or causes to be offered(49) and by which the Church continually lives and grows. This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local congregations of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called churches in the New Testament.(50) For in their locality these are the new people called by God, in the Holy Spirit and in much fullness (cf. 1 Thes 1:5). In them the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated, that by the food and Blood of the Lord's Body the whole brotherhood may be joined together.(51) In any community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the bishop(52) there is exhibited a symbol of that charity and "unity of the Mystical Body, without which there can be no salvation."(53) In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the Diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of his presence there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.(54) For "the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume."(55)

 

Every legitimate celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the bishop, to whom is committed the office of offering the worship of Christian religion to the divine majesty and of administering it in accordance with the Lord's commandments and the Church's laws, as further defined by his particular judgment for his diocese.

 

Bishops, thus, by praying and laboring for the people, make outpourings in many ways and in great abundance from the fullness of Christ's holiness. By the ministry of the Word they communicate God's power to those who believe unto salvation (cf. Rm 1:16), and through the sacraments, the regular and fruitful distribution of which they regulate by their authority,(56) they sanctify the faithful. They direct the conferring of Baptism, by which a sharing in the kingly priesthood of Christ is granted. They are the original ministers of Confirmation, dispensers of sacred Orders and the moderators of penitential discipline, and they earnestly exhort and instruct their people to carry out with faith and reverence their part in the liturgy and especially in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. And lastly, by the example of their way of life they must be an influence for good to those over whom they preside, refraining from all evil, and as far as they are able with God's help, exchanging evil for good, so that together with the flock committed to their care they may arrive at eternal life.(57)

 

27. Bishops, as vicars and ambassadors of Christ, govern the particular churches entrusted to them(58) by their counsel, exhortations, example and even by their authority and sacred power, which indeed they use only for the edification of their flock in truth and holiness, remembering that he who is greater should become as the lesser and he who is the chief become as the servant (cf. Lk 22:26-27). This power, which they personally exercise in Christ's name, is proper, ordinary and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately regulated by the supreme authority of the Church, and can be circumscribed by certain limits, for the advantage of the Church or of the faithful. In virtue of this power, bishops have the sacred right and the duty before the Lord to make laws for their subjects, to pass judgment on them and to moderate everything pertaining to the ordering of worship and the apostolate.

 

The pastoral office or the habitual and daily care of their sheep is entrusted to them completely; nor are they to be regarded as vicars of the Roman Pontiffs, for they exercise an authority that is proper to them, and are quite correctly called "prelates," heads of the people whom they govern.(59) Their power, therefore, is not destroyed by the supreme and universal power, but on the contrary, it is affirmed, strengthened and vindicated by it(60) since the Holy Spirit unfailingly preserves the form of government established by Christ the Lord in his Church.

 

A bishop, since he is sent by the Father to govern his family, must keep before his eyes the example of the good shepherd, who came not to be ministered unto but to minister (cf. Mt 20:28; Mk 10:45), and to lay down his life for his sheep (cf. Jn 10:11). Being taken from among men, and himself beset with weakness, he is able to have compassion on the ignorant and erring (cf. Heb 5:1-2). Let him not refuse to listen to his subjects, whom he cherishes as his true sons and exhorts to cooperate readily with him. As having one day to render an account for their souls (cf. Heb 13:17), he takes care of them by his prayer, preaching and all the works of charity, and not only of them but also of those who are not yet of the one flock, who also are commended to him in the Lord. Since, like Paul the Apostle, he is debtor to all men, let him be ready to preach the Gospel to all (cf. Rm 1:14-15), and to urge his faithful to apostolic and missionary activity. But the faithful must cling to their bishop, as the Church does to Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father, so that all may be of one mind through unity(61) and abound to the glory of God (cf. 2 Cor 4:15).

 

28. Christ, whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, (Jn 10:36), has through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops, partakers of his consecration and his mission.(62) They have legitimately handed on to different individuals in the Church various degrees of participation in this ministry. Thus the divinely established ecclesiastical ministry is exercised on different levels by those who from antiquity have been called bishops, priests and deacons.(63) Priests, although they do not possess the highest degree of the priesthood, and although they are dependent on the bishops in the exercise of their power, nevertheless are united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity.(64) By the power of the sacrament of Orders,(65) in the image of Christ the eternal high priest (Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28), they are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship, so that they are true priests of the New Testament.(66) Partakers of the function of Christ the sole Mediator (1 Tm 2:5), on their level of ministry, they announce the divine word to all. They exercise their sacred function especially in the Eucharistic worship or the celebration of the Mass by which, acting in the person of Christ (67) and proclaiming his mystery, they unite the prayers of the faithful with the sacrifice of their head and renew and apply(68) in the sacrifice of the Mass until the coming of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor 11:26) the only sacrifice of the New Testament, namely that of Christ offering himself once for all a spotless victim to the Father (cf. Heb 9:11-28). For the sick and the sinners among the faithful, they exercise the ministry of alleviation and reconciliation, and they present the needs and the prayers of the faithful to God the Father (Heb 5:1-4). Exercising within the limits of their authority the function of Christ as shepherd and head,(69) they gather together God's family as a brotherhood all of one mind(70) and lead them in the Spirit, through Christ, to God the Father. In the midst of the flock they adore him in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Finally, they labor in word and doctrine (cf. 1 Tm 5:17), believing what they have read and meditated upon in the law of God, teaching what they have believed, and putting in practice in their own lives what they have taught.(71)

 

Priests, prudent cooperators with the episcopal order,(72) its aid and instrument, called to serve the People of God, constitute one priesthood(73) with their bishop, although bound by a diversity of duties. Associated with their bishop in a spirit of trust and generosity, they make him present in a certain sense in the individual local congregations, and take upon themselves, as far as they are able, his duties and the burden of his care, and discharge them with a daily interest. And as they sanctify and govern under the bishop's authority that part of the Lord's flock entrusted to them, they make the universal Church visible in their own locality and bring an efficacious assistance to the building up of the whole body of Christ (cf. Eph 4:12). Intent always upon the welfare of God's children, they must strive to lend their effort to the pastoral work of the whole diocese, and even of the entire Church. On account of this sharing in their priesthood and mission, let priests sincerely look upon the bishop as their father and reverently obey him. And let the bishop regard his priests as his co-workers and as sons and friends, just as Christ called his disciples now not servants but friends (cf. Jn 15:15). All priests, both diocesan and religious, by reason of Orders and ministry, fit into this body of bishops and priests, and serve the good of the whole Church according to their vocation and the grace given to them.

 

In virtue of their common sacred ordination and mission, all priests are bound together in intimate brotherhood, which naturally and freely manifests itself in mutual aid, spiritual as well as material, pastoral as well as personal, in their meetings and in communion of life, of labor and charity.

 

Let them, as fathers in Christ, take care of the faithful whom they have begotten by Baptism and their teaching (cf. 1 Cor 4:15; 1 Pt 1:23). Becoming from the heart a pattern to the flock (1 Pt 5:3), let them so lead and serve their local community that it may worthily be called by that name, by which the one and entire People of God is signed, namely, the Church of God (cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1). Let them remember that by their daily life and interests they are showing the face of a truly sacerdotal and pastoral ministry to the faithful and the infidel, to Catholics and non-Catholics, and that to all they bear witness to the truth and life, and as good shepherds go after those also (cf. Lk 15:4-7) who, though baptized in the Catholic Church, have fallen away from the use of the sacraments, or even from the faith.

 

Because the human race today is joining more and more into a civic, economic and social unity, it is that much the more necessary that priests, by combined effort and aid, under the leadership of the bishops and the Supreme Pontiff, wipe out every kind of separateness, so that the whole human race may be brought into the unity of the family of God.

 

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."(74) 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. It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer Baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. 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."(75)

 

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. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. With the consent of the Roman Pontiff, this diaconate can, in the future, be conferred upon men of more mature age, even upon those living in the married state. It may also be conferred upon suitable young men, for whom the law of celibacy must remain intact.

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE LAITY

 

30. Having set forth the functions of the hierarchy, the sacred Council gladly turns its attention to the state of those faithful called the laity. Everything that has been said above concerning the People of God is intended for the laity, religious and clergy alike. But there are certain things which pertain in a special way to the laity, both men and women, by reason of their condition and mission. Due to the special circumstances of our time the foundations of this doctrine must be more thoroughly examined. For their pastors know how much the laity contribute to the welfare of the entire Church. They also know that they were not ordained by Christ to take upon themselves alone the entire salvific mission of the Church toward the world. On the contrary, they understand that it is their noble duty to shepherd the faithful and to recognize their ministries and charisms, so that all according to their proper roles may cooperate in this common undertaking with one mind. For we must all "practice the truth in love, and so grow up in all things in him who is head, Christ. For from him the whole body, being closely joined and knit together through every joint of the system, according to the functioning in due measure of each single part, derives its increase to the building up of itself in love" (Eph 4:15-16).

 

31. The term "laity" is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church. These faithful are by Baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the 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.

 

What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. It is true that those in holy Orders can at times be engaged in secular activities, and even have a secular profession. But they are by reason of their particular vocation especially and professedly ordained to the sacred ministry. Similarly, by their state in life, religious give splendid and striking testimony that the world cannot be transformed and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes. But the laity, by their very vocation, 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. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer.

 

32. By divine institution, holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. "For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another" (Rm 12:4-5). Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: "one Lord, one faith, one Baptism" (cf. Eph 4:5); sharing a common dignity as members from their regeneration in Christ, having the same filial grace and the same vocation to perfection, possessing in common one salvation, one hope and one undivided charity. There is, therefore, in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because "there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female. For you are all 'one' in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28; cf. Col 3:11).

 

If therefore in the Church everyone does not proceed by the same path, nevertheless all are called to sanctity and have received an equal privilege of faith through the justice of God (cf. 2 Pt 1:1). And if by the will of Christ some are made teachers, pastors and dispensers of mysteries on behalf of others, yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the body of Christ. For the distinction which the Lord made between sacred ministers and the rest of the People of God bears within it a certain union, since pastors and the other faithful are bound to each other by a mutual need. Pastors of the Church, following the example of the Lord, should minister to one another and to the other faithful. These in their turn should enthusiastically lend their joint assistance to their pastors and teachers. Thus in their diversity all bear witness to the wonderful unity in the body of Christ. This very diversity of graces, ministries and works gathers the children of God into one, because "all these things are the work of one and the same Spirit" (1 Cor 12:11).

 

Therefore, from divine choice the laity have Christ for their brother, who though he is the Lord of all, came not to be served but to serve (cf. Mt 20:28). They also have for their brothers those in the sacred ministry who by teaching, by sanctifying and by ruling with the authority of Christ feed the family of God, so that the new commandment of charity may be fulfilled by all. St. Augustine puts this very beautifully when he says: "What I am for you terrifies me; what I am with you consoles me. For you I am a bishop; but with you I am a Christian. The former is a duty; the latter a grace. The former is a danger; the latter, salvation"(1).

 

33. The laity are gathered together in the People of God and make up the body of Christ under one head. Whoever they are, they are called upon, as living members, to expend all their energy for the growth of the Church and its continuous sanctification, since this very energy is a gift of the Creator and a blessing of the Redeemer.

 

The lay apostolate, however, is a participation in the salvific mission of the Church itself. Through their Baptism and Confirmation all are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord himself. Moreover, by the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, that charity toward God and man which is the soul of the apostolate is communicated and nourished. Now the laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth (2). Thus every layman, in virtue of the very gifts bestowed upon him, is at the same time a witness and a living instrument of the mission of the Church itself, "according to the measure of Christ's bestowal" (Eph 4:7).

 

Besides this apostolate, which certainly pertains to all Christians, the laity can also be called in various ways to a more direct form of cooperation in the apostolate of the hierarchy(3). This was the way certain men and women assisted Paul the Apostle in the Gospel, laboring much in the Lord (cf. Phil 4:3; Rm 16:3ff.). Further, they have the capacity to assume from the hierarchy certain ecclesiastical functions, which are to be performed for a spiritual purpose.

 

Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church.

 

34. The supreme and eternal priest, Christ Jesus, since he wills to continue his witness and service also through the laity, vivifies them in this Spirit and increasingly urges them on to every good and perfect work.

 

For besides intimately linking them to his life and his mission, he also gives them a sharing in his priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of men. For this reason, the laity, dedicated to Christ and anointed by the Holy Spirit, are marvelously called and wonderfully prepared so that ever more abundant fruits of the Spirit may be produced in them. For all their works, prayers and apostolic endeavors, their ordinary married and family life, their daily occupations, their physical and mental relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life, if patiently borne--all these become "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pt 2:5). Together with the offering of the Lord's body, they are most fittingly offered in the celebration of the Eucharist. Thus, as those everywhere who adore in holy activity, the laity consecrate the world itself to God.

 

35. Christ, the great prophet, who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father both by the testimony of his life and the power of his words, continually fulfills his prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in his name and with his authority, but also through the laity whom he made his witnesses and to whom he gave understanding of the faith (sensus fidei) and an attractiveness in speech (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rv 19:10), so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life. They conduct themselves as children of the promise, and thus, strong in faith and in hope, they make the most of the present (cf. Eph 5:16; Col 4:5), and with patience await the glory that is to come (cf. Rm 8:25). Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling "against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness" (Eph 6:12).

 

Just as the sacraments of the New Law, by which the life and the apostolate of the faithful are nourished, prefigure a new heaven and a new earth (cf. Rv 21:1), so too the laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for (cf. Heb 11:1), when they courageously join to their profession of faith a life springing from faith. This evangelization, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.

 

In connection with the prophetic function, that state of life which is sanctified by a special sacrament is obviously of great importance, namely, married and family life. For where Christianity pervades the entire mode of family life, and gradually transforms it, one will find there both the practice and an excellent school of the lay apostolate. In such a home husbands and wives find their proper vocation in being witnesses of the faith and love of Christ to one another and to their children. The Christian family loudly proclaims both the present virtues of the kingdom of God and the hope of a blessed life to come. Thus by its example and its witness it accuses the world of sin and enlightens those who seek the truth.

 

Consequently, even when preoccupied with temporal cares, the laity can and must perform a work of great value for the evangelization of the world. For even if some of them have to fulfill their religious duties on their own, when there are no sacred ministers or in times of persecution, and even if many of them devote all their energies to apostolic work, still it remains for each one of them to cooperate in the external spread and the dynamic growth of the kingdom of Christ in the world. Therefore, let the laity devotedly strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth, and let them insistently beg of God the gift of wisdom.

 

36. Christ, becoming obedient even unto death and because of this exalted by the Father (cf. Phil 2:8-9), entered into the glory of his kingdom. To him all things are made subject until he subjects himself and all created things to the Father that God may be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:27-28). Now Christ has communicated this royal power to his disciples that they might be constituted in royal freedom and that by true penance and a holy life they might conquer the reign of sin in themselves (cf. Rm 6:12). Further, he has shared this power so that serving Christ in their fellow men they might by humility and patience lead their brethren to that king for whom to serve is to reign. But the Lord wishes to spread his kingdom also by means of the laity, namely, a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace (4). In this kingdom creation itself will be delivered from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the sons of God (cf. Rm 8:21). Clearly then a great promise and a great trust is committed to the disciples: "All things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's" (1 Cor 3:23).

 

The faithful, therefore, must learn the deepest meaning and the value of all creation, as well as its role in the harmonious praise of God. They must assist each other to live holier lives even in their daily occupations. In this way the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace. The laity have the principal role in the overall fulfillment of this duty. Therefore, by their competence in secular training and by their activity, elevated from within by the grace of Christ, let them vigorously contribute their effort, so that created goods may be perfected by human labor, technical skill and civic culture for the benefit of all men according to the design of the Creator and the light of his Word. May the goods of this world be more equitably distributed among all men, and may they in their own way be conducive to universal progress in human and Christian freedom. In this manner, through the members of the Church, will Christ progressively illumine the whole of human society with his saving light.

 

Moreover, let the laity also by their combined efforts remedy the customs and conditions of the world, if they are an inducement to sin, so that they all may be conformed to the norms of justice and may favor the practice of virtue rather than hinder it. By so doing they will imbue culture and human activity with genuine moral values; they will better prepare the field of the world for the seed of the Word of God, and at the same time they will open wider the doors of the Church by which the message of peace may enter the world.

 

Because of the very economy of salvation the faithful should learn how to distinguish carefully between those rights and duties which are theirs as members of the Church, and those which they have as members of human society. Let them strive to reconcile the two, remembering that in every temporal affair they must be guided by a Christian conscience, since even in secular business there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God's dominion. In our own time, however, it is most urgent that this distinction and also this harmony should shine forth more clearly than ever in the lives of the faithful, so that the mission of the Church may correspond more fully to the special conditions of the world today. For it must be admitted that the temporal sphere is governed by its own principles, since it is rightly concerned with the interests of this world. But that ominous doctrine which attempts to build a society with no regard whatever for religion, and which attacks and destroys the religious liberty of its citizens, is rightly to be rejected.5).

 

37. The laity have the right, as do all Christians, to receive in abundance from their spiritual shepherds the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the Word of God and of the sacraments(6). They should openly reveal to them their needs and desires with that freedom and confidence which is fitting for children of God and brothers in Christ. They are, by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy, permitted and sometimes even obliged to express their opinion on those things which concern the good of the Church(7). When occasions arise, let this be done through the organs erected by the Church for this purpose. Let it always be done in truth, in courage and in prudence, with reverence and charity toward those who by reason of their sacred office represent the person of Christ.

 

The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by his obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God. Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief (cf. Heb 13:17).

 

Let the spiritual shepherds recognize and promote the dignity as well as the responsibility of the laity in the Church. Let them willingly employ their prudent advice. Let them confidently assign duties to them in the service of the Church, allowing them freedom and room for action. Further, let them encourage lay people so that they may undertake tasks on their own initiative. Attentively in Christ, let them consider with fatherly love the projects, suggestions and desires proposed by the laity.(8) However, let the shepherds respectfully acknowledge that just freedom which belongs to everyone in this earthly city.

 

A great many wonderful things are to be hoped for from this familiar dialogue between the laity and their spiritual leaders: in the laity a strengthened sense of personal responsibility, a renewed enthusiasm, a more ready application of their talents to the projects of their spiritual leaders. The latter, on the other hand, aided by the experience of the laity, can more clearly and more incisively come to decisions regarding both spiritual and temporal matters. In this way, the whole Church, strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill its mission for the life of the world.

 

38. Each individual layman must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God. All the laity as a community and each one according to his ability must nourish the world with spiritual fruits (cf. Gal 5:22). They must diffuse in the world that spirit which animates the poor, the meek, the peace makers--whom the Lord in the Gospel proclaimed as blessed (cf. Mt 5:3-9). In a word, "Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body."(9)

 

CHAPTER V

 

THE UNIVERSAL CALL TO HOLINESS IN THE CHURCH

 

39. The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this sacred synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed, Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as "uniquely holy,"(1) loved the Church as his bride, delivering himself up for her. He did this that he might sanctify her (cf. Eph 5:25-26). He united her to himself as his own body and brought it to perfection by the gift of the Holy Spirit for God's glory. Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thes 4:3; Eph 1:4). However, this holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others; in a very special way this (holiness) appears in the practice of the counsels, customarily called "evangelical." This practice of the counsels, under the impulsion of the Holy Spirit, undertaken by many Christians, either privately or in a Church-approved condition or state of life, gives and must give in the world an outstanding witness and example of this same holiness.

 

40. The Lord Jesus, the divine teacher and model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of his disciples of every condition. He himself stands as the author and consumator of this holiness of life: "Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48).(2) Indeed, he sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that he might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength (cf. Mk 12:30) and that they might love each other as Christ loves them (cf. Jn 13:34; 15:12). The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to his own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the Baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way, they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold onto and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live "as becomes saints" (Eph 5:3), and to put on "as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience" (Col 3:12), and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness (cf. Gal 5:22; Rm 6:22). Since truly we all offend in many things (cf. Jas 3:2), we all need God's mercies continually and we all must daily pray: "Forgive us our debts" (1 Mt 6:12).(3)

 

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;(4) 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.

 

41. The classes and duties of life are many, but holiness is one--that sanctity which is cultivated by all who are moved by the Spirit of God, and who obey the voice of the Father and worship God the Father in spirit and in truth. These people follow the poor Christ, the humble and cross-bearing Christ in order to be worthy of being sharers in his glory. Every person must walk unhesitatingly according to his own personal gifts and duties in the path of living faith, which arouses hope and works through charity.

 

In the first place, the shepherds of Christ's flock must holily and eagerly, humbly and courageously carry out their ministry, in imitation of the eternal high priest, the shepherd and guardian of our souls. They ought to fulfill this duty in such a way that it will be the principal means also of their own sanctification. Those chosen for the fullness of the priesthood are granted the ability of exercising the perfect duty of pastoral charity by the grace of the sacrament of Orders. This perfect duty of pastoral charity(5) is exercised in every form of episcopal care and service, prayer, sacrifice and preaching. By this same sacramental grace, they are given the courage necessary to lay down their lives for their sheep, and the ability of promoting greater holiness in the Church by their daily example, having become a pattern for their flock (cf. 1 Pt 5:3).

 

Priests, who resemble bishops to a certain degree in their participation of the sacrament of Orders, form the spiritual crown of the bishops.(6) They participate in the grace of their office and they should grow daily in their love of God and their neighbor by the exercise of their office through Christ, the eternal and unique Mediator. They should preserve the bond of priestly communion, and they should abound in every spiritual good and thus present to all men a living witness to God.(7) All this they should do in emulation of those priests, who often down through the course of the centuries, left an outstanding example of the holiness of humble and hidden service. Their praise lives on in the Church of God. By their very office of praying and offering sacrifice for their own people and the entire People of God, they should rise to greater holiness. Keeping in mind what they are doing and imitating what they are handling,(8) these priests, in their apostolic labors, rather than being ensnared by perils and hardships, should rather rise to greater holiness through these perils and hardships. They should ever nourish and strengthen their action from an abundance of contemplation, doing all this for the comfort of the entire Church of God. All priests, and especially those who are called "diocesan priests," due to the special title of their ordination, should keep continually before their minds the fact that their faithful loyalty toward and their generous cooperation with their bishop is of the greatest value in their growth in holiness.

 

Ministers of lesser rank are also sharers in the mission and grace of the supreme priest. In the first place among these ministers are deacons, who inasmuch as they are dispensers of Christ's mysteries and servants of the Church, (9) should keep themselves free from every vice and stand before men as personifications of goodness and friends of God (cf. 1 Tm 3:8-10, 12-13). Clerics, who are called by the Lord and are set aside as his portion in order to prepare themselves for the various ministerial offices under the watchful eye of spiritual shepherds, are bound to bring their hearts and minds into accord with this special election (which is theirs). They will accomplish this by their constancy in prayer, by their burning love, and by their unremitting recollection of whatever is true, just and of good repute. They will accomplish all this for the glory and honor of God. Besides these already named, there are also laymen, chosen of God and called by the bishop. These laymen spend themselves completely in apostolic labors, working in the Lord's field with much success.(10)

 

Furthermore, married couples and Christian parents should follow their own proper path (to holiness) by faithful love. They should sustain one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives. They should imbue their offspring, lovingly welcomed as God's gift, with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues. In this manner, they offer all men the example of unwearying and generous love; in this way they build up the brotherhood of charity; in so doing, they stand as the witnesses and cooperators in the fruitfulness of holy mother Church; by such lives, they are a sign and a participation in that very love, with which Christ loved his bride and for which he delivered himself up for her.(11) A like example, but one given in a different way, is that offered by widows and single people, who are able to make great contributions toward holiness and apostolic endeavor in the Church. Finally, those who engage in labor--and frequently it is of a heavy nature--should better themselves by their human labors. They should aid their fellow citizens. They should raise all of society, and even creation itself, to a better mode of existence. Indeed, they should imitate by their lively charity, in their joyous hope and by their voluntary sharing of each other's burdens, the very Christ who plied his hands with carpenter's tools and who, in union with his Father, is continually working for the salvation of all men. In this, then, their daily work they should climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity.

 

May all those who are weighed down with poverty, infirmity and sickness, as well as those who must bear various hardships or who suffer persecution for justice sake--may they all know they are united with the suffering Christ in a special way for the salvation of the world. The Lord called them blessed in his Gospel, and they are those whom "the God of all graces, who has called us unto his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will himself, after we have suffered a little while, perfect, strengthen and establish" (1 Pt 5:10).

 

Finally all Christ's faithful, whatever be the conditions, duties and circumstances of their lives--and indeed through all these--will daily increase in holiness, if they receive all things with faith from the hand of their heavenly Father and if they cooperate with the divine will. In this temporal service, they will manifest to all men the love with which God loved the world.

 

42. "God is love, and he who abides in love, abides in God and God in him" (1 Jn 4:16). But God pours out his love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us (cf. Rm 5:5); thus the first and most necessary gift is love, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor because of God. Indeed, in order that love, as good seed may grow and bring forth fruit in the soul, each one of the faithful must willingly hear the Word of God and accept his will, and must complete by their own actions what God has begun, with the help of God's grace. These actions consist in the use of the sacraments and in a special way the Eucharist, frequent participation in the sacred action of the liturgy, application of oneself to prayer, self-abnegation, lively fraternal service and the constant exercise of all the virtues. For charity, as the bond of perfection and the fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14; Rm 13:10), rules over all the means of attaining holiness and gives life to these same means.(12) It is charity which guides us to our final end. It is the love of God and the love of one's neighbor which point out the true disciple of Christ.

 

Since Jesus, the Son of God, manifested his charity by laying down his life for us, so too no one has greater love than he who lays down his life for Christ and his brothers (cf. 1 Jn 3:16; Jn 15:13). From the earliest times, then, some Christians have been called upon--and some will always be called upon--to give the supreme testimony of this love to all men, but especially to persecutors. The Church, then, considers martyrdom as an exceptional gift and as the fullest proof of love. By martyrdom a disciple is transformed into an image of his Master by freely accepting death for the salvation of the world--as well as his conformity to Christ in the shedding of his blood. Though few are presented such an opportunity, nevertheless all must be prepared to confess Christ before men. They must be prepared to make this profession of faith even in the midst of persecutions, which will never be lacking to the Church, in following the way of the cross.

 

Likewise, the holiness of the Church is fostered in a special way by the observance of the counsels proposed in the Gospel by our Lord to his disciples.(13) An eminent position among these is held by virginity or the celibate state (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34). This is a precious gift of divine grace given by the Father to certain souls (cf. Mt 19:11; 1 Cor 7:7), whereby they may devote themselves to God alone the more easily, due to an undivided heart.(14) This perfect continency, out of desire for the kingdom of heaven, has always been held in particular honor in the Church. The reason for this was and is that perfect continency for the love of God is an incentive to charity, and is certainly a particular source of spiritual fecundity in the world.

 

The Church continually keeps before it the warning of the Apostle, which moved the faithful to charity, exhorting them to experience personally what Christ Jesus had known within himself. This was the same Christ Jesus, who "emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave...becoming obedient to death" (Phil 2:7-8), and because of us, "being rich, he became poor" (2 Cor 8:9). Because the disciples must always offer an imitation of and a testimony to the charity and humility of Christ, mother Church rejoices at finding within her bosom men and women who very closely follow their Savior, who debased himself to our comprehension. There are some who, in their freedom as sons of God, renounce their own wills and take upon themselves the state of poverty. Still further, some become subject of their own accord to another man, in the matter of perfection for love of God. This is beyond the measure of the commandments, but is done in order to become more fully like the obedient Christ.(15)

 

Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed, they have an obligation to so strive. Let all then have care that they guide aright their own deepest sentiments of soul. Let neither the use of the things of this world nor attachment to riches, which is against the spirit of evangelical poverty, hinder them in their quest for perfect love. Let them heed the admonition of the Apostle to those who use this world; let them not come to terms with this world, for this world, as we see it, is passing away (cf. 1 Cor 7:31ff.).(16)

 

CHAPTER VI

 

RELIGIOUS

 

43. The evangelical counsels of chastity dedicated to God, poverty and obedience are based upon the words and examples of the Lord. They were further commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church, as well as by the doctors and pastors of souls. The counsels are a divine gift which the Church received from its Lord and which it always safeguards with the help of his grace. Church authority has the duty, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, of interpreting these evangelical counsels, of regulating their practice and finally to build on them stable forms of living. Thus, it has come about, that, as if on a tree which has grown in the field of the Lord, various forms of solidarity and community life, as well as various religious families, have branched out in a marvelous and multiple way from this divinely given seed. Such a multiple and miraculous growth augments both the progress of the members of these various religious families themselves and the welfare of the entire body of Christ.(1) These religious families give their members the support of a more firm stability in their way of life and a proven doctrine of acquiring perfection. They further offer their members the support of fraternal association in the militia of Christ and of liberty strengthened by obedience. Thus these religious are able to tranquilly fulfill and faithfully observe their religious profession and so, spiritually rejoicing, make progress on the road of charity.(2)

 

From the point of view of the divine and hierarchical structure of the Church, the religious state of life is not an intermediate state between the clerical and lay states. But, rather, the faithful of Christ are called by God from both these states of life so that they might enjoy this particular gift in the life of the Church and thus, each in one's own way, may be of some advantage to the salvific mission of the Church.(3)

 

44. The faithful of Christ bind themselves to the three aforesaid counsels either by vows or by other sacred bonds, which are like vows in their purpose. By such a bond, a person is totally dedicated to God, loved beyond all things. In this way, that person is ordained to the honor and service of God under a new and special title. Indeed through Baptism a person dies to sin and is consecrated to God. However, in order that he may be capable of deriving more abundant fruit from this baptismal grace, he intends, by the profession of the evangelical counsels in the Church, to free himself from those obstacles which might draw him away from the fervor of charity and the perfection of divine worship. By his profession of the evangelical counsels, then, he is more intimately consecrated to divine service.(4) This consecration will be the more perfect, inasmuch as the indissoluble bond of the union of Christ and his bride, the Church, is represented by firm and more stable bonds.

 

The evangelical counsels which lead to charity(5) join their followers to the Church and its mystery in a special way. Since this is so, the spiritual life of these people should then be devoted to the welfare of the whole Church. From this arises their duty of working to implant and strengthen the kingdom of Christ in souls and to extend that kingdom to every clime. This duty is to be undertaken to the extent of their capacities and in keeping with the proper type of their own vocation. This can be realized through prayer or active works of the apostolate. It is for this reason that the Church preserves and fosters the special character of her various religious institutes.

 

The profession of the evangelical counsels, then, appears as a sign which can and ought to attract all the members of the Church to an effective and prompt fulfillment of the duties of their Christian vocation. The People of God have no lasting city here below, but look forward to one that is to come. Since this is so, the religious state, whose purpose is to free its members from earthly cares, more fully manifests to all believers the presence of heavenly goods already possessed here below. Furthermore, it not only witnesses to the fact of a new and eternal life acquired by the redemption of Christ, but it foretells the future resurrection and the glory of the heavenly kingdom. Christ proposed to his disciples this form of life, which he, as the Son of God, accepted in entering this world to do the will of the Father. This same state of life is accurately exemplified and perpetually made present in the Church. The religious state clearly manifests that the kingdom of God and its needs, in a very special way, are raised above all earthly considerations. Finally it clearly shows all men both the unsurpassed breadth of the strength of Christ the king and the infinite power of the Holy Spirit marvelously working in the Church.

 

Thus, the state which is constituted by the profession of the evangelical counsels, though it does not belong to the hierarchical structure of the Church, nevertheless, undeniably belongs to its life and holiness.

 

45. It is the duty of the ecclesiastical hierarchy to regulate the practice of the evangelical counsels by law, since it is the duty of the same hierarchy to care for the People of God and to lead them to most fruitful pastures (Ez 34:14). The importance of the profession of the evangelical counsels is seen in the fact that it fosters the perfection of love of God and love of neighbor in an outstanding manner, and that this profession is strengthened by vows.(6) Furthermore, the hierarchy, following with docility the prompting of the Holy Spirit, accepts the rules presented by outstanding men and women and authentically approves these rules after further adjustments. It also aids by its vigilant and safeguarding authority those institutes variously established for the building up of Christ's body, in order that these same institutes may grow and flourish according to the spirit of the founders.

 

Any institute of perfection and its individual members may be removed from the jurisdiction of the local ordinaries by the Supreme Pontiff and subjected to himself alone. This is done in virtue of his primacy over the entire Church, in order to more fully provide for the necessities of the entire flock of the Lord and in consideration of the common good.(7) In like manner, these institutes may be left or committed to the charge of the proper patriarchical authority. The members of these institutes, in fulfilling their obligation to the Church due to their particular form of life, ought to show reverence and obedience to bishops according to the sacred canons. The bishops are owed this respect because of their pastoral authority in their own churches and because of the need of unity and harmony in the apostolate (8).

 

The Church not only raises the religious profession to the dignity of a canonical state by her approval, but even manifests that this profession is a state consecrated to God, by the liturgical setting of that profession. The Church itself, by the authority given to it by God, accepts the vows of the newly professed. It begs aid and grace from God for them by its public prayer. It commends them to God, imparts a spiritual blessing on them and accompanies their self-offering by the Eucharistic Sacrifice.

 

46. Religious should carefully keep before their minds the fact that the Church presents Christ to believers and non-believers alike in a striking manner daily through them. The Church thus portrays Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in his proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in his healing of the sick and maimed, in his work of converting sinners to a better life, in his solicitude for youth and his goodness to all men, always obedient to the will of the Father who sent him.(9)

 

All men should take note that the profession of the evangelical counsels, though entailing the renunciation of certain values which are to be undoubtedly esteemed, does not detract from a genuine development of the human person, but rather by its very nature is most beneficial to that development. Indeed, the counsels, voluntarily undertaken according to each one's personal vocation, contribute a great deal to the purification of heart and spiritual liberty. They continually stir up the fervor of charity. But especially they are able to more fully mold the Christian man to that type of chaste and detached life which Christ the Lord chose for himself and which his Mother also embraced. This is clearly proven by the example of so many holy founders. Let no one think that religious have become strangers to their fellowmen or useless citizens of this earthly city by their consecration. For even though it sometimes happens that religious do not directly mingle with their contemporaries, yet in a more profound sense these same religious are united with them in the heart of Christ and spiritually cooperate with them. In this way the building up of the earthly city may have its foundation in the Lord and may tend toward him, lest perhaps those who build this city shall have labored in vain. (10)

 

Therefore, this sacred synod encourages and praises the men and women, brothers and sisters, who in monasteries, or in schools and hospitals, or in the missions, adorn the bride of Christ by their unswerving and humble faithfulness in their chosen consecration and render generous services of all kinds to mankind.

 

47. Let each of the faithful called to the profession of the evangelical counsels, therefore, carefully see to it that he persevere and ever grow in that vocation God has given him. Let him do this for the increased holiness of the Church, for the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity, which in and through Christ is the fount and the source of all holiness.

 

CHAPTER VII

 

THE ESCHATOLOGICAL NATURE OF THE PILGRIM CHURCH AND ITS UNION WITH THE CHURCH IN HEAVEN

 

48. The Church, to which we are all called in Christ Jesus, and in which we acquire sanctity through the grace of God, will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). At that time the human race, as well as the entire world, which is intimately related to man and attains to its end through him, will be perfectly reestablished in Christ (cf. Eph 1:10; Col 1:20; 2 Pt 3:10-13).

 

Christ, having been lifted up from the earth, has drawn all to himself (cf. Jn 12:32). Rising from the dead (cf. Rm 6:9), he sent his life-giving Spirit upon his disciples and through him has established his body, which is the Church, as the universal sacrament of salvation. Sitting at the right hand of the Father, he is continually active in the world, that he might lead men to the Church and through it join them to himself, and that he might make them partakers of his glorious life by nourishing them with his own Body and Blood. Therefore the promised restoration which we are awaiting has already begun in Christ, is carried forward in the mission of the Holy Spirit and through him continues in the Church, in which we learn the meaning of our terrestrial life through our faith, while we perform with hope in the future the work committed to us in this world by the Father, and thus work out our salvation (cf. Phil 2:12).

 

Already the final age of the world has come upon us (cf. 1 Cor 10:11) and the renovation of the world is irrevocably decreed and is already anticipated in some kind of a real way, for the Church already on this earth is signed with a sanctity which is real although imperfect. However, until there shall be new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells (cf. 2 Pt 3:13), the pilgrim Church in her sacraments and institutions, which pertain to this present time, has the appearance of this world which is passing, and she herself dwells among creatures who groan and travail in pain until now and await the revelation of the sons of God (cf. Rm 8:19-22).

 

Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit, "who is the pledge of our inheritance" (Eph 1:14), truly we are called and we are sons of God (cf. 1 Jn 3:1), but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory (cf. Col 3.4), in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see him as he is (cf. 1 Jn 3:2). And therefore "while we are in the body, we are exiled from the Lord" (2 Cor 5:6), and having the first-fruits of the Spirit we groan within ourselves (cf. Rm 8:23) and we desire to be with Christ (cf. Phil 1:23). By that same charity, however, we are urged to live more for him, who died for us and rose again (cf. 2 Cor 5:15). We strive, therefore, to please God in all things (cf. 2 Cor 5:9) and we put on the armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil and resist in the evil day (cf. Eph 6:11-13). Since, however, we know not the day nor the hour, on our Lord's advice we must be constantly vigilant so that, having finished the course of our earthly life (cf. Heb 9:27), we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with him and to be numbered among the blessed (cf. Mt 25:31-46), and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire (cf. Mt 25:41) like the wicked and slothful servant (cf. Mt 25:26), into the exterior darkness where "there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Mt 22:13, 25:30). For before we reign with Christ in glory, all of us will be made manifest "before the tribunal of Christ, so that each one may receive what he has won through the body, according to his works, whether good or evil" (2 Cor 5:10), and at the end of the world, "They who have done good shall come forth unto resurrection of life; but those who have done evil unto resurrection of judgment" (Jn 5:29; cf. Mt 25:46). Reckoning, therefore, that "the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us" (Rm 8:18; cf. 2 Tm 2:11-12), strong in faith we look for the "blessed hope and the glorious coming of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Ti 2:13), "who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of his glory" (Phil 3:21), and who will come "to be glorified in his saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed" (2 Thes 1:10).

 

49. Until the Lord shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him (cf. Mt 25:31) and death being destroyed, all things are subject to him (cf. 1 Cor 15:26-27), some of his disciples are exiles on earth, some having died are purified, and others are in glory beholding "clearly God himself triune and one, as he is";(1) but all in various ways and degrees are in communion in the same charity of God and neighbor and all sing the same hymn of glory to our God. For all who are in Christ, having his Spirit, form one Church and cleave together in him (cf. Eph 4:16). Therefore the union of the wayfarers with the brethren who have gone to sleep in the peace of Christ is not in the least weakened or interrupted, but on the contrary, according to the perpetual faith of the Church, is strengthened by communication of spiritual goods.(2) For by reason of the fact that those in heaven are more closely united with Christ, they establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-27).(3) For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord (cf. 2 Cor 5:8), through him and with him and in him they do not cease to intercede with the Father for us,(4) showing forth the merits which they won on earth through the one Mediator between God and man (cf. 1 Tm 2:5), serving God in all things and filling up in their flesh those things which are lacking of the sufferings of Christ for his body which is the Church (cf. Col 1:24).(5) Thus by their brotherly interest our weakness is greatly strengthened.

 

50. Fully conscious of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the pilgrim Church from the very first ages of the Christian religion has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead,(6) and "because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins" (2 Mc 12:46), also offers suffrages for them. The Church has always believed that the apostles and Christ's martyrs who had given the supreme witness of faith and charity by the shedding of their blood are closely joined with us in Christ, and she has always venerated them with special devotion, together with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the holy angels.(7) The Church has piously implored the aid of their intercession. To these were soon added also those who had more closely imitated Christ's virginity and poverty,(8) and finally others whom the outstanding practice of the Christian virtues(9) and the divine charisms recommended to the pious devotion and imitation of the faithful.(10)

 

When we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the city that is to come (cf. Heb 13:14; 11:10), and at the same time we are shown a most safe path by which among the vicissitudes of this world, in keeping with the state in life and condition proper to each of us, we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is, perfect holiness.(11) In the lives of those who, sharing in our humanity, are, however, more perfectly transformed into the image of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 3:18), God vividly manifests his presence and his face to men. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of his kingdom(12) to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us (cf. Heb 12:1) and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel.

 

Nor is it by the title of example only that we cherish the memory of those in heaven, but still more in order that the union of the whole Church may be strengthened in the Spirit by the practice of fraternal charity (cf. Eph 4:1-6). For just as Christian communion among wayfarers brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues every grace and the very life of the People of God.(13) It is supremely fitting, therefore, that we love those friends and coheirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them(14) and "suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers, their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through his Son, Jesus Christ, who is our Redeemer and Savior."(15) For every genuine testimony of love shown by us to those in heaven, by its very nature tends toward and terminates in Christ, who is the "crown of all saints,"(16) and through him, in God who is wonderful in his saints and is magnified in them.(17)

 

Our union with the Church in heaven is put into effect in its noblest manner especially in the sacred liturgy, wherein the power of the Holy Spirit acts upon us through sacramental signs. Then, with combined rejoicing we celebrate together the praise of the divine majesty;(18) then all those from every tribe and tongue and people and nation (cf. Rv 5:9) who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and gathered together into one Church, with one song of praise magnify the one and triune God. Celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice, therefore, we are most closely united to the Church in heaven in communion with and venerating the memory first of all of the glorious ever Virgin Mary, of Blessed Joseph and the blessed apostles and martyrs and of all the saints.(19)

Return to Part 1 (Articles 1-25)
Continue on to Part 3 (Articles 51 and above)
Notes

 

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