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Introduction to the Mystery of the Church

Introduction to the Mystery of the Church

Translated by Michael J. Miller
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 600
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  • Book Info
    Introduction to the Mystery of the Church
    Book Description:

    An ecclesiological survey presenting a doctrinal synthesis of the church.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2608-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xviii)
  3. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxii)
  4. Preface to the English Edition
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    Benoît-Dominique de La Soujeole
  5. Preface to the Original Edition
    (pp. xxv-xxx)
  6. General Introduction
    (pp. 1-42)

    The course on ecclesiology is one of the four major dogmatic treatises in the theology curriculum.¹ The subject matter is vast and sometimes complex. The purpose of this general introduction is to state precisely the spirit in which we are teaching this course, and at the same time to specify the initial major distinctions that will make it possible to comprehend the subsequent plan of studies that we will follow. We will also address some historical facts that provide an important context for our subject matter.

    A course in ecclesiology introduces the student to a specificallytheologicalknowledge of this...

  7. Part One: Theology of Sources:: Description of the Church

    • 1 Images of the Church and the Kingdom of God
      (pp. 45-60)

      When we use images to speak about the Church, we use so-called symbolic language. A symbol, in the sense in which we understand the term here, is a reality that speaks in a figurative way about another reality. For example, we say about the sacrament of baptism that it is thedoorleading to the other sacraments. The reality named “door” is, in itself, the means of arriving at an enclosed place, and this suggests to us the idea that baptism gives access to all the other sacraments. Symbolic language is not a conceptual, but a metaphorical language. It does...

    • 2 The Church Is the Body of Christ
      (pp. 61-139)

      The teaching of St. Paul concerning the ecclesial mystery is essentially based on the theme of the Church as the Body of Christ. The Apostle returns many times to this point throughout his ministry so as to complete and develop it. This theme is the main ecclesiological theme of Tradition, which does not mean that it is the only one, nor that it has always been honored in an equally satisfactory way, as we will see particularly in the classical period.¹

      Before starting our presentation of this doctrine, it is advisable to make two important clarifications.

      We have three major...

    • 3 The Church Is the Temple of the Spirit
      (pp. 140-198)

      We are entering here on what is usually calledecclesiological pneumatology—in other words, the doctrine about the place and role of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

      The theme of theTemple of the Spiritis not as clear-cut in Scripture, and consequently in Tradition, as that of theBody of Christ.The subject matter emerges less readily. In the New Testament there are no comparably clear expressions of it. Formally speaking, it is advisable to trace the precise outlines of it by showing the specific contribution that it makes. Now Scripture clearly connects the Christological and pneumatological aspects....

    • 4 The Church Is the People of God
      (pp. 199-289)

      Our elaboration of this third ecclesiological theme may seem unusually long in comparison with the two preceding chapters. We do not intend to suggest thereby that this is the main theme. These three approaches to the mystery of the Church are interdependent and form a whole that is very rich, to which each one contributes something irreplaceable. However, in our day the theology of the People of God in particular has been distorted and misunderstood in ways that are fraught with consequences. It is important therefore to present this aspect of Revelation anew in all its breadth. That is why...

    • 5 Recapitulation: The Church Is a Mystery
      (pp. 290-336)

      All the features of the Church that we have just described through biblical themes lead us to grasp an important idea that can broadly be calledChristian realism.What does this mean?

      Christian Revelation is not only the communication of a set of truths preached by the prophets and Christ. More fundamentally, it is aMystērion:in other words, a Revelation-reality, a salvation history in which the divine reality, insofar as it directly concerns humanity, manifests itself in a visible, earthly reality. Revelation, as Saint Augustine says, is “historia . . . dispensationis temporalis divinae Providentiae” [“the history of the...

  8. Part Two: Speculative Theology:: Definition of the Church

    • Introduction
      (pp. 339-346)

      As we already explained in the general introduction to the course, theology—as the rational understanding of what one believes—begins by apprehending itssources,the data of faith (Revelation: Scripture and Tradition). This is positive theology or source theology. The result is a certain “mass” of information thatdescribesthe reality that one is trying to understand. This was the object of Part One. Having arrived at this point, we need to take another step that is decisive for our understanding. On the basis of the elements collected from the sources, we pose the following question: what is the...

    • Section 1: The definition of the Church

      • 6 Ekklēsia in Scripture
        (pp. 349-356)

        In the Romance languages, the word for “church”—chiesa, église, iglesia—comes from the Latinecclesia,which is the transliteration of the Greekekklēsia. The Latin term does not translate the Greek, because the authors of theVetus latina,as well as St. Jerome (Vulgate) and all the writers of the Western Tradition, were conscious of a particular meaning of the term that a translation would have impoverished or distorted.¹Ekklēsiacomes from the verbek kalēo:to call to convoke. Theekklēsiais an assembly, but not just any gathering: it results from a call, a convocation; it is...

    • SUBSECTION 2 The Real Definition of the Church
      (pp. 357-358)

      The search for a real or conceptual definition of the Church has its point of departure in the immediate data provided by the nominal definition: the Church is a community. In order to advance in our understanding of this particular community, we must try to bring to light the various elements that contribute to the unity, both of the members who make up the community and of the community itself that is thus constituted. Source theology enabled us to list a certain number of important elements pertaining to this subject. We consider decisive the requirement for the unity of all...

    • Section 2: The Personality of the Church

      • 11 Some Philosophical Ideas Recalled
        (pp. 497-503)

        Therealdefinition manifested theunityof this being that is the Church and the relations among its elements (unity of the complex being).¹ The Church is not “this” plus something else in addition; she is “this.” Now, as we know, “one” is a property of being, and not being itselfsimpliciter.The oneness is not the whole being. We say that it is atranscendental,a fundamental note, inseparable from being, like the true and the good. Wherever there is being, there will consequently be unity, truth, and goodness.

        What does “one” tell us about being? Essentially that it...

      • 12 The Question about the Personality of the Church
        (pp. 504-512)

        The Church, as the nominal definition (Ecclesia) already says, is a community of physical persons. We have here then a peculiarity that must be noted: in this being called Church there are physical persons and there is the unity that they form among themselves. The physical persons (Peter, Frances, John) are real personssimpliciter,who are substances. Can the community made up of these persons also constitute a person who is real, butsecundum quid(in a certain way)? To answer this question we must start from the typical example of human community, which is political society.

        Let us attempt...

  9. Part Three: The Properties of the Church

    • Introduction
      (pp. 515-517)

      By “properties” we mean specifications of the being of the Church, her fundamental characteristics. The Creed lists them:one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

      Most often theologians speak about “essential properties,” for they are inseparable from the very being of the subject. If the Church ceased to be holy, for example, the whole Church as such would disappear. The distinction between essence and properties is conceptual, but there is a real identity: the same being is designated each time under one or another of its fundamental aspects. Consequently, wherever we observe apostolicity, there unity, holiness, and catholicity are found also. Although...

    • 13 The Church Is One
      (pp. 518-554)

      The Church is one, but Christians are divided. This chapter will discuss the efforts by which Christians are attempting to reestablish their unity. This is what has been called in the last fifty yearsecumenism.¹

      Ecumenism is the name of the movement whereby Christians aim toward their reunion so as tomanifestfully the unity of the Church. The unity of the Church exists—it is not something to be made; it is a gift from God since the very beginnings that cannot be lost.² But it is a question of manifesting it more and more, in an ever better...

    • 14 The Church Is Holy
      (pp. 555-562)

      The Church is holy; this is one of the most ancient tenets of Tradition, based on Eph 5:27: “that he [Christ] might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” On the other hand, there is no disputing the fact that the Church subsists in her members, who here below are all sinners. Moreover, among these members there are some who are qualified to lead [engager] the community as such, the ministers, and these members too are sinners whose service is marred by sin. The...

    • 15 The Church Is Catholic
      (pp. 563-589)

      The word “catholic” is not found in Scripture, but it appears as early as the first post-apostolic generation, in the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch: “Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.”¹ This is the first mention known to Tradition.

      The profane meaning of the Greek word would mean (linguists are cautious) “connected with the whole, according to the whole.” Greek dictionaries give its meaning: “general, universal.” This is the sense in which Aristotle says that the first principles of speculative or practical reason are “catholic.”²...

    • 16 The Church Is Apostolic
      (pp. 590-624)

      In this chapter, as in the three preceding chapters dealing with the properties of thebeingof the Church, we consider apostolicity only at this level (rather than at the level of theactionof the Church). The question about the complex relation between the universal Church and the particular churches already introduced us to this aspect. We will go into more detail so as to show the precise economy chosen by Christ.

      One fact is extremely important in order to grasp from the outset the apostolic nature of the Church. Let us start with the Old Testament: David sees...

    • 17 The Question of the Church’s Indefectibility
      (pp. 625-626)

      We will limit ourselves here to a simple explanatory note.

      Indefectibility is not mentioned in the Creed. Is it a distinct property to be counted along with the other four? The Catholic and Orthodox answer has always been clear: indefectibility should not be counted along with the four properties, but rather qualifies them all. The Church is indefectibly one, indefectibly holy, indefectibly catholic, and indefectibly apostolic. Just as the Church is at the same time human and “divine,” visible and invisible with regard to each of the four properties, so too she is indefectible with regard to these four properties....

  10. General Conclusion
    (pp. 627-628)

    We have just completed a dogmatic course. To conclude, it is advisable to draw attention to the fact that this discipline is in a curious situation today. After having been one of the major themes of the twentieth-century theological renewal, after having been the central theme of Vatican II, after having been at the center of many impassioned debates during the post-conciliar era, this part of dogmatic theology has been at a sort of low ebb for some thirty years. By way of example, we can observe that in most Western teaching centers, the treatiseDe Ecclesiais no longer...

  11. General Bibliography
    (pp. 629-632)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 633-636)
  13. Subject Index
    (pp. 637-640)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 641-641)