The Church as Living Organism, the Church as Mystery …

 

With my gratitude to BellatorDei for the graphic.

 

Recently I stammered here a little about the nature of the Church as a Living Organism.

And I tried to draw a distinction between the Protestant emphasis on sermons and the Miracle of the Seven Sacraments:

The Protestant sermon imparts beliefs. It teaches.

Often very good and beautiful things.

But the Organism does something else. It does something more than teach.

What is it that it does? It feeds, it nourishes, it heals through these Seven Sacramental Channels.

This morning I will go to Confession, followed by the Holy Mass at noon.

I will hear a brief sermon no doubt, the Priest will offer me some words as I kneel in the Confessional. Knowing this Priest, they will be wise, heartfelt and beautiful words, I trust.

But all of this is paltry, paltry I say, in comparison to being placed in direct connection with …

The Organism.

My only hope for this world lies in that Organism.

But people do not see it is an Organism.

Thus as you once wrote, dear Hilaire [Belloc], about the Church:

The sceptic … must first appreciate that the Thing [Italics mine] is what it is; an organism endowed with a life, having a character and savour of its own: a personality, and above all, a personality undoubtedly and wholly One.

 

I suppose that one of my gravest concerns is not simply that the Church is becoming ever weakened in the West – but that the nature, the true nature, of the Church is barely even understood in our post-Christian society.

I say ‘post-Christian’, but perhaps it would be better to say post-Protestant.

For my experience of having lived in once-Catholic Europe suggests that understanding of the Church still remains more vivid in those countries.

But here, here in post-Protestant, ‘pluralistic’ England, there seems almost no concept at all that the Church is an Organism – and not a moral code, nor simply a way of belief.

Yes, it is in the post-Protestant world that the confusion seems to me the gravest of all.

And last time, I found myself stammering before this world problem.

I found myself stammering before a worldview which seems to see an equivalency between the action of the Holy Spirit in the various Protestant confessions and the Power of the Sacraments in the Church – Catholic and Orthodox.

Here we may note that I follow the teaching of the Holy Father, who has made it clear that the Living Organism and Mystery of the Church is to be found both in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, but that we cannot say that in the same way of the various denominations, which the Pope calls ‘Ecclesial Communities’.

Now there are profound reasons why the Pope makes this controversial distinction between the Church on the one hand, as it expresses itself in Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Russian Orthodoxy etc – and the Ecclesial Communities on the other hand.

We cannot now go into all the deep reasons for that controversial distinction.

However, let me say that it has much to do with what I have invoked here: the profound confusion that exists concerning the MYSTERY of the Church – particularly in the post-Protestant world.

And it has to do with confusion around equivalency: supposing that there may be little difference between the action of the Holy Spirit in Protestant worship and between the action of the Sacraments of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

The Pope, I think, is gravely concerned about this.

The Pope, holding responsibility for the entire situation of the Church in the world, sees the need to make this controversial distinction – and many other controversial distinctions besides …

And what do I do? I who could not even hold the merest fraction of such global responsibility, without my back breaking?

I simply join my voice to the Holy Father’s – even if my voice is only a stammer …

And soon – later this weekend I hope – there will be another post going up here, where I try to talk about  difficult things in connexion with all of this – that is, with the Mystery of the Sacraments, the Mystery of the Living Organism that is the Church.

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2 Comments

  1. sharon
    Posted 18 September 2012 at 02:23 | Permalink

    It is indeed a living organism. One of the interesting things about participation in the sacraments is that as time goes on you will find yourself thinking with the mind of the church and seeing Catholic influences in persons and art that you had not noticed before. It’s a truly remarkable process, but I think that confession has to be a part of this. I converted to Catholicism under a very lax RCIA program. Many years after that initial conversion a familial crisis drove me to the confessional. ( I ask God’s forgiveness for the many communions I improperly received before then.) Gradually, I noticed a change in my way of seeing life.

    Confession is critical though. Unconfessed sins do block the channels of grace and greatly limit the effects of the sacraments in general. We must pray that this sacrament becomes much more widespread.

    I love your website.

    • Posted 19 September 2012 at 11:26 | Permalink

      Oh Sharon, thank you!

      What can I say to this:

      One of the interesting things about participation in the sacraments is that as time goes on you will find yourself thinking with the mind of the church and seeing Catholic influences in persons and art …

      … except: YES!

      What can I say to this:

      Confession is critical though. Unconfessed sins do block the channels of grace and greatly limit the effects of the sacraments in general. We must pray that this sacrament becomes much more widespread.

      Except: amen.

      With my warm gratitude to you.

      For your insightful testimony to the effects of the Sacraments in shaping and healing our hearts and thinking is a wonderful, needed thing indeed.

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