Chapter 7: The Pilgrim Church
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.(237) 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.(238)
Christ, having been lifted up from the earth has drawn all to Himself.(239) Rising from the dead(240) 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.(241)
Already the final age of the world has come upon us (242) 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,(243) 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.(244)
Joined with Christ in the Church and signed with the Holy Spirit "who is the pledge of our inheritance",(245) truly we are called and we are sons of God(246) but we have not yet appeared with Christ in glory,(247) in which we shall be like to God, since we shall see Him as He is.(248) And therefore "while we are in the body, we are exiled from the Lord (249) and having the first-fruits of the Spirit we groan within ourselves(250) and we desire to be with Christ"'.(251) By that same charity however, we are urged to live more for Him, who died for us and rose again.(252) We strive therefore to please God in all things(253) 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.(254) 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,(255) we may merit to enter into the marriage feast with Him and to be numbered among the blessed(256) and that we may not be ordered to go into eternal fire(257) like the wicked and slothful servant,(258) into the exterior darkness where "there will be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth".(259) 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"(260) 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".(261) 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",(262) strong in faith we look for the "blessed hope and the glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ"(263) "who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory(264). and who will come "to be glorified in His saints and to be marveled at in all those who have believed"(265).
49. Until the Lord shall come in His majesty, and all the angels with Him (266) and death being destroyed, all things are subject to Him,(277) 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.(268) 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.(269)(3*) For after they have been received into their heavenly home and are present to the Lord,(270) 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,(271) 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.(272)(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",(273) 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 (274) 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,(275) 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 (276) 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.(277) 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 Saviour."(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 (278) 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*)
51. This Sacred Council accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who having died are still being purified; and it proposes again the decrees of the Second Council of Nicea,(20*) the Council of Florence (21*) and the Council of Trent.(22*) And at the same time, in conformity with our own pastoral interests, we urge all concerned, if any abuses, excesses or defects have crept in here or there, to do what is in their power to remove or correct them, and to restore all things to a fuller praise of Christ and of God. Let them therefore teach the faithful that the authentic cult of the saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts, but rather in the greater intensity of our love, whereby, for our own greater good and that of the whole Church, we seek from the saints "example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and aid by their intercession."(23*) On the other hand, let them teach the faithful that our communion with those in heaven, provided that it is understood in the fuller light of faith according to its genuine nature, in no way weakens, but conversely, more thoroughly enriches the latreutic worship we give to God the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit.(24*)
For all of us, who are sons of God and constitute one family in Christ.(279) as long as we remain in communion with one another in mutual charity and in one praise of the most holy Trinity, are corresponding with the intimate vocation of the Church and partaking in foretaste the liturgy of consummate glory.(25*) For when Christ shall appear and the glorious resurrection of the dead will take place, the glory of God will light up the heavenly City and the Lamb will be the lamp thereof.(280) Then the whole Church of the saints in the supreme happiness of charity will adore God and "the Lamb who was slain",(281) proclaiming with one voice: "To Him who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb blessing, and honor, and glory, and dominion forever and ever".(282)
Supplementary Notes (*)
(1) Conc. Florentinum, Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 693 (1305).
(2) Praeter documenta antiquiora contra quamlibet formam evocationis spirituum inde ab Alexandro IV (27 sept. 1958), cfr Encycl. S.S.C.S. Officii, De magne tismi abusu, 4 aug. 1856: AAS (1865) pp. 177-178, Denz. 1653 1654 (2823-2825); responsioner S.S.C.S. Offici, 24 apr. 1917: 9 (1917) p. 268, Denz. 218 (3642).
(3) Videatur synthetiea espositi huius doctrinae paulinae in: Piu XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis AAS 35 (1943) p. 200 et passilr
(4) Cfr., i. a., S. Augustinus, Enarr. in Ps. 85, 24: PL 37, 1095 S. Hieronymus, Liber contra Vigl lantium, b: PL 23, 344. S. Thomas In 4m Sent., d. 45, q. 3, a. 2. Bonaventura, In 4m Sent., d. 45, a. 3, q. 2; etc.
(5) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943) p. 245.
(6) Cfr. Plurimae inseriptione in Catacumbis romanis.
(7) Cfr. Gelasius I, Decretalis De libris recipiendis, 3: PL 59, 160, Denz. 165 (353).
(8) Cfr. S. Methodius, Symposion, VII, 3: GCS (Bodwetseh), p. 74
(9) Cfr. Benedictus XV, Decretum approbationis virtutum in Causa beatificationis et canonizationis Servi Dei Ioannis Nepomuecni Neumann: AAS 14 (1922 p. 23; plures Allocutiones Pii X de Sanetis: Inviti all'croismo Diseorsi... t. I-III, Romae 1941-1942, passim; Pius XII, Discorsi Radiomessagi, t. 10, 1949, pp 37-43.
(10) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl : Mediator Dei: AAS 39 (1947) p . 581.
(11) Cfr. Hebr. 13, 7: Eccli 44-50, Nebr. 11, 340. Cfr. etia Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mediati Dei: AAS 39 (1947) pp. 582-583
(12) Cfr. Cone. Vaticanum Const. De fide catholica, cap. 3 Denz. 1794 (3013).
(13) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis: AAS 35 (1943) p. 216.
(14) Quoad gratitudinem erga ipsos Sanctos, cfr. E. Diehl, Inscriptiones latinae christianae vereres, 1, Berolini, 1925, nn. 2008 2382 et passim.
(15) Conc. Tridentinum, Sess. 25, De invocatione... Sanctorum: Denz. 984 (1821) .
(16) Breviarium Romanum, Invitatorium infesto Sanctorum Omnium.
(17) Cfr. v. g., 2 Thess. 1, 10.
(18) Conc. Vaticanum II, Const. De Sacra Liturgia, cap. 5, n. 104.
(19) Canon Missae Romanae.
(20) Conc. Nicaenum II, Act. VII: Denz. 302 (600).
(21) Conc. Florentinum, Decretum pro Graecis: Denz. 693 (1304).
(22) Conc. Tridentinum Sess. 35, De invocatione, veneratione et reliquiis Sanctorum et sacris imaginibus: Denz. 984-988 (1821-1824); Sess. 25, Decretum de Purgatorio: Denz. 983 (1820); Sess. 6, Decretum de iustificatione, can. 30: Denz. 840 (1580).
(23) Ex Praefatione, aliquious dioecesibus concessa.
(24) Cfr. S. Petrus Canisius, Catechismus Maior seu Summa Doctrinae christianae, cap. III (ed. crit. F. Streicher) pas I, pp. 15-16, n. 44 et pp. 100-1O1, n. 49.
(25) Cfr. Conc. Vaticanum II Const. De Sacra Liturgia, cap. 1 n. 8.
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