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"Catholic From the Outset" | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | Ignatius Insight | July 5, 2011
"For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love
by God who has made all things and in which he rejoices because it is 'good';
it is 'very good,' as the creation narrative tells us" (Genesis 1:1-21).
— Pope Benedict XVI,
Pentecost Sunday 2011 (L'Osservatore Romano,
English, June 15, 2011).
"The Church was catholic from the outset; her universality
is not the result of a successive inclusion of various communities."
— Benedict XVI, Pentecost Sunday
Before inventing the vapid "Fourteenth or Fifteenth
Sunday of Ordinary Time" business, the Church used to identify those days
as "The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost," "the Twentieth Sunday
after Pentecost", and so forth. The liturgical season and its teaching
were kept in mind. Symbolically and actually, the time after Pentecost is the
time of the Holy Spirit, the time between the sending of the Apostles into the
world and the Second Coming. What is going on is the essential purpose of
Christ's being sent into the world: the salvation of sinners and the proper
worship of God as that was established by the suffering, death, and
resurrection of Christ.
The major event in world history has taken place, namely,
the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is a divine event that is at the same
time historical. It really happened. What follows the time of Christ's actual
life on earth is the time during which the nations and individuals within them
make up their minds about reality, about whether they will accept or reject the
offer of salvation that was made present in the world with Christ's
Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.
Ultimately, this decision is what the time after Pentecost
As usual, Benedict XVI has given us an insightful reflection
on the meaning of Pentecost and the nature of our time in this world. In
recalling the period from Holy Week to Pentecost, Benedict says that "the
Church has thus re-lived what happened at her origins, when the Apostles
gathered in the upper room of Jerusalem, as we read in the Acts of the
Psalm 104 in the Pentecost Mass reads: "May the glory
of the Lord endures forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works." Of this
passage, the Pope remarks: "This is what the Church wants to tell us: the
Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come
down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same.
Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute in depth one
mystery of love and of salvation." This passage is of remarkable
importance. We do not have one God who created us and another who redeemed us.
Creation is not one thing and salvation something else
entirely unrelated. We were created in order that we might achieve God's
initial purpose which, with the fall, required our redemption from sins.
Creation was intended so that beings—rational beings—capable of
salvation could exist, could have time and space in which freely to decide how
they would stand to God, the Creator and Redeemer, to the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit in their Trinitarian wholeness. "For us Christians, the
world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things and in
which he rejoices because it is 'good'; it is 'very good,' as the creation
narrative tells us." The world thus does not exist by chance, though there
is chance in it. What is created is "very good." It is intended to
In classical religious philosophy, we have often heard God
spoken of as "totally Other," as if not even God can breach the gap
between creature and Himself. But this conception of God is the result of a
rejection of, or a not knowing of, divine revelation. The Christian God reveals
Himself in order that He might be known as much as possible—face to face
ultimately by the rational creature. "God is not totally Other, unnameable
and obscure. God reveals himself; he has a face. God is reason, God is will,
God is love, God is beauty." Deus Logos est. Deus voluntas est. Deus
Caritas est. Deus pulchrum est. We do not
have two different faiths, one for creation and another for redemption. The two
The sacred letters that designate God in the Old Testament,
letters we usually see as "Yahweh", were not to be spoken or written by the
Jews. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives us the ability to recognize and
affirm that Christ is God. "'Lord' is the title attributed to God in the
Old Testament, the title that in the interpretation of the Bible replaced the
unpronounceable name." Benedict adds: "The Creed of the Church is
nothing other than the development of what we say with the single
affirmation" 'Jesus is the Lord.'" We make our own those words that
spell out more fully that Jesus is the Lord. Thus, the whole Creed explains
what it means to say "Jesus is the Lord." We identify and keep
distinct the Father and Son and Spirit.
When we say, "Jesus is God," we mean that this man
Jesus is indeed God. We also mean that God is Jesus. The truth of this
statement changes the world. God was present in the world in the life of Jesus,
who left us a memorial of his abiding presence. The different graces and
endeavors that we do all can work together in the Spirit. The one center does
not deny the many things ordered to it. All the sacraments give us, in their
own ways, divine life and grace. "The Holy Spirit is Creator; he is at the
same time the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but in such a way that the Father, the
Son, and the Holy Spirit are one God."
The Spirit gives life to the Church. The Church is not
"born from the human will, from man's reflection, from his ability or from
his organizational capacity; if this were so she would have ceased to exist
long ago, as happens with all that is human." The centuries-long existence
of the Church that still affirms what it did in the time of Christ is one of
the secular mysteries of modern social science. The Holy Spirit is active from
the beginning. The cloud of smoke at Mt. Sinai comes from the same source as
the fire at Pentecost over the Apostles. The God of Sinai, the Lord, is the
same Lord that is Jesus. "He who sees Me has seen the Father."
The Old Testament Covenant contained intimations of a more
universal mission. Benedict is struck by the "unusually long" list of
people from all walks of life and from many nations that are listed in Acts.
"With this (list) we are told something important, that the Church was
catholic (universal) from the very outset, that her universality is not the
result of the successive inclusion of various communities." The
universality was already part of the Spirit that constituted the Church and
bound us together in the only ultimate community that would last forever. This
"catholicity" or universality was intended for all men insofar as all
shared in the same invitation freely to enter eternal life. The Holy Spirit
created the Church to be the Church of "all peoples," not just this
one or that.
The Church is not holy because of "her members' ability
but because God himself with his Spirit has never ceased to create her, purify
her, and sanctify her." The Pope cites the passage from John 20. The
disciples were "glad that they saw the Lord." The disciples thought
that they had lost their Friend, Jesus, but He was suddenly with them again.
The lost friend, however, came from true death on the Cross. He is not just
anyone. He is the Truth.
Benedict ends with the following lovely passage: "He
(Christ) is not just anyone; indeed he is the Friend and at the same time the
one who is the Truth that gives life to men and women; and what he gives is not
just any kind of joy, but joy itself, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is
beautiful to love because I am loved and it is the Truth who loves me." We
can love because we are first loved. We can know not just a joyful occasion,
but Joy itself in the inner life of the Trinity.
"For us Christians, the world is the result of an act
of love by God who has made all things." "The Church was catholic
from the outset." "It is beautiful to love because I am loved and it
is the Truth who loves me."
Biography of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Jesus of Nazareth (Part 2) available March 10, 2011
Other Recent Books by Pope Benedict XVI
All books by or about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Excerpts from books by Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Articles about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI
Related Ignatius Insight Articles and Excerpts:
Harvest of the Holy Spirit | Carl E. Olson
Jesus Is Catholic | Hans Urs von Balthasar
Vatican II and the Ecclesiology of Joseph Ratzinger | Fr. Maximilian Heinrich Heim
The Church Is the Goal of All Things | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
Motherhood of the Entire Church | Henri de Lubac
Excerpts from Theology of the Church | Charles Cardinal Journet
Creation | Adrienne von Speyr
Creation, Salvation, and the Mass | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The Church Is the Goal of All Things | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
The Gift of God | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
The Creed and the Trinity | Henri de Lubac
James V. Schall, S.J., is Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown
He is the author of numerous books on social issues, spirituality, culture,
and literature including Another
Sort of Learning, Idylls and Rambles, A Student's Guide to Liberal Learning,
The Life of the Mind (ISI, 2006),
The Sum Total of Human
Happiness (St. Augustine's Press, 2007), The Regensburg Lecture (St. Augustine's Press, 2007),
and The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays (CUA, 2008).
His most recent book from Ignatius Press is
The Order of Things (Ignatius Press, 2007). His new book, The Modern Age,
is available from St. Augustine's Press. Read more of his essays on his
the Insight Scoop Blog and read the latest posts and comments by
IgnatiusInsight.com staff and readers about current events, controversies,
and news in the Church!
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