Voce mea ad Dominum

Random thoughts from an amateur theologist.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The whole one unity

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. - Ephesians 4:1-6

I have always been somewhat frustrated when I am confronted by a Protestant who says, "The church is never called Catholic in the bible." I have never been able to have an answer to this which was satisfactory for me, until the last few months. Despite the fact that I have been lax at putting my thoughts into writing, the truth is I have continued to be just as contemplative as ever.

At Mass today, the gospel reading was the beginning of chapter 6 from St. John's gospel, the Bread of Life discourse. However, in between the gospel reading and the Old Testament reading from 1 Kings (where Elisha multiplies the loaves) was this reading from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians. The theme of this particular passage is something that I have come to realize is central to St. Paul's theological discourses, and it permeates all of his writings.

St. Paul's writings are full of references to unity or oneness. (Another example may be found in
1 Corinthians chapter 1.) What is the significance of this? It is that St. Paul understood the Church to be not so much a group of individuals who went about doing their own thing. Rather, each individual member was united with every other member in a sacred bond which resulted in a whole entity which was meant to carry on Christ's work of salvation for all time, the Mystical Body of Christ. This mystical body preserved the fullness of divine revelation which it received from the Lord himself.

Because we are united with one another in such a sacred bond, our very lives become incorporated into this whole. When we are filled with joy, the Church shares this joy. Likewise, when one of the members suffers, the entire Church suffers. In the matter of sin, when we sin, because we are so intimately connected, our sin has a ripple effect which injures not only our relationship with God but also our relationship with the whole body of Christ.

So what does this have to do with the Church never being called Catholic in the bible? Well, the term Catholic may not be used, but even from the beginning the Church was Catholic. You see, the Greek term Καθολικός means "pertaining to the whole" or "universal", and the Church from the very beginning contained the whole truth and was complete despite being limited to the Mediterranean region of the earth. You see, Catholic is not so much a designation of space but of spirit, and that spirit is the Holy Spirit which unifies us and keeps us whole. St. Paul was describing the Church as Catholic in all of his letters, he just wasn't using the term Catholic.

Oddly enough, it seems the term Catholic is used in the bible in a tiny snippet from Acts 9:31--εκκλησιαι καθ ολης, which is translated as "the Church throughout all." Of course, this is geographical so it doesn't really help my argument, but still it is interesting trivia.


At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't fall in the whole! :-)


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