CHAPTER THREE:
I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

683   “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.”1 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”2 This knowledge of faith is possible only in the Holy Spirit: to be in touch with Christ, we must first have been touched by the Holy Spirit. He comes to meet us and kindles faith in us. By virtue of our Baptism, the first sacrament of the faith, the Holy Spirit in the Church communicates to us, intimately and personally, the life that originates in the Father and is offered to us in the Son. (424, 2670, 152, 249)

Baptism gives us the grace of new birth in God the Father, through his Son, in the Holy Spirit. For those who bear God’s Spirit are led to the Word, that is, to the Son, and the Son presents them to the Father, and the Father confers incorruptibility on them. And it is impossible to see God’s Son without the Spirit, and no one can approach the Father without the Son, for the knowledge of the Father is the Son, and the knowledge of God’s Son is obtained through the Holy Spirit.3

684      Through his grace, the Holy Spirit is the first to awaken faith in us and to communicate to us the new life, which is to “know the Father and the one whom he has sent, Jesus Christ.”4 But the Spirit is the last of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be revealed. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, explains this progression in terms of the pedagogy of divine “condescension”: (236)

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father clearly, but the Son more obscurely. The New Testament revealed the Son and gave us a glimpse of the divinity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit dwells among us and grants us a clearer vision of himself. It was not prudent, when the divinity of the Father had not yet been confessed, to proclaim the Son openly and, when the divinity of the Son was not yet admitted, to add the Holy Spirit as an extra burden, to speak somewhat daringly.... By advancing and progressing “from glory to glory,” the light of the Trinity will shine in ever more brilliant rays.5

685   To believe in the Holy Spirit is to profess that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial with the Father and the Son: “with the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.”6 For this reason, the divine mystery of the Holy Spirit was already treated in the context of Trinitarian “theology.” Here, however, we have to do with the Holy Spirit only in the divine “economy.” (236)

686   The Holy Spirit is at work with the Father and the Son from the beginning to the completion of the plan for our salvation. But in these “end times,” ushered in by the Son’s redeeming Incarnation, the Spirit is revealed and given, recognized and welcomed as a person. Now can this divine plan, accomplished in Christ, the firstborn and head of the new creation, be embodied in mankind by the outpouring of the Spirit: as the Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. (258)

ARTICLE 8
“I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT”


687   “No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”7 Now God’s Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who “has spoken through the prophets” makes us hear the Father’s Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who “unveils” Christ to us “will not speak on his own.”8 Such properly divine self–effacement explains why “the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him,” while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them.9 (243)

688   The Church, a communion living in the faith of the apostles which she transmits, is the place where we know the Holy Spirit:

—in the Scriptures he inspired;

—in the Tradition, to which the Church Fathers are always timely witnesses;

—in the Church’s Magisterium, which he assists;

—in the sacramental liturgy, through its words and symbols, in which the Holy Spirit puts us into communion with Christ;

—in prayer, wherein he intercedes for us;

—in the charisms and ministries by which the Church is built up;

—in the signs of apostolic and missionary life;

—in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation.

I. The Joint Mission of the Son and the Spirit

689   The One whom the Father has sent into our hearts, the Spirit of his Son, is truly God.10 Consubstantial with the Father and the Son, the Spirit is inseparable from them, in both the inner life of the Trinity and his gift of love for the world. In adoring the Holy Trinity, life–giving, consubstantial, and indivisible, the Church’s faith also professes the distinction of persons. When the Father sends his Word, he always sends his Breath. In their joint mission, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct but inseparable. To be sure, it is Christ who is seen, the visible image of the invisible God, but it is the Spirit who reveals him. (245, 254, 485)

690   Jesus is Christ, “anointed,” because the Spirit is his anointing, and everything that occurs from the Incarnation on derives from this fullness.11 When Christ is finally glorified,12 he can in turn send the Spirit from his place with the Father to those who believe in him: he communicates to them his glory,13 that is, the Holy Spirit who glorifies him.14 From that time on, this joint mission will be manifested in the children adopted by the Father in the Body of his Son: the mission of the Spirit of adoption is to unite them to Christ and make them live in him: (436, 788, 448)

The notion of anointing suggests... that there is no distance between the Son and the Spirit. Indeed, just as between the surface of the body and the anointing with oil neither reason nor sensation recognizes any intermediary, so the contact of the Son with the Spirit is immediate, so that anyone who would make contact with the Son by faith must first encounter the oil by contact. In fact there is no part that is not covered by the Holy Spirit. That is why the confession of the Son’s Lordship is made in the Holy Spirit by those who receive him, the Spirit coming from all sides to those who approach the Son in faith.15

II. The Name, Titles, and Symbols of the Holy Spirit

The proper name of the Holy Spirit

691   “Holy Spirit” is the proper name of the one whom we adore and glorify with the Father and the Son. The Church has received this name from the Lord and professes it in the Baptism of her new children.16

The term “Spirit” translates the Hebrew word ruah, which, in its primary sense, means breath, air, wind. Jesus indeed uses the sensory image of the wind to suggest to Nicodemus the transcendent newness of him who is personally God’s breath, the divine Spirit.17 On the other hand, “Spirit” and “Holy” are divine attributes common to the three divine persons. By joining the two terms, Scripture, liturgy, and theological language designate the inexpressible person of the Holy Spirit, without any possible equivocation with other uses of the terms “spirit” and “holy.”

Titles of the Holy Spirit

692   When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad–vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”20 (1433)

693   Besides the proper name of “Holy Spirit,” which is most frequently used in the Acts of the Apostles and in the Epistles, we also find in St. Paul the titles: the Spirit of the promise,21 the Spirit of adoption,22 the Spirit of Christ,23 the Spirit of the Lord,24 and the Spirit of God 25—and, in St. Peter, the Spirit of glory.26

Symbols of the Holy Spirit

694   Water. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth: just as the gestation of our first birth took place in water, so the water of Baptism truly signifies that our birth into the divine life is given to us in the Holy Spirit. As “by one Spirit we were all baptized,” so we are also “made to drink of one Spirit.”27 Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified28 as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.29 (1218, 2652)

695   Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit,30 to the point of becoming a synonym for the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation, called “chrismation” in the Churches of the East. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew “messiah”) means the one “anointed” by God’s Spirit. There were several anointed ones of the Lord in the Old Covenant, pre–eminently King David.31 But Jesus is God’s Anointed in a unique way: the humanity the Son assumed was entirely anointed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit established him as “Christ.”32 The Virgin Mary conceived Christ by the Holy Spirit who, through the angel, proclaimed him the Christ at his birth, and prompted Simeon to come to the temple to see the Christ of the Lord.33 The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.34 Finally, it was the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.35 Now, fully established as “Christ” in his humanity victorious over death, Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit abundantly until “the saints” constitute—in their union with the humanity of the Son of God—that perfect man “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”:36 “the whole Christ,” in St. Augustine’s expression. (1293, 436, 1504, 794)

696   Fire. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions. The prayer of the prophet Elijah, who “arose like fire” and whose “word burned like a torch,” brought down fire from heaven on the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.37 This event was a “figure” of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches. John the Baptist, who goes “before [the Lord] in the spirit and power of Elijah,” proclaims Christ as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”38 Jesus will say of the Spirit: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!”39 In the form of tongues “as of fire,” the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself.40 The spiritual tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit’s actions.41 “Do not quench the Spirit.”42 (1127, 2586, 718)

697   Cloud and light. These two images occur together in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In the theophanies of the Old Testament, the cloud, now obscure, now luminous, reveals the living and saving God, while veiling the transcendence of his glory—with Moses on Mount Sinai,43 at the tent of meeting,44 and during the wandering in the desert,45 and with Solomon at the dedication of the Temple.46 In the Holy Spirit, Christ fulfills these figures. The Spirit comes upon the Virgin Mary and “overshadows” her, so that she might conceive and give birth to Jesus.47 On the mountain of Transfiguration, the Spirit in the “cloud came and overshadowed” Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John, and “a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’”48 Finally, the cloud took Jesus out of the sight of the disciples on the day of his ascension and will reveal him as Son of man in glory on the day of his final coming.49 (484, 554, 659)

698   The seal is a symbol close to that of anointing. “The Father has set his seal” on Christ and also seals us in him.50 Because this seal indicates the indelible effect of the anointing with the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, the image of the seal (sphragis) has been used in some theological traditions to express the indelible “character” imprinted by these three unrepeatable sacraments. (1295-1296, 1121)

699   The hand. Jesus heals the sick and blesses little children by laying hands on them.51 In his name the apostles will do the same.52 Even more pointedly, it is by the Apostles’ imposition of hands that the Holy Spirit is given.53 The Letter to the Hebrews lists the imposition of hands among the “fundamental elements” of its teaching.54 The Church has kept this sign of the all–powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in its sacramental epicleses. (292, 1288, 1300, 1573, 1668)

700   The finger. “It is by the finger of God that [Jesus] cast out demons.”55 If God’s law was written on tablets of stone “by the finger of God,” then the “letter from Christ” entrusted to the care of the apostles, is written “with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts.”56 The hymn Veni Creator Spiritus invokes the Holy Spirit as the “finger of the Father’s right hand.57 (2056)

701   The dove. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive–tree branch in its beak as a sign that the earth was again habitable.58 When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him.59 The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized. In certain churches, the Eucharist is reserved in a metal receptacle in the form of a dove (columbarium) suspended above the altar. Christian iconography traditionally uses a dove to suggest the Spirit. (1219, 535)


Notes

1 1 Cor 12:3.

2 Gal 4:6.

3 St. Irenæus, Dem. ap. 7: SCh 62, 41–42.

4 Jn 17:3.

5 St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio theol., 5, 26 (= Oratio 31, 26): PG 36, 161–163.

6 Nicene Creed; see above, par. 465.

7 1 Cor 2:11.

8 Jn 16:13.

9 Jn 14:17.

10 Cf. Gal 4:6.

11 Cf. Jn 3:34.

12 Jn 7:39.

13 Cf. Jn 17:22.

14 Cf. Jn 16:14.

15 St. Gregory of Nyssa, De Spiritu Sancto, 16: PG 45, 1321A–B.

16 Cf. Mt 28:19.

17 Jn 3:5–8.

18 Jn 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7.

19 Cf. 1 Jn 2:1.

20 Jn 16:13.

21 Cf. Gal 3:14; Eph 1:13.

22 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6.

23 Rom 8:9.

24 2 Cor 3:17.

25 Rom 8:9, 14; 15:19; 1 Cor 6:11; 7:40.

26 1 Pet 4:14.

27 1 Cor 12:13.

28 Jn 19:34; 1 Jn 5:8.

29 Cf. Jn 4:10–14; 7:38; Ex 17:1–6; Isa 55:1; Zech 14:8; 1 Cor 10:4; Rev 21:6; 22:17.

30 Cf. 1 Jn 2:20:27; 2 Cor 1:21.

31 Cf. Ex 30:22–32; 1 Sam 16:13.

32 Cf. Lk 4:18–19; Isa 61:1.

33 Cf. Lk 2:11, 26–27.

34 Cf. Lk 4:1; 6:19; 8:46.

35 Cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11.

36 Eph 4:13; cf. Acts 2:36.

37 Sir 48:1; cf. 1 Kings 18:38–39.

38 Lk 1:17; 3:16.

39 Lk 12:49.

40 Acts 2:3–4.

41 Cf. St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, in The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, tr. K. Kavanaugh, OCD, and O. Rodriguez, OCD (Washington DC: Institute of Carmelite Studies, 1979), 577 ff.

42 1 Thess 5:19.

43 Cf. Ex 24:15–18.

44 Cf. Ex 33:9–10.

45 Cf. Ex 40:36–38; 1 Cor 10:1–2.

46 Cf. 1 Kings 8:10–12.

47 Lk 1:35.

48 Lk 9:34–35.

49 Cf. Acts 1:9; cf. Lk 21:27.

50 Jn 6:27; cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30.

51 Cf. Mk 6:5; 8:23; 10:16.

52 Cf. Mk 16:18; Acts 5:12; 14:3.

53 Cf. Acts 8:17–19; 13:3; 19:6.

54 Cf. Heb 6:2.

55 Lk 11:20.

56 Ex 31:18; 2 Cor 3:3.

57 LH, Easter Season after Ascension, Hymn at Vespers: digitus paternae dexterae.

58 Cf. Gen 8:8–12.

59 Cf. Mt 3:16 and parallels.

III. God’s Spirit and Word in the Time of the Promises

702      From the beginning until “the fullness of time,”60 the joint mission of the Father’s Word and Spirit remains hidden, but it is at work. God’s Spirit prepares for the time of the Messiah. Neither is fully revealed but both are already promised, to be watched for and welcomed at their manifestation. So, for this reason, when the Church reads the Old Testament, she searches there for what the Spirit, “who has spoken through the prophets,” wants to tell us about Christ.61 (122, 107, 243)

By “prophets” the faith of the Church here understands all whom the Holy Spirit inspired in living proclamation and in the composition of the sacred books, both of the Old and the New Testaments. Jewish tradition distinguishes first the Law (the five first books or Pentateuch), then the Prophets (our historical and prophetic books) and finally the Writings (especially the wisdom literature, in particular the Psalms).62

In creation

703      The Word of God and his Breath are at the origin of the being and life of every creature:63 (292, 291)

It belongs to the Holy Spirit to rule, sanctify, and animate creation, for he is God, consubstantial with the Father and the Son.... Power over life pertains to the Spirit, for being God he preserves creation in the Father through the Son.64

704      “God fashioned man with his own hands [that is, the Son and the Holy Spirit] and impressed his own form on the flesh he had fashioned, in such a way that even what was visible might bear the divine form.”65 (356)

The Spirit of the promise

705      Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God,” in the image of the Son, but is deprived “of the glory of God,”66 of his “likeness.” The promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at the culmination of which the Son himself will assume that “image”67 and restore it in the Father’s “likeness” by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.” (410, 2809)

706      Against all human hope, God promises descendants to Abraham, as the fruit of faith and of the power of the Holy Spirit.68 In Abraham’s progeny all the nations of the earth will be blessed. This progeny will be Christ himself,69 in whom the outpouring of the Holy Spirit will “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”70 God commits himself by his own solemn oath to giving his beloved Son and “the promised Holy Spirit... [who is] the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it.”71 (60)

In Theophanies and the Law

707      Theophanies (manifestations of God) light up the way of the promise, from the patriarchs to Moses and from Joshua to the visions that inaugurated the missions of the great prophets. Christian tradition has always recognized that God’s Word allowed himself to be seen and heard in these theophanies, in which the cloud of the Holy Spirit both revealed him and concealed him in its shadow.

708      This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.72 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people towards Christ.73 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,74 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this. (1961-1964, 122, 2585)

In the Kingdom and the Exile

709      The Law, the sign of God’s promise and covenant, ought to have governed the hearts and institutions of that people to whom Abraham’s faith gave birth. “If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant,... you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”75 But after David, Israel gave in to the temptation of becoming a kingdom like other nations. The Kingdom, however, the object of the promise made to David,76 would be the work of the Holy Spirit; it would belong to the poor according to the Spirit. (2579, 544)

710      The forgetting of the Law and the infidelity to the covenant end in death: it is the Exile, apparently the failure of the promises, which is in fact the mysterious fidelity of the Savior God and the beginning of a promised restoration, but according to the Spirit. The People of God had to suffer this purification.77 In God’s plan, the Exile already stands in the shadow of the Cross, and the Remnant of the poor that returns from the Exile is one of the most transparent prefigurations of the Church.

Expectation of the Messiah and his Spirit

711      “Behold, I am doing a new thing.”78 Two prophetic lines were to develop, one leading to the expectation of the Messiah, the other pointing to the announcement of a new Spirit. They converge in the small Remnant, the people of the poor, who await in hope the “consolation of Israel” and “the redemption of Jerusalem.”79 (64, 522)

We have seen earlier how Jesus fulfills the prophecies concerning himself. We limit ourselves here to those in which the relationship of the Messiah and his Spirit appears more clearly.

712      The characteristics of the awaited Messiah begin to appear in the “Book of Emmanuel” (“Isaiah said this when he saw his glory,”80 speaking of Christ), especially in the first two verses of Isaiah 11: (439)

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.81

713      The Messiah’s characteristics are revealed above all in the “Servant songs.”82 These songs proclaim the meaning of Jesus’ Passion and show how he will pour out the Holy Spirit to give life to the many: not as an outsider, but by embracing our “form as slave.”83 Taking our death upon himself, he can communicate to us his own Spirit of life. (601)

714      This is why Christ inaugurates the proclamation of the Good News by making his own the following passage from Isaiah:84

The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good tidings to the afflicted;
he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor.

715      The prophetic texts that directly concern the sending of the Holy Spirit are oracles by which God speaks to the heart of his people in the language of the promise, with the accents of “love and fidelity.”85 St. Peter will proclaim their fulfillment on the morning of Pentecost.86 According to these promises, at the “end time” the Lord’s Spirit will renew the hearts of men, engraving a new law in them. He will gather and reconcile the scattered and divided peoples; he will transform the first creation, and God will dwell there with men in peace. (214, 1965)

716      The People of the “poor”87—those who, humble and meek, rely solely on their God’s mysterious plans, who await the justice, not of men but of the Messiah—are in the end the great achievement of the Holy Spirit’s hidden mission during the time of the promises that prepare for Christ’s coming. It is this quality of heart, purified and enlightened by the Spirit, which is expressed in the Psalms. In these poor, the Spirit is making ready “a people prepared for the Lord.”88 (368)


Notes

60 Gal 4:4.

61 Cf. 2 Cor 3:14; Jn 5:39, 46.

62 Cf. Lk 24:44.

63 Cf. Pss 33:6; 104:30; Gen 1:2; 2:7; Eccl 3:20-21; Ezek 37:10.

64 Byzantine liturgy, Sundays of the second mode, Troparion of Morning Prayer.

65 St. Irenæus, Dem ap. 11: SCh 62, 48-49.

66 Rom 3:23.

67 Cf. Jn 1:14; Phil 2:7.

68 Cf. Gen 18:1-15; Lk 1:26-38; 54-55; Jn 1:12-13; Rom 4:16-21.

69 Cf. Gen 12:3; Gal 3:16.

70 Cf. Jn 11:52.

71 Eph 1:13-14; cf. Gen 22:17-19; Lk 1:73; Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32; Gal 3:14.

72 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.

73 Gal 3:24.

74 Cf. Rom 3:20.

75 Ex 19:5-6; Cf. 1 Pet 2:9.

76 Cf. 2 Sam 7; Ps 89; Lk 1:32-33.

77 Cf. Lk 24:26.

78 Isa 43:19.

79 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Lk 2:25, 38.

80 Jn 12:41; cf. Isa 6-12.

81 Isa 11:1-2.

82 Cf. Isa 42:1-9; cf. Mt 12:18-21; Jn 1:32-34; then cf. Isa 49:1-6; cf. Mt 3:17; Lk 2:32; finally cf. Isa 50:4-10 and Isa 52:13-53:12.

83 Phil 2:7.

84 Isa 61:1-2; cf. Lk 4:18-19.

85 Cf. Ezek 11:19; 36:25-28; 37:1-14; Jer 31:31-34; and cf. Joel 3:1-5.

86 Cf. Acts 2:17-21.

87 Cf. Zeph 2:3; Pss 22:27; 34:3; Isa 49:13; 61:1; etc.

88 Lk 1:17.

IV. The Spirit of Christ in the Fullness of Time

John, precursor, prophet, and baptist

717      “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”89 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb”90 by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.91 (523)

718      John is “Elijah [who] must come.”92 The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.”93 (696)

719      John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.”94 In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah.95 He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming.96 As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.”97 In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels.98 “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.... Behold, the Lamb of God.”99 (2684, 536)

720      Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of “the divine likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth.100 (535)

“Rejoice, you who are full of grace”

721      Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church’s Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary.101 Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the “Seat of Wisdom.” (484)

In her, the “wonders of God” that the Spirit was to fulfill in Christ and the Church began to be manifested:

722      The Holy Spirit prepared Mary by his grace. It was fitting that the mother of him in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”102 should herself be “full of grace.” She was, by sheer grace, conceived without sin as the most humble of creatures, the most capable of welcoming the inexpressible gift of the Almighty. It was quite correct for the angel Gabriel to greet her as the “Daughter of Zion”: “Rejoice.”103 It is the thanksgiving of the whole People of God, and thus of the Church, which Mary in her canticle104 lifts up to the Father in the Holy Spirit while carrying within her the eternal Son. (489, 2676)

723      In Mary, the Holy Spirit fulfills the plan of the Father’s loving goodness. Through the Holy Spirit, the Virgin conceives and gives birth to the Son of God. By the Holy Spirit’s power and her faith, her virginity became uniquely fruitful.105 (485, 506)

724      In Mary, the Holy Spirit manifests the Son of the Father, now become the Son of the Virgin. She is the burning bush of the definitive theophany. Filled with the Holy Spirit she makes the Word visible in the humility of his flesh. It is to the poor and the first representatives of the gentiles that she makes him known.106 (963)

725      Finally, through Mary, the Holy Spirit begins to bring men, the objects of God’s merciful love,107 into communion with Christ. And the humble are always the first to accept him: shepherds, magi, Simeon and Anna, the bride and groom at Cana, and the first disciples. (208, 2619)

726      At the end of this mission of the Spirit, Mary became the Woman, the new Eve (“mother of the living”), the mother of the “whole Christ.”108 As such, she was present with the Twelve, who “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer,”109 at the dawn of the “end time” which the Spirit was to inaugurate on the morning of Pentecost with the manifestation of the Church. (494, 2618)

Christ Jesus

727      The entire mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of time, is contained in this: that the Son is the one anointed by the Father’s Spirit since his Incarnation—Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. (438, 695, 536)

Everything in the second chapter of the Creed is to be read in this light. Christ’s whole work is in fact a joint mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Here, we shall mention only what has to do with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit and the gift of him by the glorified Lord.

728      Jesus does not reveal the Holy Spirit fully, until he himself has been glorified through his Death and Resurrection. Nevertheless, little by little he alludes to him even in his teaching of the multitudes, as when he reveals that his own flesh will be food for the life of the world.110 He also alludes to the Spirit in speaking to Nicodemus,111 to the Samaritan woman,112 and to those who take part in the feast of Tabernacles.113 To his disciples he speaks openly of the Spirit in connection with prayer114 and with the witness they will have to bear.115 (2615)

729      Only when the hour has arrived for his glorification does Jesus promise the coming of the Holy Spirit, since his Death and Resurrection will fulfill the promise made to the fathers.116 The Spirit of truth, the other Paraclete, will be given by the Father in answer to Jesus’ prayer; he will be sent by the Father in Jesus’ name; and Jesus will send him from the Father’s side, since he comes from the Father. The Holy Spirit will come and we shall know him; he will be with us for ever; he will remain with us. The Spirit will teach us everything, remind us of all that Christ said to us and bear witness to him. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth and will glorify Christ. He will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness, and judgment. (388, 1433)

730      At last Jesus’ hour arrives:117 he commends his spirit into the Father’s hands118 at the very moment when by his death he conquers death, so that, “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,”119 he might immediately give the Holy Spirit by “breathing” on his disciples.120 From this hour onward, the mission of Christ and the Spirit becomes the mission of the Church: “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”121 (850)

V. The Spirit and the Church in the Last Days

Pentecost

731      On the day of Pentecost when the seven weeks of Easter had come to an end, Christ’s Passover is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, manifested, given, and communicated as a divine person: of his fullness, Christ, the Lord, pours out the Spirit in abundance.122 (2623, 767, 1302)

732      On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated. (244, 672)

We have seen the true Light, we have received the heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith: we adore the indivisible Trinity, who has saved us.123

The Holy Spirit—God’s gift

733      “God is Love”124 and love is his first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”125 (218)

734      Because we are dead or at least wounded through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit126 in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin. (1987)

735      He, then, gives us the “pledge” or “first fruits” of our inheritance: the very life of the Holy Trinity, which is to love as “God [has] loved us.”127 This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit.128 (1822)

736      By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit:... love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”129 “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we “walk by the Spirit.”130 (1832)

Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God “Father” and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory.131

The Holy Spirit and the Church

737      The mission of Christ and the Holy Spirit is brought to completion in the Church, which is the Body of Christ and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. This joint mission henceforth brings Christ’s faithful to share in his communion with the Father in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit prepares men and goes out to them with his grace, in order to draw them to Christ. The Spirit manifests the risen Lord to them, recalls his word to them and opens their minds to the understanding of his Death and Resurrection. He makes present the mystery of Christ, supremely in the Eucharist, in order to reconcile them, to bring them into communion with God, that they may “bear much fruit.”132 (787-798, 1093-1109)

738      Thus the Church’s mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity (the topic of the next article): (850, 777)

All of us who have received one and the same Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit, are in a sense blended together with one another and with God. For if Christ, together with the Father’s and his own Spirit, comes to dwell in each of us, though we are many, still the Spirit is one and undivided. He binds together the spirits of each and every one of us,... and makes all appear as one in him. For just as the power of Christ’s sacred flesh unites those in whom it dwells into one body, I think that in the same way the one and undivided Spirit of God, who dwells in all, leads all into spiritual unity.133

739      Because the Holy Spirit is the anointing of Christ, it is Christ who, as the head of the Body, pours out the Spirit among his members to nourish, heal, and organize them in their mutual functions, to give them life, send them to bear witness, and associate them to his self-offering to the Father and to his intercession for the whole world. Through the Church’s sacraments, Christ communicates his Holy and sanctifying Spirit to the members of his Body. (This will be the topic of Part Two of the Catechism.) (1076)

740      These “mighty works of God,” offered to believers in the sacraments of the Church, bear their fruit in the new life in Christ, according to the Spirit. (This will be the topic of Part Three.)

741      “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”134 The Holy Spirit, the artisan of God’s works, is the master of prayer. (This will be the topic of Part Four.)


IN BRIEF

742      “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6).

743      From the beginning to the end of time, whenever God sends his Son, he always sends his Spirit: their mission is conjoined and inseparable.

744      In the fullness of time the Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel, “God-with-us” (Mt 1:23).

745      The Son of God was consecrated as Christ (Messiah) by the anointing of the Holy Spirit at his Incarnation (cf. Ps 2:6-7).

746      By his Death and his Resurrection, Jesus is constituted in glory as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:36). From his fullness, he poured out the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the Church.

747      The Holy Spirit, whom Christ the head pours out on his members, builds, animates, and sanctifies the Church. She is the sacrament of the Holy Trinity’s communion with men.


Notes

89 Jn 1:6.

90 Lk 1:15, 41.

91 Cf. Lk 1:68.

92 Mt 17:10-13; cf. Lk 1:78.

93 Lk 1:17.

94 Lk 7:26.

95 Cf. Mt 11:13-14.

96 Jn 1:23; cf. Isa 40:1-3.

97 Jn 1:7; cf. Jn 15:26; 5:35.

98 Cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12.

99 Jn 1:33-36.

100 Cf. Jn 3:5.

101 Cf. Prov 8:1-9:6; Sir 24.

102 Col 2:9.

103 Cf. Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:14.

104 Cf. Lk 1:46-55.

105 Cf. Lk 1:26-38; Rom 4:18-21; Gal 4:26-28.

106 Cf. Lk 1:15-19; Mt 2:11.

107 Cf. Lk 2:14.

108 Cf. Jn 19:25-27.

109 Acts 1:14.

110 Cf. Jn 6:27, 51, 62-63.

111 Cf. Jn 3:5-8.

112 Cf. Jn 4:10, 14, 23-24.

113 Cf. Jn 7:37-39.

114 Cf. Lk 11:13.

115 Cf. Mt 10:19-20.

116 Cf. Jn 14:16-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-15; 17:26.

117 Cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.

118 Cf. Lk 23:46; Jn 19:30.

119 Rom 6:4.

120 Cf. Jn 20:22.

121 Jn 20:21; cf. Mt 28:19; Lk 24:47-48; Acts 1:8.

122 Cf. Acts 2:33-36.

123 Byzantine liturgy, Pentecost, Vespers, Troparion, repeated after communion.

124 1 Jn 4:8, 16.

125 Rom 5:5.

126 2 Cor 13:13.

127 1 Jn 4:11-12; cf. Rom 8:23; 2 Cor 1:21.

128 Acts 1:8; cf. 1 Cor 13.

129 Gal 5:22-23.

130 Gal 5:25; cf. Mt 16:24-26.

131 St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto, 15, 36: PG 32, 132.

132 Jn 15:8, 16.

133 St. Cyril of Alexandria, In Jo. ev., 11, 11: PG 74, 561.

134 Rom 8:26.

ARTICLE 9
“I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH”


748   “Christ is the light of humanity; and it is, accordingly, the heart–felt desire of this sacred Council, being gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature, it may bring to all men that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church.”135 These words open the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church. By choosing this starting point, the Council demonstrates that the article of faith about the Church depends entirely on the articles concerning Christ Jesus. The Church has no other light than Christ’s; according to a favorite image of the Church Fathers, the Church is like the moon, all its light reflected from the sun.

749   The article concerning the Church also depends entirely on the article about the Holy Spirit, which immediately precedes it. “Indeed, having shown that the Spirit is the source and giver of all holiness, we now confess that it is he who has endowed the Church with holiness.”136 The Church is, in a phrase used by the Fathers, the place “where the Spirit flourishes.”137

750   To believe that the Church is “holy” and “catholic,” and that she is “one” and “apostolic” (as the Nicene Creed adds), is inseparable from belief in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the Apostles’ Creed we profess “one Holy Church” (Credo... Ecclesiam), and not to believe in the Church, so as not to confuse God with his works and to attribute clearly to God’s goodness all the gifts he has bestowed on his Church.138 (811, 169)

Paragraph 1. The Church in God’s Plan
I. Names and Images of the Church

751   The word “Church” (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek–kalein, to “call out of”) means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose.139 Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people.140 By calling itself “Church,” the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is “calling together” his people from all the ends of the earth. The equivalent Greek term Kyriak, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means “what belongs to the Lord.”

752   In Christian usage, the word “church” designates the liturgical assembly,141 but also the local community142 or the whole universal community of believers.143 These three meanings are inseparable. “The Church” is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ’s Body. (1140, 832, 830)

Symbols of the Church

753   In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the Church. The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on a profound theme: the People of God. In the New Testament, all these images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this people, which henceforth is his Body.144 Around this center are grouped images taken “from the life of the shepherd or from cultivation of the land, from the art of building or from family life and marriage.”145 (781, 789)

754   “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.146 (857)

755   “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.147 (795)

756   “Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner–stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling–place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.148 (797, 857, 1045)

757   “The Church, further, which is called ‘that Jerusalem which is above’ and ‘our mother,’ is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb. It is she whom Christ ‘loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her.’ It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly ‘nourishes and cherishes.’”149 (507, 796, 1616)

II. The Church’s Origin, Foundation, and Mission

758   We begin our investigation of the Church’s mystery by meditating on her origin in the Holy Trinity’s plan and her progressive realization in history. (257)

A plan born in the Father’s heart

759   “The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men to share in his own divine life,”150 to which he calls all men in his Son. “The Father... determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ.”151 This “family of God” is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. In fact, “already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvellous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Alliance. Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time.”152 (293, 1655)

The Church—foreshadowed from the world’s beginning

760   Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.”153 God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things,154 and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels’ fall and man’s sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world: (294, 309)

Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called “the Church.”155

The Church—prepared for in the Old Covenant

761   The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God’s reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: “In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable” to God.156 (55)

762   The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.157 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel’s election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of all nations.158 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. “Christ instituted this New Covenant.”159 (122, 522, 60, 64)


Notes

135 LG 1; cf. Mk 16:15.

136 Roman Catechism I, 10, 1.

137 St. Hippolytus, Trad. Ap. 35: SCh 11, 118.

138 Roman Catechism I, 10, 22.

139 Cf. Acts 19:39.

140 Cf. Ex 19.

141 Cf. 1 Cor 11:18; 14:19, 28, 34, 35.

142 Cf. 1 Cor 1:2; 16:1.

143 Cf. 1 Cor 15:9; Gal 1:13; Phil 3:6.

144 Cf. Eph 1:22; Col 1:18; LG 9.

145 LG 6.

146 LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1–10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11–31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11–16.

147 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 3:9; Rom 11:13–26; Mt 21:33–43 and parallels; Isa 5:1–7; Jn 15:1–5.

148 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 3:9; Mt 21:42 and parallels; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet 2:7; Ps 118:22; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 2:19–22; Rev 21:3; 1 Pet 2:5; Rev 21:1–2.

149 LG 6; cf. Gal 4:26; Rev 12:17; 19:7; 21:2, 9; 22:17; Eph 5:25–26, 29.

150 LG 2.

151 LG 2.

152 LG 2.

153 Pastor Hermæ, Vision 2, 4, 1: PG 2, 899; cf. Aristides, Apol. 16, 6; St. Justin, Apol. 2, 7: PG 6, 456; Tertullian, Apol. 31, 3; 32, 1: PL 1, 508–509.

154 Cf. St. Epiphanius, Panarion 1, 1, 5: PG 41, 181C.

155 Clement of Alex., Pæd. 1, 6, 27: PG 8, 281.

156 Acts 10:35; cf. LG 9; 13; 16.

157 Cf. Gen 12:2; 15:5–6.

158 Cf. Ex 19:5–6; Deut 7:6; Isa 2:2–5; Mic 4:1–4.

159 LG 9; cf. Hos 1; Isa 1:2–4; Jer 2; 31:31–34; Isa 55:3.

The Church—instituted by Christ Jesus

763   It was the Son’s task to accomplish the Father’s plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent.160 “The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures.”161 To fulfill the Father’s will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The Church “is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.”162 (541)

764   “This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ.”163 To welcome Jesus’ word is to welcome “the Kingdom itself.”164 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the “little flock” of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.165 They form Jesus’ true family.166 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new “way of acting” and a prayer of their own.167 (543, 1691, 2558)

765   The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.168 Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.169 The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot.170 By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church. (610, 551)

766   The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self–giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.”171 “For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.’”172 As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.173 (813, 860, 1340, 617, 478)

The Church—revealed by the Holy Spirit

767   “When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church.”174 Then “the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun.”175 As the “convocation” of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.176 (731, 849)

768   So that she can fulfill her mission, the Holy Spirit “bestows upon [the Church] varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her.”177 “Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility and self–denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.”178 (541)

The Church—perfected in glory

769   “The Church... will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven,”179 at the time of Christ’s glorious return. Until that day, “the Church progresses on her pilgrimage amidst this world’s persecutions and God’s consolations.”180 Here below she knows that she is in exile far from the Lord, and longs for the full coming of the Kingdom, when she will “be united in glory with her king.”181 The Church, and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials. Only then will “all the just from the time of Adam, ‘from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,’... be gathered together in the universal Church in the Father’s presence.”182 (671, 2818, 675, 1045)


Notes

160 Cf. LG 3; AG 3.

161 LG 5.

162 LG 3.

163 LG 5.

164 LG 5.

165 Lk 12:32; cf. Mt 10:16; 26:31; Jn 10:1–21.

166 Cf. Mt 12:49.

167 Cf. Mt 5–6.

168 Cf. Mk 3:14–15.

169 Cf. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Rev 21:12–14.

170 Cf. Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1–2; Mt 10:25; Jn 15:20.

171 LG 3; cf. Jn 19:34.

172 SC 5.

173 Cf. St. Ambrose, In Luc. 2, 85–89: PL 15, 1666–1668.

174 LG 4; cf. Jn 17:4.

175 AG 4.

176 Cf. Mt 28:19–20; AG 2; 5–6.

177 LG 4.

178 LG 5.

179 LG 48.

180 St. Augustine, De civ. Dei, 18, 51: PL 41, 614; cf. LG 8.

181 LG 5; cf. 6; 2 Cor 5:6.

182 LG 2.

III. The Mystery of the Church

770   The Church is in history, but at the same time she transcends it. It is only “with the eyes of faith”183 that one can see her in her visible reality and at the same time in her spiritual reality as bearer of divine life. (812)

The Church—both visible and spiritual

771   “The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.”184 The Church is at the same time: (827, 1880, 954)

—a “society structured with hierarchical organs and the mystical body of Christ;

—the visible society and the spiritual community;

—the earthly Church and the Church endowed with heavenly riches.”185

These dimensions together constitute “one complex reality which comes together from a human and a divine element”:186

The Church is essentially both human and divine, visible but endowed with invisible realities, zealous in action and dedicated to contemplation, present in the world, but as a pilgrim, so constituted that in her the human is directed toward and subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, the object of our quest.187

O humility! O sublimity! Both tabernacle of cedar and sanctuary of God; earthly dwelling and celestial palace; house of clay and royal hall; body of death and temple of light; and at last both object of scorn to the proud and bride of Christ! She is black but beautiful, O daughters of Jerusalem, for even if the labor and pain of her long exile may have discolored her, yet heaven’s beauty has adorned her.188

The Church—mystery of man’s union with God

772   It is in the Church that Christ fulfills and reveals his own mystery as the purpose of God’s plan: “to unite all things in him.”189 St. Paul calls the nuptial union of Christ and the Church “a great mystery.” Because she is united to Christ as to her bridegroom, she becomes a mystery in her turn.190 Contemplating this mystery in her, Paul exclaims: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”191 (518, 796)

773   In the Church this communion of men with God, in the “love [that] never ends,” is the purpose which governs everything in her that is a sacramental means, tied to this passing world.192 “[The Church’s] structure is totally ordered to the holiness of Christ’s members. And holiness is measured according to the ‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to the gift of the Bridegroom.”193 Mary goes before us all in the holiness that is the Church’s mystery as “the bride without spot or wrinkle.”194 This is why the “Marian” dimension of the Church precedes the “Petrine.”195 (671, 972)

The universal Sacrament of Salvation

774   The Greek word mysterion was translated into Latin by two terms: mysterium and sacramentum. In later usage the term sacramentum emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated by the term mysterium. In this sense, Christ himself is the mystery of salvation: “For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ.”196 The saving work of his holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church’s sacraments (which the Eastern Churches also call “the holy mysteries”). The seven sacraments are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The Church, then, both contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies. It is in this analogical sense, that the Church is called a “sacrament.” (1075, 515, 2014, 1116)

775   “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament—a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.”197 The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of (360)

the inner union of men with God. Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”;198 at the same time, the Church is the “sign and instrument” of the full realization of the unity yet to come.

776   As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. “She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all,” “the universal sacrament of salvation,” by which Christ is “at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men.”199 The Church “is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity,” because God desires “that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit.”200 (1088)


IN BRIEF

777   The word “Church” means “convocation.” It designates the assembly of those whom God’s Word “convokes,” i.e., gathers together to form the People of God, and who themselves, nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ.

778   The Church is both the means and the goal of God’s plan: prefigured in creation, prepared for in the Old Covenant, founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming cross and his Resurrection, the Church has been manifested as the mystery of salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She will be perfected in the glory of heaven as the assembly of all the redeemed of the earth (cf. Rev 14:4).

779   The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept.

780   The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men.


Notes

183 Roman Catechism I, 10, 20.

184 LG 8 § 1.

185 LG 8.

186 LG 8.

187 SC 2; cf. Heb 13:14.

188 St. Bernard of Clairvaux, In Cant. Sermo 27:14: PL 183:920D.

189 Eph 1:10.

190 Eph 5:32; 3:9–11; 5:25–27.

191 Col 1:27.

192 1 Cor 13:8; cf. LG 48.

193 John Paul II, MD 27.

194 Eph 5:27.

195 Cf. John Paul II, MD 27.

196 St. Augustine, Ep. 187, 11, 34: PL 33, 846.

197 LG 1.

198 Rev 7:9.

199 LG 9 § 2, 48 § 2; GS 45 § 1.

200 Paul VI, June 22, 1973; AG 7 § 2; cf. LG 17.

Paragraph 2. The Church—People of God, Body of Christ, Temple of the Holy Spirit
I. The Church—People of God

781   “At all times and in every race, anyone who fears God and does what is right has been acceptable to him. He has, however, willed to make men holy and save them, not as individuals without any bond or link between them, but rather to make them into a people who might acknowledge him and serve him in holiness. He therefore chose the Israelite race to be his own people and established a covenant with it. He gradually instructed this people.... All these things, however, happened as a preparation for and figure of that new and perfect covenant which was to be ratified in Christ... the New Covenant in his blood; he called together a race made up of Jews and Gentiles which would be one, not according to the flesh, but in the Spirit.”201

Characteristics of the People of God

782   The People of God is marked by characteristics that clearly distinguish it from all other religious, ethnic, political, or cultural groups found in history: (871, 2787, 1267, 695, 1741, 1972, 849, 769)

—It is the People of God: God is not the property of any one people. But he acquired a people for himself from those who previously were not a people: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.”202

—One becomes a member of this people not by a physical birth, but by being “born anew,” a birth “of water and the Spirit,”203 that is, by faith in Christ, and Baptism.

—This People has for its Head Jesus the Christ (the anointed, the Messiah). Because the same anointing, the Holy Spirit, flows from the head into the body, this is “the messianic people.”

— “The status of this people is that of the dignity and freedom of the sons of God, in whose hearts the Holy Spirit dwells as in a temple.”

— “Its law is the new commandment to love as Christ loved us.”204 This is the “new” law of the Holy Spirit.205

—Its mission is to be salt of the earth and light of the world.206 This people is “a most sure seed of unity, hope, and salvation for the whole human race.”

—Its destiny, finally, “is the Kingdom of God which has been begun by God himself on earth and which must be further extended until it has been brought to perfection by him at the end of time.”207

A priestly, prophetic, and royal people

783   Jesus Christ is the one whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and established as priest, prophet, and king. The whole People of God participates in these three offices of Christ and bears the responsibilities for mission and service that flow from them.208 (436, 873)

784   On entering the People of God through faith and Baptism, one receives a share in this people’s unique, priestly vocation: “Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men, has made this new people ‘a kingdom of priests to God, his Father.’ The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood.”209 (1268, 1546)

785   “The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office,” above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it “unfailingly adheres to this faith... once for all delivered to the saints,”210 and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world. (92)

786   Finally, the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection.211 Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came “not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”212 For the Christian, “to reign is to serve him,” particularly when serving “the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder.”213 The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ. (2449, 2443)

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ’s priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?214

II. The Church—Body of Christ

The Church is communion with Jesus

787   From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings.215 Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you.... I am the vine, you are the branches.”216 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”217 (755)

788   When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit.218 As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”219 (690)

789   The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ. (521)

“One Body”

790   Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body, become intimately united with him: “In that body the life of Christ is communicated to those who believe, and who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ in his Passion and glorification.”220 This is especially true of Baptism, which unites us to Christ’s death and Resurrection, and the Eucharist, by which “really sharing in the body of the Lord,... we are taken up into communion with him and with one another.”221 (947, 1227, 1329)

791   The body’s unity does not do away with the diversity of its members: “In the building up of Christ’s Body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church.”222 The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: “From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.”223 Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”224 (814, 1937)

“Christ is the Head of this Body”

792   Christ “is the head of the body, the Church.”225 He is the principle of creation and redemption. Raised to the Father’s glory, “in everything he [is] preeminent,”226 especially in the Church, through whom he extends his reign over all things. (669, 1119)

793      Christ unites us with his Passover: all his members must strive to resemble him, “until Christ be formed” in them.227 “For this reason we... are taken up into the mysteries of his life,... associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering with him, that with him we may be glorified.”228 (661, 519)

794   Christ provides for our growth: to make us grow toward him, our head,229 he provides in his Body, the Church, the gifts and assistance by which we help one another along the way of salvation. (872)

795   Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole Christ” (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity: (695, 1474)

Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man.... The fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does “head and members” mean? Christ and the Church.230

Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church whom he has taken to himself.231

Head and members form as it were one and the same mystical person.232

A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”233

The Church is the Bride of Christ

796   The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bridegroom and bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroom of the Church was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the Baptist.234 The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”235 The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful, members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so as to become but one spirit with him.236 The Church is the spotless bride of the spotless Lamb.237 “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her.”238 He has joined her with himself in an everlasting covenant and never stops caring for her as for his own body:239 (757, 219, 772, 1602, 1616)

This is the whole Christ, head and body, one formed from many... whether the head or members speak, it is Christ who speaks. He speaks in his role as the head (ex persona capitis) and in his role as body (ex persona corporis). What does this mean? “The two will become one flesh. This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the Church.”240 And the Lord himself says in the Gospel: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.”241 They are, in fact, two different persons, yet they are one in the conjugal union,... as head, he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself “bride.”242

III. The Church Is the Temple of the Holy Spirit

797   “What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”:245 (813, 586)

Indeed, it is to the Church herself that the “Gift of God” has been entrusted.... It is in her that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit, the pledge of incorruptibility, the strengthening of our faith and the ladder of our ascent to God.... For where the Church is, there also is God’s Spirit; where God’s Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace.246

798   The Holy Spirit is “the principle of every vital and truly saving action in each part of the Body.”247 He works in many ways to build up the whole Body in charity:248 by God’s Word “which is able to build you up”;249 by Baptism, through which he forms Christ’s Body;250 by the sacraments, which give growth and healing to Christ’s members; by “the grace of the apostles, which holds first place among his gifts”;251 by the virtues, which make us act according to what is good; finally, by the many special graces (called “charisms”), by which he makes the faithful “fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church.”252 (737, 1091-1109, 791)

Charisms

799   Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world. (951, 2003)

800   Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms.253

801   It is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church’s shepherds. “Their office [is] not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good,”254 so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together “for the common good.”255 (894, 1905)


IN BRIEF

802   Christ Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own” (Titus 2:14).

803   “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pet 2:9).

804   One enters into the People of God by faith and Baptism. “All men are called to belong to the new People of God” (LG 13), so that, in Christ, “men may form one family and one People of God” (AG 1).

805   The Church is the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit and his action in the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, Christ, who once was dead and is now risen, establishes the community of believers as his own Body.

806   In the unity of this Body, there is a diversity of members and functions. All members are linked to one another, especially to those who are suffering, to the poor and persecuted.

807   The Church is this Body of which Christ is the head: she lives from him, in him, and for him; he lives with her and in her.

808   The Church is the Bride of Christ: he loved her and handed himself over for her. He has purified her by his blood and made her the fruitful mother of all God’s children.

809   The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the soul, as it were, of the Mystical Body, the source of its life, of its unity in diversity, and of the riches of its gifts and charisms.

810   “Hence the universal Church is seen to be ‘a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’” (LG 4 citing St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat. 23: PL 4, 553).


Notes

201 LG 9; cf. Acts 10:35; 1 Cor 11:25.

202 1 Pet 2:9.

203 Jn 3:3–5.

204 Cf. Jn 13:34.

205 Rom 8:2; Gal 5:25.

206 Cf. Mt 5:13–16.

207 LG 9 § 2.

208 Cf. John Paul II, RH 18–21.

209 LG 10; cf. Heb 5:1–5; Rev 1:6.

210 LG 12; cf. Jude 3.

211 Cf. Jn 12:32.

212 Mt 20:28.

213 LG 8; cf. 36.

214 St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4, 1: PL 54, 149.

215 Cf. Mk 1:16–20; 3:13–19; Mt 13:10–17; Lk 10:17–20; 22:28–30.

216 Jn 15:4–5.

217 Jn 6:56.

218 Cf. Jn 14:18; 20:22; Mt 28:20; Acts 2:33.

219 LG 7.

220 LG 7.

221 LG 7; cf. Rom 6:4–5; 1 Cor 12:13.

222 LG 7 § 3.

223 LG 7 § 3; cf. 1 Cor 12:26.

224 Gal 3:27–28.

225 Col 1:18.

226 Col 1:18.

227 Gal 4:19.

228 LG 7 § 4; cf. Phil 3:21; Rom 8:17.

229 Cf. Col 2:19; Eph 4:11–16.

230 St. Augustine, In Jo. ev. 21, 8: PL 35, 1568.

231 Pope St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, præf., 14: PL 75, 525A.

232 St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 48, 2.

233 Acts of the Trial of Joan of Arc.

234 Jn 3:29.

235 Mk 2:19.

236 Cf. Mt 22:1–14; 25:1–13; 1 Cor 6:15–17; 2 Cor 11:2.

237 Cf. Rev 22:17; Eph 1:4, 5:27.

238 Eph 5:25–26.

239 Cf. Eph 5:29.

240 Eph 5:31–32.

241 Mt 19:6.

242 St. Augustine, En. in Ps. 74:4: PL 36, 948–949.

243 St. Augustine, Sermo 267, 4: PL 38, 1231D.

244 Pius XII, encyclical, Mystici Corporis: DS 3808.

245 2 Cor 6:16; cf. 1 Cor 3:16–17; Eph 2:21.

246 St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 24, 1: PG 7/1, 966.

247 Pius XII, encyclical, Mystici Corporis: DS 3808.

248 Cf. Eph 4:16.

249 Acts 20:32.

250 Cf. 1 Cor 12:13.

251 LG 7 § 2.

252 LG 12 § 2; cf. AA 3.

253 Cf. 1 Cor 13.

254 LG 12; cf. 30; 1 Thess 5:12, 19–21; John Paul II, Christifideles Laici, 24.

255 1 Cor 12:7.