Skip to comments.Paul's Teaching on the Church
Posted on 11/22/2006 6:44:22 PM PST by ELS
Paul's Teaching on the Church
"We Who Are Many Are One Body"
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 22, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at today's general audience in St. Peter's Square. The address focused on the Apostle Paul, particularly his teaching on the Church.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We complete today our encounters with the Apostle Paul, dedicating a last reflection to him. We cannot take leave of him, in fact, without taking into consideration one of the decisive components of his activity and one of the most important themes of his thought: the reality of the Church.
We must note first of all that his first contact with the person of Jesus took place through the testimony of the Christian community of Jerusalem. It was a stormy contact. On knowing the new group of believers, he became immediately its fierce persecutor. He himself appropriately acknowledges it three times in as many letters: "I persecuted the Church of God," he writes (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6), virtually presenting his behavior as the worst crime.
History shows us that one reaches Christ normally through the Church! In a certain sense, it is what happened, as we were saying, also to Paul, who found the Church before finding Jesus. In his case, however, this contact was counterproductive; it did not cause adherence, but rather a violent rejection.
For Paul, adherence to the Church was propitiated by a direct intervention of Christ, who, revealing himself to Paul on the way to Damascus, identified himself with the Church and made Paul understand that to persecute the Church was to persecute him, the Lord.
In fact, the Risen One said to Paul, the persecutor of the Church: "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? (Acts 9:4). In persecuting the Church, he was persecuting Christ. Paul converted then, at the same time, to Christ and to the Church.
Thus one understands why the Church was so present in the thoughts, in the heart and in the activity of Paul. In the first place, it was present as he literally founded many Churches in the different cities where he went as evangelizer. When he speaks of his "anxiety for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28), he is thinking of the various Christian communities established from time to time in Galatia, Ionia, Macedonia and Achaia.
Some of those Churches also gave him worries and displeasures, as happened for example with the Churches of Galatia, which he saw "turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6), something which he opposed with spirited determination. Nevertheless, he felt bound to the communities he founded not in a cold and bureaucratic manner, but intensely and passionately.
Thus, for example, he describes the Philippians as "my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown" (4:1). At other times he compares the different communities to a letter of recommendation unique of its kind: "You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written in your hearts, to be known and read by all men" (2 Corinthians 3:2). At other times he shows them in their encounters a true and proper sentiment not only of paternity but even of maternity, as when he turns to those he is addressing beseeching them as "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Galatians 4:19; cf. also 1 Corinthians 4:14-15; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8).
In his letters, Paul also illustrates for us his doctrine on the Church as such. Well known is his original definition of the Church as "body of Christ," which we do not find in other Christian authors of the first century (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12; 5:30; Colossians 1:24). We find the most profound root of this amazing designation of the Church in the sacrament of the body of Christ.
St. Paul says: "Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17). In the Eucharist itself Christ gives us his body and makes us his body. In this connection, St. Paul says to the Galatians: "you are all one in Christ" (Galatians 3:28).
With all this Paul leads us to understand that not only is there a belonging of the Church to Christ, but also a certain form of equivalence and identification of the Church with Christ himself. It is from here, therefore, that the greatness and nobility of the Church derives, that is, of all of us who are part of it: Our being members of Christ, is almost as an extension of his personal presence in the world. And from here follows, naturally, our duty to really live in conformity with Christ.
From here derive also Paul's exhortations in regard to the several charisms which animate and structure the Christian community. They can all be referred back to a single source, which is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, knowing well that in the Church there is no one who is lacking them, because, as the Apostle writes, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).
What is important, however, is that all the charisms cooperate together for the building up of the community and that they not become instead a motive of laceration. To this end, Paul asks himself rhetorically: "Is Christ divided?" (1 Corinthians 1:13). He knows well and teaches us that it is necessary "to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call" (Ephesians 4:3-4).
Obviously, to underline the need for unity does not mean to hold that one must make ecclesial life uniform and flat according to one way of operating. Elsewhere Paul teaches "Do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19), namely, to generously make room for the unforeseeable dynamism of the charismatic manifestations of the Spirit, who is an always new source of energy and vitality.
But if there is a particularly important criterion for Paul it is mutual edification: "Let all things be done for edification" (1 Corinthians 14:26). Everything should concur to build the ecclesial fabric in an orderly way, not only without deadlocks, but also without flights or tears.
One of Paul's letters goes so far as to present the Church as the bride of Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:21-33). He thus takes up again a prophetic metaphor, which made of the people of Israel the spouse of God of the Covenant (cf. Hosea 2:4.21; Isaiah 54:5-8): He thus expresses to what point the relations are intimate between Christ and his Church, be it because she is the object of the most tender love on the part of her Lord, or because love must be mutual and we, in as much as members of the Church, must show him a passionate fidelity.
In conclusion, therefore, at stake is a relationship of communion: the relationship -- to call it in some way -- "vertical" between Jesus Christ and all of us, but also "horizontal" between all those who are distinguished in the world by the fact of "calling on the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord" (1 Corinthians 1:2).
This is our definition: We are part of those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we understand to what point we must desire the fulfillment of what Paul himself yearns for when writing to the Corinthians: "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you" (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).
So should be our liturgical meetings. A non-Christian who enters one of our assemblies should be able to say at the end: "Truly God is with you." Let us ask the Lord that we might live in this way, in communion with Christ and in communion among ourselves.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the Audience, the Holy Father greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Continuing our reflections on the Apostle Paul, we now turn to his teaching on the Church. St. Paul's encounter with the risen Lord on the way to Damascus led him to understand that, in persecuting the Church, he was persecuting Christ himself. Paul was thus converted both to Christ and the Church. We can understand, then, why the Church plays so important a part in his thought and work.
Paul founded several Churches during his missionary journeys, and he demonstrated, through his letters and visits, a constant and lively "concern for all the Churches" (2 Corinthians 11:28). For Paul, the Church is truly the "Body of Christ," an extension, as it were, of the risen Lord's presence in the world, enlivened, structured and built up by the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The Pauline image of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. Ephesians 5:21ff.) likewise stresses the relationship of fidelity and love uniting the Lord and all the members of his body. Through the prayers of St. Paul, may we enter ever more deeply into this mystery of communion, in order to testify more effectively to Christ's presence in our world.
My prayerful greetings go to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present in today's audience, including the groups from England, Malta, Japan and the United States of America. I greet especially the Salvatorian Sisters, the American Friends of the Vatican Library, and the delegation from the Association of the Order of Malta. May your visit to the city of the Apostles Peter and Paul renew your love for Christ and his Church, and may God's blessing be upon you all.
[Original text: English]
VATICAN CITY, NOV 22, 2006 (VIS) - Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J., has written a note concerning a forthcoming book by Benedict XVI, scheduled for publication in the spring of 2007. The title of the volume is: "Gesu di Nazareth. Dal Battesimo nel Giordano alla Trasfigurazione" (Jesus of Nazareth, From His Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration).
The Vatican Publishing House, which holds the copyright on all the Pope's writings, has ceded the world rights for the translation, distribution and marketing of this book to the Rizzoli Publishing House.
"The fact that Benedict XVI has managed to complete the first part of his great book on Jesus, and that within a few months we will have it in our hands, is wonderful news," writes Fr. Lombardi in his note. "I find it extraordinary that despite the duties and concerns of the pontificate, he has managed to complete a work of such great academic and spiritual depth. He says he dedicated all his free time to the project; and this itself is a very significant indication of the importance and urgency the book has for him.
"With his habitual simplicity and humility, the Pope explains that this is not a 'work of Magisterium' but the fruit of his own research, and as such it can be freely discussed and criticized. This is a very important observation, because it makes clear that what he writes in the book in no way binds the research of exegetes and theologians. It is not a long encyclical on Jesus, but a personal presentation of the figure of Jesus by the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, who has been elected as Bishop of Rome."
In the book's preface, Fr. Lombardi's note says, the Holy Father "explains that in modern culture, and in many presentations of the figure of Jesus, the gap between the 'historical Jesus' and the 'Christ of the faith' has become ever wider. ... Joseph Ratzinger, taking into consideration all the achievements of modern research, aims to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the real 'historical Jesus,' as a sensible and convincing figure to Whom we can and must trustingly refer, and upon Whom we have good reason to base our faith and our Christian life. With his book, then, the Pope aims to offer a fundamental service to support the faith of his brothers and sisters, and he does so from the central element of the faith: Jesus Christ."
In the introduction to the book, Fr. Lombardi continues, "Jesus is presented to us as the new Moses, the new prophet who speaks with 'God face to face,' ... the Son, deeply united to the Father. If this essential aspect is overlooked, the figure of Jesus become contradictory and incomprehensible. With passion, Joseph Ratzinger speaks to us of Jesus' intimate union with the Father, and wishes to ensure that Jesus' disciples participate in this communion. It is, then, a great work of exegesis and theology, but also a great work of spirituality."
Fr. Lombardi concludes: "Recalling the profound impression and the spiritual fruits that, as a young man, I drew from reading Joseph Ratzinger's first work - 'Introduction to Christianity' - I am sure that this time too we will not be disappointed, but that both believers and all people truly disposed to understand more fully the figure of Jesus, will be immensely grateful to the Pope for his great witness as a thinker, scholar and man of faith, on the most essential point of the entire Christian faith."
OP/BOOK BENEDICT XVI/LOMBARDI VIS 061122 (600)
Please let me know if you want to be on or off this list.
May everyone have a happy Thanksgiving!
The pope has erred...The church is not 'yet' the bride of Christ...The wedding in heaven has not yet taken place and the marriage supper of the Lamb has not taken place...
2Co 11:2 For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Not only did Paul NOT present the church as the bride of Christ, he (Paul) presents the church as the 'engaged' (espoused) virgin...
Some folks claim the wedding has taken place alreay which one would have to destroy and pervert a lot of scripture to achieve...And they act as tho they can still become part of the bride of Christ AFTER the wedding has taken place...Funny...
Paul had to correct 'the First Pope', Peter, for having faulty theology.
Note: I do think the current Pope is great.
LOL! And what authority, knowledge, or experience do you have to make that claim? Thanks, but I'll take his word over yours.
God bless and have a happy Thanksgiving.
I would like to be added to your ping list.
And perhaps a digression, but doesn't the Orthodox church teach the same doctrine on "One church?"
2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
2Ti 3:17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
That about covers it...
Thanks, but I'll take his word over yours.
Not my word...God's word...And I'll take that over any pope, any time any where...
As interpreted by Iscool, whose interpretations have no authority.
So that verse and verses like it take some masterful interpreting, eh??? A twelve year old kid can read this and understand it...
As interpreted by Iscool, whose interpretations have no authority.
You're not being honest...I didn't interpret anything...I believed it as I read it...Did you, or your pope believe it as you read it??? Or did one of you interpret it to mean something else as warned against by the Apostle Peter???
There seems to be a lot of confusion in your church about this interpretation thing...
If you had a blue car and I called it red, that would be interpretation...Or dishonesty...We all know what a blue color is...
And we all know what espoused means...And we all understand that I may present you is a future event, if we have an eighth grade education, that is...
Of course this will not sway your position on the matter but tell us, what evidence do you have that your church is currently the Bride of Christ???
It appears you received a good eighth grade education.
Now there's a private interpretation of 'Bride' if ever I saw one...
I know what a Bride is (and isn't)...The Apostle Paul knows what a Bride is and God knows what a Bride is...
And that's why Paul called the church the 'Espoused' chaste virgin instead of Bride...
There will be no Bride until the Espoused chaste virgin gets to heaven for the wedding ceremony and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as referenced in the book of Revelation...There are millions of Christians who already know this fact...
That is an ad hominem.
That is like saying an apple is not an orange. Benedict is a world class theologian. What are your credentials?