|Church of Notre Dame de Liesse (Our Lady of Joy) in Annecy, France.|
Some more thoughts from my Ecclesiology and Ecumenism course relating to the work of Charles Cardinal Journet, a Swiss theologian (d. 1975) who was an instrumental figure of the Second Vatican Council. We are currently reading the first chapter of his Theology of the Church, and were asked how Journet describes the visibility of the Church. Following is what I came up with.
Cardinal Journet speaks of the Church as both mysterious and visible, with the chief emphasis on mysterious. He draws upon the analogy (and spiritual reality) of the soul manifesting itself through the body. So, the invisible soul of the Church fashions, nourishes, and directs the visible body, bringing to light what is unseen. Journet’s view of the Church is incarnational and Trinitarian—the invisible Holy Spirit is the soul of the visible Church, the Body of Christ, who manifests Himself as an offering to God the Father.
The mysterious, invisible, and divine life that animates the body makes visible and communicates His presence through the movement of the various members of the Body, just as a person’s interior disposition reveals itself through his or her words and actions. Journet notes that these external manifestations—i.e., works of love—comprise the Body of the Church, and are the means through which Christ is made visible in the world—a visibility, he says, that is distinct from that of human societies.
This “evangelical sanctity,” as Journet terms it, of the individual members of Christ’s Body (lived authentically, of course) is what combines to make the Church visible. However, the Church is also made visible through the hierarchical dispensation and reception of the authority entrusted to her, namely in the teaching of the Word of God, worship, the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), and common prayer.
Journet notes that this visibility here and now is seen dimly, since it is immersed in the visibility of a fallen world. The Church’s mission, therefore, is to transfigure matter by spirit, to transform what is dark into light.
All this is intimately intertwined with the humanity and divinity of Christ, whose Body as the Church extends His presence here and now, as He makes all things new before He comes again.
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up,” Jesus said, referring to His body (John 2:19) prior to His passion and death. After His resurrection, He tells the apostles, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).