The Church: One Body Across Time and Space

More commentary related to the Notre Dame fire:

….If this fire is something of a societal Rorschach test, those who confess the Nicene creed should nonetheless perceive in this cathedral infinitely more than a monument or artefact. Right alongside the articles of “I believe in God, the Father Almighty… in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God… and in the Holy Spirit,” we also “believe in one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Our crucified and risen Lord declared “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).

Based on that promise, Christians who have recited the Apostle’s creed through the ages have confessed that we believe in “the communion of saints.” We are united not merely across geographical locale with other Christians around the world today; we are also united across time with those in every age who are joined to Jesus Christ, our crucified and risen Lord who is Head of his Body and Bride: the Church.

We are initiated into the church through baptism into the one name that we all share; we are baptized into “the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” regardless of our class, race, ethnicity, gender, and regardless of whether we meet in a historic cathedral, a college campus, a nursing home, at the ends of the earth, or underground in secret.

The first epistle of Peter declares: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5–6).

Creedal belief in the church’s holiness is not to pretend the church isn’t made up of sinners or in serious need of reform, but is confessed in hope of a sure future because in Jesus’ resurrection we have already seen the firstfruits of our shared resurrection to come. The Head of the Church is risen, ascended, glorified, and returning soon.

It is such a promise, and such a hope, that enables Christians to confidently endure change across centuries, regimes, empires, peacetime, and the worst disasters imaginable. Our greatest accomplishments, art, and all that we love will return to dust with us. But Christ himself, as our hope for the abiding future of the church, allows us to evade the paralysis we might feel when grappling with our morality and the transience of all things; he also is our aid against the resigned exasperation of chasing the wind vainly, striving to achieve a significance that will outlive us.

He closed with this:

Drying our tears, with belief in “one holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” I pray that the blaze at Notre Dame cathedral ignites a refining crucible of renewal. As many have sung before us and will sing after us:

The church’s one Foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord;
She is his new creation
By water and the Word:
From heav’n he came and sought her
To be his holy bride;
With his own blood he bought her,
And for her life he died.

Elect from ev’ry nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth,
Her charter of salvation
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one holy food.
And to one hope she presses,
With ev’ry grace endued.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song.

The church shall never perish!
Her dear Lord to defend,
To guide, sustain and cherish
Is with her to the end;
Though there be those that hate her,
And false sons in her pale,
Against or foe or traitor
She ever shall prevail.

‘Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace for evermore;
Till with the vision glorious
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great church victorious
Shall be the church at rest.

Yet she on earth hath union
With the God the Three in One,
And mystic sweet communion
With those whose rest is won:
O happy ones and holy!
Lord, give us grace that we,
Like them, the meek and lowly,
On high may dwell with thee.

Read it all here.

 

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