We believe in the Church - a
community of people spanning ages and continents who form the Body of Christ.
This is another place where we stand on the threshold of Knowledge and Mystery. As we look around our community at Mass, we have to admit that there is no other situation in which they are likely to come together. We have our saints - we have our sinners; we have our rich - we have our poor; we have the intellectual - and we have the illiterate - and each one is an indispensable member of the Body.
As we stand together, knowing our weakness and limitations - and all too often knowing those of others rather better! - we can find ourselves wondering how such a motley crew can really be the Bride of Christ - the Body of Christ in the world? This was a daring statement of belief to be included in the Creed. They too must have looked at the dissident - and the saint - the martyr - the ascetic saint on his pillar in the desert - and the reformed prostitute - and wondered...
Their knowledge saw human beings - but the Mystery spoke of the potential of these people - the Divine Indwelling in each which drew them together in bonds closer than friendship - closer even than family. And so the writes state that the Church is holy and catholic. It is holy because it is founded on Christ and sanctified by the Spirit. It is catholic because it covers the whole world and every generation - it is not the preserve of one race - one colour - one culture - it is universal.
The compilers of the Creed had a world-view very different from our own. It was limited to the world around the Mediterranean - and belonged on a flat earth. Our world-view is world that is a sphere in space, whose population is so rich in diversity that some close their minds to the one-ness of the human family.
Again, we are challenged to stand at the threshold of Knowledge and Mystery. The Church is challenged to see how its Good News be translated not just into language but into cultures very different from the place of its birth.
The compilers of the Creed had similar problems - how to translate the Coming of the Messiah to the Jewish people into the Coming of Christ, Saviour of the World.
Their solution was to establish the Church firmly on the shoulders of those who had known and walked with Jesus - the apostles. Jesus had established Himself as the Vine - His apostles and disciples as the branches. As the life of the Church grows, it needs always to check that it is still attached to the True Vine and not to some "sucker" springing up alongside it.
This takes discernment and often only becomes clear when the "sucker" begins to bear fruit. Fruit from the True Vine endures - that from the "sucker" is not as sweet nor as lasting.
This is a process that requires patience - a patience which can be a source of frustration for those who sense a genuine movement of the Spirit....
But the People of God are precious in their diversity - and also in their Sense of Faith...a Sense which is infallible. If something is true and in accord with the teaching of Jesus passed on to generation after generation from the teaching of the apostles - then the Sense of faith of the People of God will discern it to be true. If not, it will quietly fade away....
And the threshold of Knowledge and Mystery leads us to wonder at the trust placed in ordinary people - and yet, did not Jesus do the same?
Drinking from the Wellspring
© 1999 Wellspring