God's Plan for the Church
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
The Church - Names and Images (751)
"Church" designates assemblies of people (usually for religious purposes). Ecclesia means the Chosen People (above all, the assembly on Mount Sinai where God established his holy people). When the Christian believers called themselves "Church," they saw themselves as the heirs to Israel. The English word "church" means "what belongs to the Lord."
Three Meanings (752)
In Christian usage, "church" has three inseparable meanings:
- The liturgical assembly
- The local community
- The universal community
God gathers his people from all over the world into local communities which are especially made real in the liturgical Eucharistic assembly.
The Symbols of Church (753-757)
Scripture provides a host of images. Many Old Testament images come from the common theme of People of God. The New Testament images center upon Christ, the head of the people, his Body. Other images (grouped around Christ) are based upon shepherding, farming, building, or family life and marriage.
- The Church is the "sheepfold." Christ is the sole gate and the main shepherd.
- The Church is the cultivated field or the olive tree in whom Jew and Gentile are reconciled. Christ is the true vine without whom we can do nothing.
- The Church is God's building, founded on Christ as the cornerstone, built upon the apostles as the foundation, and made up of believers (the living stones).
- The Church is the heavenly Jerusalem, "our mothe,r" the spotless spouse for whom Christ "delivered himself up so that he might sanctify her" (Eph 5:25-26).