Mystery of the Church
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
On Pilgrimage until the Glory (769-770)
Until Christ returns and bestows his full glory, "the Church will make her pilgrimage in the midst of the world's persecutions and God's consolations" (St. Augustine). The Church is in exile and will be perfected by great trials until all the just are gathered in the Father's presence. Only by faith can someone see that the Church exists in history (her visible reality) and yet transcends history (her spiritual reality) bringing divine life.
Visible and Spiritual (771)
Christ established and sustains the Church as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all. The Church is:
- A society with hierarchical structure
- Christ's mystical body
- A visible society and a spiritual community
- An earthly Church endowed with heavenly riches
- "One complex reality" with human and divine elements
"The Church is so constructed that the human is subordinated to the divine, the visible to the invisible and this present world to the city yet to come" (Second Vatican Council). "Even if the pain of her long exile may have discolored her, yet heaven's beauty has adorned her" (St. Bernard).
Where God and Man are One (772-773)
This nuptial of Christ with his Church is "the great mystery" and the Church, by union with Christ her bridegroom, becomes "the hope of glory" (1 Cor 13:8).
The Church's whole purpose is to unite men with God. Her structure is totally ordered to holiness and measured by how well the Bride responds to the Bridegroom. Because Mary precedes all of us in holiness, the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine dimension (Pope John Paul II).
A Visible Sign of Salvation (774)
Mystery (in Greek) is sometimes translated "sacrament." Later, "sacrament" emphasized the visible sign of salvation. Christ himself is this sacrament (mystery). "For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ" (St. Augustine). Christ's actions are revealed in the seven sacraments. In an analogical sense, the Church herself is a sacrament, containing and communicating this invisible grace.
Sign of Man's Unity (775-776)
The Church is the sacrament of men's inner union with God. She is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race because man's unity is rooted in God. At the end of time, she will gather men "from all tribes and peoples and tongues" (Rev 7:9). In her present state, she is a sign of a unity yet to come. She is "the visible plan of the love of God who desires that the whole human race become one People of God" (Pope Paul VI).