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|The Scalabrinian Congregations|
The Missionary Fathers and Brothers of St. Charles
The Missionary Sisters of St. Charles
Scalabrini A living voice
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a) CONTINUATION OF THE INCARNATION
"The Church is the extension of the Incarnation down through the centuries"
Someone put it so well when he said that the Church is the extension of the Incarnation down through the centuries. Just as in Christ the humanity and divinity, though distinct, are nonetheless intimately united and inseparable, in the same way the Church, which represents him and carries on his work and produces the same supernatural fruits, is divine and human at one and the same time. Let me put it more clearly. Though in her purpose and goal the Church is a spiritual society aiming at the sanctification and eternal salvation of souls, nonetheless she has also a material, visible, and external side, especially in view of the members composing it, namely the people, who, after all, are not pure spirits but beings made up of body and soul.
Just as the saving mission of the Man-God ‑- though directed to the ransom and eternal salvation of souls ‑- took place in the bodily and
sensible forms of the incarnation, preaching, passion, death and resurrection, in the same way Christ wanted to tie the acts of his religion and the ordinary means of sanctification, like worship, magisterium and sacraments, to material and sensible forms. So, in this religious society we discern a spiritual element, which we call the soul. It is this soul that vivifies, animates, and holds sway over all the mystical members and puts them into communication with their divine Head and among themselves, bringing about that blessed exchange of merits and spiritual riches that we call the Communion of Saints. This Communion of Saints embraces all the just, all the friends of God, not just those who are still pilgrims in this world but also those who have crossed the threshold of eternity and have already arrived at their homeland, as well as those who are temporarily detained in Purgatory as a final expiation for their faults. To this dimension belongs everything that is internal and spiritual to the Church: faith, charity, hope, the gifts of grace, the charisms, the fruits of the divine Spirit and all the heavenly treasures that have accrued to her through the merits of Christ the Redeemer and those of his servants.
The other dimension ‑- which is tantamount to the body of the Church ‑- comprises everything that is visible and external in the Church's organization of her members, in her worship and teaching ministry, as well as in her external order and governance. Just as these two essential dimensions that make up the Church are, like body and soul, inseparably united; in the same way, through charity, there should prevail among the members of the Church such harmony and coordination of functions as to project the image of unity which characterizes the human body and which the Apostle describes in these words: "the head Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love."1
"The Church is the true image of her founder"
The life of the Church emanates directly from a divine principle, which animates and directs her human organism, the assembly of the faithful, where this life takes shape and form. This principle exalts her to a society whose nature is altogether different from that of other societies because she is an earthly-heavenly society,
hence a true picture of her founder, at once God and Man. So the Church can almost be called the living incarnation of Christ on earth, the continuation of his mortal life, Jesus Christ poured out and bestowed in all his fullness. In fact, basically, the life of the Church is the Spirit of God, as the Apostle tells us: "Many though we are, we are one body in Christ. One and the same Spirit produces all these things."2
"The Church is the enduring continuation of the work of the Redeemer"
The Church, as the enduring continuation of the work of the Redeemer and Sanctifier of souls on earth, is the depositary and dispenser of the sacraments. Hence, it is the Church which, as it were, has the keys to this channel. It is the Church which, through her sacraments, draws sanctifying grace from the bosom of God and makes it flow, like a river, into the Christian soul (Is 44:3). What a priceless gift Jesus Christ bestowed on us when he founded his Church here on earth and allowed us to grow up in her. In fact, it is only within her that he pours out his charisms. The Church is the object of his pleasure, the pupil of his eye, the throb of his heart, his only dove, his perfect one, at once his spouse and his sister (Song of Songs). She came forth from his side and is crimsoned with his divine blood; she is holy; she is immaculate (Eph 6:25). 0 Church, 0 Church, how beloved you are to Jesus! How fortunate we are to be your children! In the Church we find whatever we need to achieve eternal salvation. Outside of her, there is only darkness, desolation and death.3
"Jesus Christ has portrayed himself in his Church"
God left an imprint of his glory on the universe he had created. Especially in created man ‑- the head of creation ‑- God depicted the living image of his very being. Jesus Christ has portrayed himself in his Church. He made the world of souls after his own image and gave this world of souls unity because he is one, holiness because he is holy, authority because he is the Lord, universality because he is the God of immensity, perpetuity because he is the eternal God. Just as, in creating the stars and planets, he put into operation the force of
attraction that makes all of them gravitate toward a common center, in the same way, when creating the Church, he poured out his grace, that is to say, a spiritual law of attraction that also makes souls gravitate toward him who is the common center of intelligent beings, namely, God. Into his Church he put his grace, that mysterious force that imparts movement and life to her.4
"The destiny of God and the Church are inseparable"
The destiny of God and his spouse are inseparable. What happens in the physical and material body of Jesus Christ is an image of what happens and will always happen in the spiritual and mystical body, which is the Church. The body of Christ was subjected to abuse, scourges and blows. Often enough, the Church, too, is subjected to abuse, scourges and blows. Jesus Christ's body hung from a cross, agonized on it, died, and was buried. Often the Church, too, is crucified, agonizes and seems to be dying. But wait. Jesus Christ comes forth from the tomb in glory. He comes forth immortal, incapable of suffering. He comes forth from the very tomb where his enemies thought they had buried him forever. And from the very tomb where her modern enemies think they have buried the Catholic Church forever, she comes forth stronger, more glorious, and more beautiful than ever.5
"The Church is a prolonged Pentecost"
The Church, which had her beginnings at Pentecost, is a prolonged Pentecost down through the ages, one might say. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, she speaks out authoritatively to all, preaches the same truth to all, and enjoins the same precepts on all. Some humbly bow their heads, revere and obey, while others make fun of her and boast they do not believe in her. How do we explain this difference? Why do so many, many people, especially in our day, soil their tongues and their pens with preposterous errors and blasphemies and lose the faith? The reason is very simple: they have soiled their hearts. Here is the infallible verdict of Jesus Christ (...): "the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil." Unbelief springs from the corruption
of the heart.6
"We are one body in Jesus Christ"
We are one body in Jesus Christ. Just as in the human body not every member performs the same function, in the same way not every member of the Church exercises the same office. In the human body there is one head which, placed on high, overlooks all the other members, directs and guides them, and rules over them. In the Church, the mystical body of Jesus Christ, there is (...) the Supreme Pontiff, the visible head of this great body, who exercises supreme and universal governance over all the members, who, in him, are united with each other. Then we have the bishops. Though subordinate to the Roman Pontiff, they are, nevertheless, supreme rulers of that part of the Catholic fold which the universal Shepherd has entrusted to their care. One might call them the eyes of this body. Then we have the priests and other lesser ministers who, we might say, are the arms of the body. Finally, we have all the faithful, who are the fullness and complement of the body.
In this way, a chain is formed which starts with the Pope and reaches, in an orderly and hierarchical way, down to the last little peasant, who, while laboriously plowing his fields, will ‑- if he has the spirit of Jesus Christ ‑- feel united in faith, charity and obedience with the Pope and the Church, just as we ourselves feel united. I very much want you to often savor this thought, which is so marvelously beautiful and stirring! How beautiful and inspiring is the sight of this immense family of believers dispersed throughout the world, all confessing the same creed, cherishing the same hopes, enjoying the same sacraments, believing in the same priesthood, offering the same Sacrifice, obeying the same law, listening to the same voice of the common Father (...).
Beloved sons and daughters, when you assemble in church on holy days to take part in the divine mysteries, are you not thrilled at the thought that you are in communion with the whole world; that you are sons and daughters of the same mother, who calls everybody, without distinction of birth, rank or upbringing, to earn, through good works, the same eternal bliss? Are you not thrilled to know that you are in loving communion not only with the Church fighting the glorious battles of the Lord here on earth but also with the Church singing the song of victory in heaven? Are you not thrilled to know that the
things you believe in are the very same things all generations have believed in throughout all the centuries? (...).
Hail, one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church! You are our teacher, our queen, and our mother. You are the mystical body of Jesus Christ living through the centuries. From you comes our salvation, glory, peace, joy, bliss, and life. We will listen to you, our teacher. We will obey you, our sovereign. We will love you, our mother. We will come to your help and defend you, 0 body of which we are members.7