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204

Part One

The Church—mystery of man’s union with God

772

It is in the Church that Christ fulfills and reveals his own

mystery as the purpose of God’s plan: “to unite all things in

him.”

189

St. Paul calls the nuptial union of Christ and the Church

“a great mystery.” Because she is united to Christ as to her bride-

groom, she becomes a mystery in her turn.

190

Contemplating this

mystery in her, Paul exclaims: “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

191

773

In the Church this communion of men with God, in the

“love [that] never ends,” is the purpose which governs everything

in her that is a sacramental means, tied to this passing world.

192

“[The Church’s] structure is totally ordered to the holiness of

Christ’s members. And holiness is measured according to the

‘great mystery’ in which the Bride responds with the gift of love to

the gift of the Bridegroom.”

193

Mary goes before us all in the

holiness that is the Church’s mystery as “the bride without spot or

wrinkle.”

194

This is why the “Marian” dimension of the Church

precedes the “Petrine.”

195

The universal Sacrament of Salvation

774

The Greek word

mysterion

was translated into Latin by two terms:

mysterium

and

sacramentum.

In later usage the term

sacramentum

empha-

sizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated

by the term

mysterium.

In this sense, Christ himself is the mystery of

salvation: “For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ.”

196

The

saving work of his holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of

salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church’s sacraments (which

the Eastern Churches also call “the holy mysteries”). The seven sacraments

are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of

Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The Church, then,

both contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies. It is in this

analogical sense, that the Church is called a “sacrament.”

775

“The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament—a sign and

instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among

all men.”

197

The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of

189

Eph

1:10.

190

Eph

5:32; 3:9-11; 5:25-27.

191

Col

1:27.

192

1 Cor

13:8; cf.

LG

48.

193 John Paul II,

MD

27.

194

Eph

5:27.

195 Cf. John Paul II,

MD

27.

196 St. Augustine,

Ep.

187, 11, 34: PL 33, 846.

197

LG

1.

518

796

671

972

1075

515

2014

1116