Showing posts with label Ecclesiology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ecclesiology. Show all posts

One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism

 The Mystical Body of Christ

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 
one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,
who is above all and through all and in all.
Ephesians 4, 4-5

In Protestantism, any person who professes or has faith in Christ is by this act a member of the Church that Christ founded regardless of which denomination they belong to. The Church is essentially pneumatic as an entire body of baptized believers. On the other hand, since ancient times, Catholics have acknowledged the Church, which our Lord established, as being a visible and hierarchical body consisting of no independent and completely autonomous denominations of disparate persuasions. It is not enough that a person is validly baptized to become a member of Christ’s body. Believers are removed or separated from this body by apostasy, heresy, schism, or ex-communication from the Catholic Church which is visibly one and apostolic since Pentecost. The idea that the Church is invisibly one in the Holy Spirit, despite being visibly divided in the world in essential matters pertaining to faith and morals, belongs to the Protestant paradigm.

Now you are Christ’s Body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the Church, first
apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations,
various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not
teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All
do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
1 Corinthians 12, 27-31

St. Paul illustrates how the Mystical Body of Christ is a concrete unity no less than our own physical bodies are with its organized different members. One body presupposes a unified body, a whole comprised of many parts with different functions that all contribute to the maintenance of its proper state. Our Lord has composed this body so that there should be no division and disharmony within it. “And He [God the Father] put all things in subjection under His [Christ’s] feet and gave Him as head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph 1:22). The body of Christ is a plurality of members, each of whom has a different place and function in it. The members don’t all have the same function or role. Meanwhile, some spiritual gifts are greater than others, though all the members are equally dependent on each other to keep the body functioning properly.

Indeed, the one body is hierarchically organized, and each of the subordinate functions equally contributing to the unified and harmonious activity of the entire body. Christ is placed at the top of the hierarchy as the head of the body. The head and members together form one body consisting of one shared divine life. “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him, who is the Head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied when each part is working properly, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph 4:15-16).

The Holy Spirit is the life of the body or its source of animation, the soul of the Church. The Holy Spirit is invisible, but the Church is not. The Church isn’t merely pneumatic but a composite of soul and body with all its members. And so, Paul writes: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body-whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Cor 12:13). The Holy Spirit is the life principle of the mystical Body of Christ, the source of church unity in the oneness of faith. All members of the body are in union with Christ by being incorporated into it through the Holy Spirit. If there is division or dissent in the Church, the Holy Spirit isn’t the cause. It’s when some members of the body become too assertive and self-complacent and, thereby, encroach on the prerogatives of other members in the hierarchy that dissension and division arise in the Church. It’s like the body has been invaded by a malignant virus from an outside source, that being the principality of darkness.

When Paul tells us, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me,” (Gal 2:20) he is referring to our union with Christ in his mystical Body which is the Church. We mustn’t understand his words in an individualistic ‘Jesus-and-me’ sense which lies at the root of a Protestant’s indifference to joining the Catholic Church. But our union with Christ in all its fullness and vitality is completed through our incorporation into his mystical Body which is the one Church he founded on Peter the Rock so that all its members would be one in faith and share one baptism in common. Jesus says that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. This city he is referring to is the Church (Mt 5:14).

The idea that the Church is an invisible corporate entity united in the Holy Spirit, notwithstanding the countless self-governing Christian denominations that visibly exist with their fundamental differences of beliefs, doesn’t comply with our Lord’s vision and intention (Jn 17:11, 21, 23). Jesus gave Peter and, through him, the apostles the authority to “bind and loose” (Mt 16:19; 18:18). This ruling and teaching authority requires the Church to be hierarchical and thereby visibly united. Binding and loosening are visible acts in a church where there is only one flock in accordance with Jesus’ design (Jn 10:16).

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets,
some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for
the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
Ephesians 4, 11-12

The Church that Christ founded is not only visibly united in its shared faith and celebration of the same sacraments, but also in its shared ecclesial hierarchy throughout the world. Each of these has been received and passed down from the apostles whom our Lord invested with divine authority. Jesus is the invisible Head of the Body, which is the Church, while Peter is the visible head on earth. Each member of the visible hierarchy can be one in unity only if the visible hierarchy is ordered to its one visible head. If the visible head of the hierarchy were actually a plurality of visible denominational heads in an invisible Church, then the visible hierarchies would not be essentially but only accidentally unified.

In this case, the Church within the Protestant notion could not be one infallible or indefectible corporate entity that is guided by the Holy Spirit in all truth, and all of the conflicting doctrines and practices would be based on nothing more than private judgment and popular opinion in each denomination. There could be no essential unity in the Church’s teaching beyond the fundamental tenets as laid out in the early Apostles’ Creed. In fact, there could be no single and reliable teaching authority as there had been during the apostolic time and in the early Church, notably in the post-apostolic era.

So, a plurality of visible heads and separate hierarchies of different denominations that hold different sets of beliefs present visible disunity in the pneumatic Church, constituting a myriad of distinct authoritative entities that impede the unity of faith by holding opposing and unresolved theological opinions. Who is to say which denominational hierarchy can rightfully claim that it’s protected and guided by the Holy Spirit if there isn’t a single universal head which has been ordered by Christ and graced with the charism of infallibility in extraordinary matters of faith and morals? This is the dilemma Protestants have faced since the time of Martin Luther and is the root cause of the splintering of Protestantism with its thousands of independent and autonomous denominations rising one after another. This isn’t the “building up of the body of Christ” but rather perpetually demolishing it. Certainly, the one invisible Holy Spirit cannot be behind this mayhem that manifests itself outwardly. God cannot be the author of such confusion if the Church is intended to reveal the fullness of the divine mysteries over the course of time (Jn 16:12-13).

Ironically, Protestants don’t believe that Christ founded one visible hierarchical Church on one visible head, namely Peter, the rock, with whom the apostles had to be in union for their teachings to be infallible or free from grave error by the guarantee of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:1-35). Yet every single Protestant congregation has a head pastor. And each mainstream denomination has its own visible hierarchy. The Church is invisible, but each visible denominational church and Protestant congregation is led and ruled by a visible head and/or hierarchy for the sake of unity in matters of faith and morals among its own members while the whole of Christendom is visibly and tangibly divided in matters of faith and morals. This inconsistency that has resulted from Protestant indifference only confirms what the Catholic Church has regarded as essential for preserving Church unity since apostolic time. Our Lord never intended to create a religious movement consisting of countless denominations. These are man-made entities that reflect a democratic political system in which freedom of speech and freedom of conviction are highly valued beyond reasonable proportion, seeing that the Church is actually a kingdom and monarchy.

Without an essentially unified visible hierarchy ordered to one visible head, a composite whole cannot be a visible single body that is harmoniously united.  But each Protestant denomination is essentially both a visible and invisible body within the entire “invisible” Church according to the Protestant construct. Each denomination reflects what the entire Church was intended to be and, in reality, is the ancient Catholic tradition that is rejected by Protestants who, as a result, aren’t practicing what they believe.

Our Lord and King Jesus Christ intended his Church to be a composite whole and hierarchical visible body under one visible head who represents him. Our Lord knew in his wisdom that if one unified hierarchy weren’t in place or was abandoned at some point in history, nothing else could preserve unity in faith or the unity of sacraments. Paul himself describes the Church as one visible body comprised of single members who form a visible hierarchy of believers. In the Protestant paradigm, we have one invisible body made up of separate visible bodies comprised of many visible hierarchies and members under different visible heads. It’s hard to believe that the one Spirit or soul animates what amounts to an incomposite body that can be divided into countless separate bodies and heads. God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:33). All the churches that the apostles and their successors founded in the first century belonged to the one visible, universal (catholic) Church with Peter as its one visible head or vicar of Christ on earth.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do
not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one Body in Christ,
and individually members one of another.
Romans 12:4-5

​Paul warned the faithful to avoid those who created all this disharmony by not listening to their teachings (Rom 16:17). While Paul was dealing mainly with the Judaizers, false teachers were a dangerous problem for the church to which John was writing. His warning against showing hospitality to false teachers (notably Docetists) may have sounded harsh and unchristian, yet these men were teaching Christological heresy that could seriously harm the faith of his flock (1 Jn 4). The NT was written to confirm what the apostles preached and taught in the Church to help dispel the confusion of the mind and preserve doctrinal unity. The Apostolic Tradition had to be defended so that the Church would not become divided and eventually splinter into separate sects or denominations started by men who had no apostolic authority invested in them by Christ, to begin with.

Being of one Spirit, one faith, and one baptism essentially requires one visible Church and doctrinal unity. All faithful Catholics, for instance, believe Mary is the Mother of God and practice infant baptism. This certainly isn’t the case in Protestantism or denominational Christianity. Jesus warned that the gates of hell would try to destroy the Church but wouldn’t prevail against it for the reason that our Lord would build his church on Peter the rock to whom he would give the keys of the kingdom (Mt 16:18). Satan initially tried to demolish the Church by trying to create doctrinal disunity. For instance, the New Testament (Covenant) church had to grapple with dissenting Christian sects such as the Docetists and Judaizers who opposed the apostolic teaching authority of the Church. These dissenting sects were responsible for contentions and discord among the church’s members in various communities.

​In fact, Paul exhorted the church in Philippi to stand firm in one spirit and with one mind striving together to uphold the true faith of the gospel (Phil 1:27). He urged the Thessalonians to stand firm and hold fast to the traditions or teachings they received from the apostolic authority (2 Thess 2:15). The apostle had much to fear and contend with, in the wake of false teachings that infiltrated the Church throughout many regions. He fervently prayed that all Christians be of the same mind in one accord (Phil 2:2). When Paul ordained Timothy as bishop, he warned of those who sought controversy and had disputes by challenging the common faith of believers. And he reminded him to safeguard and pass on the teachings that were handed down by the universal apostolic teaching authority of the Church (1 Tim 6; 2 Tim 2:2).

Paul acknowledged the Church to be the Bride of Christ (Eph 5:25). One unified visible church means that our Lord has only one bride, not many brides. Likewise, Christ is the Head of one body, the Church, not countless bodies or denominations, each with its own visible head and/or hierarchy that disagrees with the other bodies of believers on some point of doctrine. Peter exhorted the faithful to have unity of spirit (1 Pet 3:8). He wouldn’t have made this charge if he didn’t acknowledge the entire Church to be one visible and hierarchical body. Unity of spirit and mind is impossible to achieve unless there is a central teaching authority established by Christ on the foundation of the apostles and their valid successors in the episcopate. And this apostolic teaching authority must be respected if there isn’t to be any discord or even schism under the penalty of excommunication (2 Cor 2:17; 3:6; 5:20; 10:6; 10:8; 1 Thess 5:12-13; 2 Thess 3:14; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13: 7, 17; 1 Pet 5:5; 2 Pet 2:10; 1 Cor 5:3-5; 16:22; 1 Tim 1:20; Gal 1;8; Mt 18:17). By apostolic succession, this divine office has continued and will continue under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit to ensure the faithful transmission of tradition and doctrinal unity until Christ returns in glory (Mt 28:16-20).

​In his vision of the Church, Daniel prophesies that people of all nations and languages shall serve God’s kingdom (Dan 7:14). This single entity is the Catholic Church. The word catholic means universal in the sense that the Church consists of all peoples of different nations and languages who, despite the global demographics of its members and different cultures, possess one mind and one spirit in faith, notwithstanding any dissension, discord, or scandal that may arise within the Church through the power of darkness, but not to the extent of its destruction. The Catholic Church has existed for almost two thousand years, outlasting all historical empires that have existed until now, and shall always exist on earth with Christ as its Head until he returns in glory. Christendom shall be perfectly united with the second coming of Christ at the end of this Messianic age.

 Early Sacred Tradition

“See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye
would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do
anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist,
which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the
bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ
is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate
a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything
that is done may be secure and valid.”
St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Smyraens, 8
(c. A.D. 110)

“Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the
holy presbyters…It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest
we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be
nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures. For the Church has been planted as a garden (paradisus) in
this world; therefore says the Spirit of God, ‘Thou mayest freely eat from every tree of the garden,’
that is, Eat ye from every Scripture of the Lord; but ye shall not eat with an uplifted mind, nor
touch any heretical discord.”
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5:20
(A.D. 189)

“Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a
bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: I say unto thee, That
thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church…Thence, through the changes of times
and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the
Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same
rulers. Since this, then, is founded on the divine law, I marvel that some, with daring temerity,
have chosen to write to me as if they wrote in the name of the Church; when the Church is
established in the bishop and the clergy, and all who stand fast in the faith.”
St. Cyprian of Carthage, To the Lasped, Epistle 26/33
(A.D. 250)

“‘And in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of the
mountains’ The house of the Lord, ‘prepared on the top of the mountains,’ is the church, according
to the declaration of the apostle, ‘Know,’ he says, ‘how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house
of God, which is the church of the living God’ Whose foundations are on the holy mountains, for
it is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. One also of these mountains was
Peter, upon which the rock the Lord promised to build his church.”
St. Basil, Commentary on Isaiah, 2:66
(A.D. 375)

He that is not with me is against me:
and he that gathers not with me scatters.

Luke 11, 23

Pax vobiscum

The Church Is Catholic


I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world,
and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name,
the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.

John 17, 11

Since Apostolic time, the Church or the unblemished bride of Christ has understood herself to be catholic. By definition we mean a visible society of baptized Christians from all around the world professing the same faith under the authority of the invisible head who is Christ and the authority of the visible head, his vice-regent the pope, and the world’s bishops in communion with the Roman Pontiff.

The apostles themselves knew that their Lord and Master had established his Church to be visibly one and hierarchical for the unity of faith and consistent transmission of the deposit of faith from one generation of believers to the next without error under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16; 16:12-13). For instance, none of the apostles dared to question or challenge Peter’s authority to speak for the entire Church and resolve a disputed doctrinal issue such as whether baptized Gentiles ought to be circumcised like the Jews. Rather, they listened to what Peter had to say in silence and accepted his word as final for the Church to receive without objection (See Acts 15). The debate that went on at the council in Jerusalem may never have been resolved or accepted by everyone with a moral certainty of faith if it wasn’t believed that Peter had the universal primacy of authority to reach or ratify a final verdict for the whole Church to confidently accept in unity (Mt 16:20).

The New Testament (Covenant) Church was catholic in every religious sense of the word. There are several key passages in Scripture that reflect how the Church perceived herself through the knowledge she received from the Holy Spirit in the sanctifying light of faith. First of all, Jesus says that a city (Jerusalem) “set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mt 5:14). Our Lord is referring to his Church (the new Jerusalem that has come down from heaven) which is essentially a visible church and a unity of members who comprise his Mystical Body. The Church isn’t simply a pneumatic construct in which there is an invisible unity of spirit but a visible division that really makes no difference beyond the fundamental tenets of the Apostles’ Creed. Indeed, Jesus warns us that “a kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and cannot stand” (Mt 12:25; Mk 3:25; Lk 11:17). This scenario best describes the miserable state Protestantism finds itself in from the time of its inception in the sixteenth century, what with the myriads of autonomous and independent denominations that differ on many fine points of doctrine on faith and morals while appealing to the same Scriptures supposedly under the guidance of one and the same Holy Spirit.

Jesus clearly stated that he would build his “church” on Peter the rock and the apostles who are in communion with the Lord’s vicar. He said nothing about ‘churches’ (Mt 16:18). Unity of faith wisely requires a visible body under a visible head which in turn represents and is accountable to the invisible head who is Christ. A visible church cannot exist without a visible head who rules visibly by ‘binding and loosening’ so that the Church may be visibly united in faith and in that sense be truly catholic. Protestantism amounts to being nothing more than a divided religious movement consisting of countless churches with independent visible heads or ruling bodies in some shape or form.

Jesus himself told the apostles there must be only “one flock and one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). This means one visible flock, one visible shepherd, and one invisible shepherd who is Christ in heaven. It’s obvious that Jesus intended his Church to be structured this way since he prayed that his followers may be perfectly one as he is one with the Father (Jn 17:11, 21, 23). There is perfect oneness only in the one true Church founded by Christ which is the Catholic Church, despite the heresies, divisions, and schisms that have arisen throughout the ages because of rogue clerics and arrogant academicians who divorced themselves from Christ’s vision and rejected his institutions.

Surely, Our Lord foresaw all the turmoil that would historically arise in the Church, notably from the time of Arius in the early fourth century, when he said to his apostles, “He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Mt 12:30). Only by listening to what Peter and the apostles say, and thereby their appointed successors in the episcopal office until Christ returns, can there be perfect unity in the one, visible, and hierarchical Church. Those who refuse to listen to and reject the ruling and teaching authority of the Universal Magisterium, in fact, refuse to listen to Christ and reject the authority that was given to him by his heavenly Father and then transferred to Peter and the Apostles (Lk 10:16).

Up to this time, Christian denominations were the creation of men and women who were presumed to be invested with the divine authority to teach and rule in the name of Christ totally indifferent to the institutions which Our Lord established on the concrete foundation of Peter and the Apostles. Denominationalism is anti-Christ. So is its negative counterpart: Non-denominationalism (essentially a sub-denomination in Protestantism) which ironically holds Christ never founded a single corporate religious entity (or entities) in the first place. This is a modern religious phenomenon that bears the characteristics of ancient Gnosticism.

In any event, the apostles and the faithful men whom they appointed to join and succeed them in the divine offices of the episcopacy and priesthood (presbyterium) kept Christ’s vision in their minds and hearts. The New Testament church was indeed the Catholic Church in mind and spirit. Paul exhorted the body of believers in Rome to live in harmony with one another (Rom 15:5). There can be no visibly unified body and one mind in faith as long as there are dissenters in the ranks who create divisions in opposition to the apostolic teaching authority. 

On the contrary, these false teachers must be avoided at all costs and shouldn’t be listened to (Rom 16: 17). For the Church to be truly catholic and remain catholic, Christians must be on guard against those who dispute Church teachings and create controversies by proposing their own misguided notions and misleading the flock with their confusing rhetoric (1 Tim 6:4). The Judaizers and Ebionites are clear examples. For the Church to be catholic, there must be a universal teaching authority of appeal that can trace its authority back to Christ. This was the case at the council in Jerusalem. Those who rejected the decisions of the council fell out of communion with the one true Church.

Paul fervently prayed like Jesus had that there be no dissensions and disagreements among Christians, and they might be of one mind and one spirit for the sake of perfect unity (1 Cor 1:10). After all, the Church is the visible ‘body’ of Christ, not Our Lord’s invisible spirit or soul (Eph 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Col 1:18, 24). Jesus has only one bride, not many brides who believe and think somewhat differently on fine points of doctrine and morals (Eph 5:25). Peter called for a unity of spirit which is what Catholicism is all about (1 Pt 3:8). But this is impossible if Christians are of different minds and hearts and indifferent to the established central teaching authority of the Church because of how they feel or what they might think. Such people do not belong to the Church and have dismembered themselves from the body even to the point of ex-communication or schism. God isn’t the author of confusion, but of peace and reconciliation (1 Cor 14:33).

The Holy Spirit isn’t the source of countless denominations that keep popping up around the world and are divided. The prophet Daniel foresaw the creation of the Catholic Church whose divine author is Our Lord Jesus Christ. He envisioned a single body of people from all nations serving His kingdom on earth (Dan 7:14). The Church isn’t a democracy with different political or religious parties but rather a kingdom and monarchical entity (Rev 7:9-10).

Bishop Ignatius of Antioch (c. A.D. 110) was a follower or student of the apostle John. Perhaps the evangelist even ordained him. As an apostolic successor in the divine office, His Excellency reveals how the Church is intended to be visibly one and catholic in the biblical sense of the word. He says, “See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Christ Jesus does the Father… Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is administered either by the bishop or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, 8:2). Catholicism amounts to respecting the visible episcopal authority and acknowledging the validity of the Blessed Sacrament only when it is celebrated and administered by one who can trace his priestly ordination back to the apostles themselves (with the laying on of hands) in a physical and associated line of succession (cf. Acts 6:6; 9:17-19; 13:3; 1 Tim 4:14).

Irenaeus (A.D. 180), Bishop of present-day Lyons, France was a student of Polycarp who, according to early tradition, was also tutored in the faith by the apostle John. The key point of Irenaeus’ theology was the unity and the goodness of God, in opposition to the Gnostics’ theory of God: a plurality of divine emanations (Aeons) along with a distinction between the Monad and the Demiurge. There were many Gnostic sects of different shades of persuasion that arose in the second century. Gnostics believed they were Christian in their spirituality which they considered was more important than any particular religious affiliation. And they were Christians of truly diverse viewpoints. But what all these cults shared in common were belief systems for attaining secret knowledge or gnosis. Gnostic sects were in direct competition with the teachings of the nascent Catholic Church. These sects rejected the Apostolic teaching authority of the one true Church with respect to Christ’s person in the incarnation.

In his contention with the Gnostics, notably Marcion, Irenaeus writes: “Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters…It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures” (Against Heresies, 5:20). He refers to their leaders as “ these teachers who are destitute of truly divine wisdom… while the Catholic Church possesses one and the same faith throughout the whole world.”

Irenaeus understood what the word catholic meant to the New Testament Church as opposed to the superficial pluralism of the Gnostic sects in his day: “But it has, on the other hand, been shown, that the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples…For in the Church, it is said, ‘God hath set apostles, prophets, teachers,’ and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behavior. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth” (Ibid., 1.10.3). Thus, Irenaeus affirmed the true Church to be one in faith, visible instead of invisible or purely pneumatic, and hierarchical. The One Holy Spirit ensured the transmission of the one true and indisputable faith through the institution of Apostolic succession.

Further, Cyprian of Carthage (A.D. 254) testifies how the early Church understood itself to be catholic by presenting his point of view: “Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the Church, and the Church in the bishop; and if anyone is not with the bishop, that he is not in the Church, and that those flatter themselves in vain who creep in, not having peace with God’s priests, and think that they communicate secretly with some; while the Church, which is Catholic and one, is not cut nor divided, but is indeed connected and bound together by the cement of priests who cohere with one another” (To Florentius, Epistle 66/67). The Alexandrian priest Arius, however, broke with tradition and decided to interpret the Scriptures on his own personal authority, not unlike Marcion, and presumed to teach that the Son didn’t eternally co-exist with the Father nor was consubstantial with Him. But to be Catholic, one must obediently follow the dogmas of the Church in union with all the faithful. Arius never recanted and, unfortunately, brought the majority of the Eastern Church bishops on his side. As a result, the Church (or rather the Roman emperor) was compelled to convoke the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. This is the decision reached by the bishops who attended the council: “But for those who say, ‘There was when He was not, and, Before being born He was not, and that He came into existence out of nothing, or who assert that the Son of God is of a different hypostasis or substance’… these the Catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes.”

Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 350) describes in Pauline fashion what it means for the Church to be catholic: “Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, ‘That thou mayest know how thou ought to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.’” (Catechetical Lectures, 18:25). There is only one God and one divine truth which the Church is in possession of by the presence of the Spirit of truth. The life of the Church has its source in the life of God whose Spirit ensures that the bride of Christ remains unblemished in her faith and guarantees that the truth is made known for all to accept without questioning the apostolic teaching authority that all began with Peter and the Apostles in communion with him, that the Church be visibly one in the faith and one body of believers.

“We are not to give heed to those who say, Behold here is Christ, but show him
not in the Church, which is filled with brightness from the East even unto the West; which is
filled with true light; is the ‘pillar and ground of truth’; in which, as a whole, is the whole advent
of the Son of Man, who saith to all men throughout the universe, ‘Behold, I am with you all
the days of life even unto the consumption of the world.’”
Origen, Commentary on Matthew, Tract 30
(A.D. 244)

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every
nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the
Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a
loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!”
Revelation 7, 9-10

Pax vobiscum