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1. What is Ecclesiology?

Ecclesiology is the branch of theology that studies the nature and mission of the Church. It is
an in-depth scriptural and historical examination of the mystery of the Church covering the
nature, structure, and constitution of the Catholic Church itself on a metaphysical and
revealed level.

Ecclesiology also explores the historical origins of contemporary issues in ecclesiology such as
universal salvation, Christian unity, authority and collegiality, the role of laity and infallibility.
Additional topics include the mission, membership and ministries of the Catholic Church in the
world, and its relationship to other churches.

2. Etymology

Ecclesiology comes from the Greek ἐκκλησία1, which entered Latin as ecclesia. The term
originally meant simply a gathering or assembly. It is a compound of the Greek
preposition ἐκ2, which denotes origin, and καλῶ3 from καλέω4 meaning to call, so that the
compound word means a calling out, as to a meeting.

The Septuagint used ekklesia to translate the Hebrew word qâhâl, meaning a congregation,
assembly, company or other organized body. The other term is λογος5 which means study.

3. A note on the History of Ecclesiology

Formal treatises on ecclesiology appeared late in the history of the Church. However, the
writers of the New Testament, the Fathers, and scholastics reflected deeply on the mystery of
the Church and treated explicitly of its different aspects, especially in relation to Christological
and Soteriological themes. One can, therefore, speak of the ecclesiology of the New
Testament, of St. Paul, St. Augustine, etc., meaning by this the point of view from which they
contemplated the Church and the aspects of the mystery emphasized or clarified by their

4. Understanding History

- History may be defined first as an incident. A second meaning for history is information about
an incident.6 A third meaning for history is inquiry or research to check as well as find data
about the past. Interpretation is thus a fourth meaning for history.
- History as an event is absolute, occurring only once in time and space; but history as
information, inquiry and interpretation is relative and subject to change.

ἐκκλησία - ekklesia
ἐκ - ek
καλῶ - kalo
Καλέω - kaleo
Λογος - logos
Comes from the Attic Greek word historeo which meant to learn by inquiry or investigation

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- * History may be defined as the interpreted record of the socially significant human past,
based on organized data collected by the scientific method from archaeological, literary, or
living sources.

5. Value of Church History

a. Church history links the past factual data of the Christian gospel with the future proclamation
and application of that gospel in a present synthesis that creates understanding of our great
heritage and inspiration for its further proclamation and application.
b. Church History is an Aid to Understanding the Present.
c. Church History as a Guide.
d. Church History as a Motivating Force.7
e. Church History as a Practical Tool
f. Church History as a Stabilizing Force

6. Themes of Church History

a. The Political elements involve relations between the church and the state/secular
b. The Propagation of the Church through Missions cannot be ignored.
c. The Persecution of the Church is important because it is usually during or right after these
times that the church makes it greatest advances.
d. The Polity which is the government of the church is also important.
e. The Polemics is the church's struggle against heresy and analysis of its own position.
f. The Praxis of the church is the practical outworking in life of the Christian faith.
g. The Presentation of Truth by the Church is also important to church history.


I. Ancient Church History. 5 B.C.-A.D.590

a. The Spread of Christianity to 100 AD.

b. The Struggle of the Old Catholic Imperial Church for survival. (100-313 AD)
c. The Supremacy of the Old Catholic Imperial Church. (313-590 AD)

II. Medieval Church History. 590-1517 AD

a. The Rise of the Empire and Latin-Teutonic Christianity. (590-800 AD)

b. Changes in Relationships between the Church and the state. (800-1054 AD)
c. The Supremacy of the Papacy. (1054-1305 AD)
d. Medieval Sunset and Modern Sunrise. (1305-1517 AD)

III. Modern Church History. 1517-

a. Reformation and Counter Reformation. (1517-1648 AD)

b. Rationalism, Revivalism and Denominationalism. (1648-1789 AD)
c. Revivalism, Missions, and Modernism. (1789-1914 AD)
d. Tension. (1914-Vatican II)

It edifies, inspires, and stimulates a higher spiritual life. It is as important to know one's spiritual ancestry so as to become a better heavenly
citizen as it is to know the history of one's land to become a better earthly citizen. This also leads to a greater appreciation of one's place and
role within the Body of Christ.

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The story of human history may rightly be called “His-story”, or the story of God's
work in the affairs of man. There is a grand central theme to be found in history and that is
God's redeeming love. Viewing history from this perspective, where God is actively working
out His plan of redemption in the affairs of men, could be called a “Divine interpretation” of

1. Old Testament

 The community of Israel foreshadows the Church. Just as God chooses us to be saved as
part of the Church, so too did God call Israel as a nation to be his chosen people as part of
his larger plan of salvation.

 God’s special relationship with Israel was not just about Israel: it had a deeper meaning
for the rest of the world as well. The prophets proclaimed a future when all nations
would gather together with Israel in true worship. (see Isaiah 2:2-5, Micah 4:1-4). The
gathering of all nations into one People of God.

2. New Testament

 In the NT, the Church designates the community of Christian disciples who gathered at
least weekly for common liturgy and prayer. The word "church" is used 114 times in the
NT, but only three times in the Gospels (once in Matt 16:18 and twice in Matt 18:17).

 In the letters attributed to Paul, the word "church" is used 62 times, most often to
denote the local Christian community or clusters of communities (Rom 16:4; 1 Cor 1:2,
14:33; 2 Cor 8:18; Gal 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1), or occasionally to refer to the whole church (Gal 1:13;
1 Cor 12:28) in a universal, cosmic sense (Col 1:24; Eph 5:29).

 Synagogue - Gk. συναγωγη (synagoge = "assembly, congregation"; derived from the

preposition sun = "with, together" and the verb αγω = "to lead, gather"). In the
Septuagint (the Old Testament in Greek), it usually refers to a local assembly of Jews,
although it is also used for the "gathering" of the waters of creation (Gen 1:9). The
word is used 56 times in the NT, mostly in the Gospels and Acts, but also in James
2:24 and Rev 2:9; 3:9. Scholars debate whether synagoge in the NT era still refers
mainly to the assembly of people on the Sabbath, or also to the place where they
gathered. Clearly, however, synagogue consistently designates a Jewish assembly,
whereas a Christian community of believers is referred to as an ekklesia.

 Temple / Sanctuary - Gk ιερον (hieron = "temple area, holy grounds"; 74x in NT) and
ναος (naos = "temple building, sanctuary"; 45x in NT). Whereas hieron designates the
totality of the holy space or "temple precincts", naos refers more specifically to the
"sanctuary building" within the temple area, in which the deity resides. In the NT,
"temple" normally refers to the sacred precincts of Jerusalem. Paul uses "Temple of
God" as a metaphor for the Christian community, in that the community is the
"sanctuary" where the Spirit dwells (1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16).

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 House / Field / Vineyard / Olive Tree - As the locus of the abiding presence of the
Spirit, the church is sometimes described using other architectural or agricultural
images: as God's house or household (Eph 2:19; 1 Tim 3:15; Heb 3:6; 10:21; 1 Pet 4:17),
or God's house (1 Cor 3:10-17; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 2:5), or God's field (1 Cor 3:6-9), or God's
vineyard (John 15:1-11), or olive tree (Rom 11:17-24).

 People of God - Gk. λαος του θεου (laos tou theou) - God's Chosen or Elect - In the
OT, the Hebrews are "chosen" by God to belong to him (Deut 7:6; 14:2); thus the
descendants of Israel are called the "people of God" (Exod 19:5; Isa 43:20-21; Hos
2:23). In the NT, Luke uses the term to identify Israel (Luke 2:10, 32; Acts 4:10). Later,
it includes both Israel and the Gentiles (Acts 15:14; Rom 9:24). God reconciles Israel to
the nations in common faith in Jesus. Twice, the "People of God" are designated as
an εθνος (ethnos), both times implying the Christian community (Matt 21:43; 1 Pet 2:9-

 Community / Communion - Gk. Κοινωνια (koinonia = "placed in common"), related

to Κοινωνευ ("to share") and κοινωνς or "partner". Koinonia refers to a relationship
of fellowship among believers based on participation in Christ (Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 4:13)
and sharing common life in the Spirit (2 Cor 13:13; Phil 2:1) by way of baptism (1 Cor
12:13) and the Eucharist (1 Cor 10:16-17). In addition, this communion is demonstrated
by sharing goods in common use (Acts 2:44; 4:32; Gal 6:6). Paul's ministry to support
the poor financially in the Jerusalem church is a sign of this communion (Rom 12:13;

 Body of Christ – Gk. οα ου Χρισου (soma tou Christou). The "Body of Christ" is a
prominent Pauline metaphor for the church (1 Cor 12:12-31), as a community of
different members with different gifts and ministries (Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:4-7) united
in the same Spirit by baptism (1 Cor 12:13) and the Eucharist (10:17). Colossians (1:18--
2:19) and Ephesians (1:22-23) employ the same metaphor, but add that Christ is the
head of the body (Col 2:19; Eph 4:15-16).

 Saints – Gk. άγιοι (hagioi = "holy ones, those set apart"). In the NT, all Christians are
called "saints" (Acts 9:13, 32). Paul commonly addresses the Christian community as
"saints" (Rom 1:7; 12:13; Phil 4:22; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1), especially the community in
Jerusalem (15:25; 1 Cor 16:1). The Book of Revelation uses the term for Christian
martyrs (17:6), while later Christian tradition restricts the term to denote outstanding
Christians publicly recognized for their exemplary lives.

 The Way - literally "road, path, journey," it sometimes specifically refers to individuals
following Jesus (Mark 10:52; John 14:4-6; Heb 10:20); it is also used as a group
designation for early Christians (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 24:22).

 Bride of Christ - Eph 5:22-33 (cf. Hos 1-3; Ezek 16, 23) The Church is the bride of Christ,
and just as a husband and wife are one flesh, so is the Church holy because of the
bridegroom. This is seen in paragraph 824 of the Catechism which states, “United
with Christ, the church is sanctified by him; through him and with him she becomes
sanctifying (Catechism 237).”

 Children of Abraham / New Israel / New Jerusalem - Gal 3:29; Rev 3:12; 21:2Traditional
Jewish interpretation, and that of most Christian commentators, define Abraham's
descendants as Abraham's seed only through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob,
to the exclusion of Ishmael and Esau. This may however reflect an eisegesis or
reconstruction of primary verses based on the later biblical emphasis of Jacob's

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descendants. The promises given to Abraham happened prior to the birth of Isaac
and were given to all his offspring signified through the rite of circumcision.

In the New Testament, the descent and promise is reinterpreted along religious lines.
In the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul the Apostle draws attention to the formulation of
the promise, avoiding the term "seeds" in plural (meaning many people), choosing
instead "seed," meaning one person, who, he understands to be Jesus (and those
united with him).

3. Political Contributions of the Romans

A. The Romans, as no other people up to their time, developed a sense of unity of mankind
under a universal law. (Prepared the world for universal sin and a salvation that makes
them a part of a universal organism)

a. They stressed application of a universal law to all of their citizens.

b. In the 5th century B.C. they codified the 12 Tables and taught them to every
c. In 212 B.C. under Caracalla, all freemen in the empire were given Roman
citizenship, thus all were under one system of law and citizens of one kingdom.
d. This laid a foundation for the proclamation of our heavenly citizenship. Phil. 3:20

B. Free movement about the Mediterranean world would have been very difficult for the
messengers of the gospel before the reign of Augustus Caesar (27 B.C.-A.D.14)

C. The Romans developed an excellent system of roads that were built of concrete.

D. The role of the Roman army in the development of the ideal of a universal organization
and in the spread of the gospel should not be ignored.

E. Roman conquests led to a loss of belief by many peoples in their gods because the gods
had not been able to keep them from defeat by the Romans.

F. The Roman religions provided little comfort as well when they expressed their hospitality
to foreign beliefs.

a. Worship of Cybele, the great earth mother was brought to Rome from Phrygia
(area East of Asia Minor).
b. Worship of Isis, from Egypt, was similar to that of Cybele.
c. Worship of Mithras from Persia appealed to the Roman soldiers.
d. All these religions emphasized a savior-god.

4. Intellectual Contributions of the Greeks

A. Greek philosophy prepared for the coming of Christianity by destroying the older

a. This intellectual discipline made the polytheistic religions unintelligible, so many

turned to philosophy.
b. But philosophy failed to satisfy spiritual needs.

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c. At the First Advent philosophy had declined from the peak reached by Plato to a
system of self-centered individualistic thought such as Stoicism or Epicureanism.
d. Philosophy could only make God an intellectual abstraction. It could never reveal
a personal God of love.
e. The great Greek philosophers (Plato and Socrates of 5th Century B.C.) served
Christianity by calling others to a reality that transcended the temporal and
relative world.
f. They insisted that reality was not temporal and material but spiritual and eternal.
Their search for truth never led them to a personal God, but it demonstrated the
best man can do in seeking God through the intellect.

B. The Greek people also contributed in a religious way to making the world ready to accept
the new Christian religion when it appeared.

- The advent of materialistic Greek philosophy in the 6th century B.C. destroyed the
faith of the Greek peoples in the old polytheistic worship that is described in Homer's
Iliad and Odyssey.
- Philosophy became a system of pragmatic individualism under the successors of the
- Stoics, like Zeno, considered the supernatural, but its god was so closely identified
with creation that it was pantheistic. Stoicism taught the fatherhood of God and the
brotherhood of man and held to a highly desirable code of ethics, but it left man by
rational processes to worked out his own obedience to the natural laws that he
discovered by unaided reason.
- Many of the "mystery" religions taught people to think in terms of sin and
redemption, but offered no real solutions.

5. Religious Contributions of the Jews

- Where Rome set the political climate and Athens set the philosophical climate for the
early church, Judaism set the relational climate.
- Jewish people did not seek to discover God by processes of human reason, instead
they assumed His existence and granted Him the worship they felt was His due.

A. Monotheism was a striking contrast to the polytheism of the pagan religions.

- After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews as a whole did not lapse into flagrant idolatry
- For three centuries before the Lord they spread this monotheism.

B. The Jews offered to the world the hope of a coming Messiah who would bring
righteousness to the earth.

C. Judaism also to the world the purest ethical system in existence.

- They were in sharp contrast to the prevailing ethical system developed by the
- To the Jews sin was not the external, mechanical or contractual failure as it was
viewed by the Greeks and Romans, but was a violation of the known will of God, a
violation that expressed itself in an impure heart and then in overt acts of sin.

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D. The Old Testament Scriptures provided the infant church with its message-that Jesus
fulfilled he requirements for the Messiah.
E. The Jews made possible also a philosophy of history that insisted that history had
meaning. They opposed any view that made history a meaningless series of cycles or a
mere process of linear evolution. They upheld a linear and cataclysmic view of history in
which the Sovereign God who created history would triumph over man's failure in history
to bring about a golden age.

F. The Synagogue.
- The Jews also provided an institution that was most useful in the rise and
development of early Christianity.
- The Jews' enforced absence from the temple at Jerusalem during the Babylonian
captivity gave rise to the synagogue which became an integral part of Jewish life.
- Judaism was the paidagogos to lead men to Christ. (Gal 3:23-25)

G. Of all the religions in the Roman Empire at the time of Christ's birth, only Judaism and
Christianity have been successful in surviving and changing the course of human history.

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Patrology is the science which deals with the life, acts, writings, sayings, doctrines and thoughts of the
orthodox writers of the early church. The word “Patrology” is derived from the Latin word “Pater”
which means “Father.”

A study of Patrology includes the following:

1. The life of the Fathers: In order to understand their writings and sayings, their lives and the
environment in which they lived, must also be considered.

2. Their acts: The writings, sermons, dialogues, letters, etc. of the Fathers are inseparable from their
own lives. Patrology’s message is to be sure of the authenticity of these acts scientifically,
publishing them and translating them in modern languages.

3. More importantly is the discovery of the thoughts of the Fathers, their dogma, doctrines and
concepts concerning God, man, church, salvation, worship, creation, the body, the heavenly life,

Patrology is the door through which we can enter into the Church and attain her spirit, which
affects our inner life, conduct and behaviour. Through Patrology, the acts of the Fathers are
transferred into living thoughts and concepts which are based on a sound foundation, without
ignoring the world around us.


“Early Church Father” is a title that gradually came to be applied to certain Christian leaders
distinguished by four characteristics: antiquity, holiness, orthodoxy, and Church approval. This
fourfold qualification, however, is vague and sometimes misleading. At first glance, it would seem to
fit the apostles, but they, along with all other Christians of the New Testament era (e.g., Timothy), are
never referred to as Early Church Fathers. On the other hand, there are some indisputably regarded as
“Fathers of the Church” whose generally orthodox teaching was marred by some doctrinal errors and
whose lives were far from exemplary (e.g., St. Hippolytus).

A better clue to understanding what the title “Church Father” means is provided by St.
Clement of Alexandria: “Words are the progeny of the soul. Hence we call those that instructed us
fathers” (Stromateis1.1.2-2.1; cf. Irenaeus, Against Heresies 4.41.2). Since the principal teacher of any
Christian community is its bishop, the title “Father” was first applied to bishops. In fact, the bishops
who gather in church councils have been from early times referred to as “council fathers.” But
because many of the most important early Christian teachers were laymen (e.g., St. Justin), deacons
(such as perhaps St. Ephrem), and priests (e.g., St. Jerome), it became customary from the fourth
century to reckon these too among “the Fathers.”

So the term “Father of the Church” finally came to refer to important Christian writers after
the New Testament era who, because of closeness to that era, witness to the authentically apostolic
way of interpreting the Scriptures handed on to them by the Catholic Tradition. These writers played
an irreplaceable and unrepeatable role in transmitting Christian doctrine and bringing it to mature

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expression, at least in its most fundamental features. While the Church’s understanding of revelation
will continue to deepen until the Lord returns, the dogmas of the Trinity and the Incarnation, which
stand at the center of the “Hierarchy of Truths” (UR 11), were defined once and for all during the
period of the Fathers (a.k.a. the patristic era). It is significant that the age of the Early Church Fathers,
commonly regarded as closing with St. John Damascene (d. 749), is roughly co-terminus with the
period of the first seven great Ecumenical Councils which defined these two central mysteries of the
faith and drew out their most important implications. No Catholic teacher after this time, no matter
how stellar, is reckoned among the Church Fathers.

So, a succinct definition of the Early Church Fathers would be those Christian writers from
approximately AD 100-800 who passed on and clarified the apostolic tradition.

The Diversity of the Church Fathers

The first language of the universal Church was Greek, the language of the New Testament. All
of the Early Church Fathers, from all parts of the Christian world, continued to write in Greek until
about 200 when Tertullian, a North African theologian, wrote a treatise in Latin. From then on, Latin
gradually became the language of the Western Fathers of the Church. In the Eastern half of the
Mediterranean world, many continued to write in Greek, especially those in the urban areas controlled
by the Byzantine Empire. In rural localities and territory outside the empire, some Christian authors
(e.g., St. Ephrem) began to write in local vernaculars such as Syriac-Aramaic, a dialect of the language
spoken by Christ. This wonderful diversity of culture and location makes it that much clearer that,
whenever the Fathers teach the same doctrine or describe the same liturgical practice, they are
witnessing to something that came not from them, but to them–the apostolic Tradition.

These leaders and others are sometimes called Church Fathers because of the esteem in
which they were held by loyal members of the local assemblies. The men who led God's people from
A.D. 90 to 460 are frequently divided into four groups:

 Apostolic Fathers (A.D. 90 – 150) who edified the Church

 Apologists (A.D. 130 – 180) who defended the Church against Roman persecution
 Polemicists (A.D. 180 – 225) who led the Church against internal heresy
 Theologians (A.D. 225 – 460) who attempted to harmonize Christianity with popular

Apostolic Fathers

The leaders of the churches during the first century after the Apostles are called the
“Apostolic Fathers” because they effectively continued the work of the Apostles. They too believed
that, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly
equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). By teaching the Scriptures, men like Clement, Hermas
of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Barnabas of Alexandria were able to establish
others in the doctrines of grace.

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A. St. Clement of Rome

According to Tertullian, The Roman Church claimed that St. Clement was ordained by St.
Peter himself. (De Praescript., xxxii)

St. Jerome tells us that in his time "most of the Latins" held that St. Clement was the
immediate successor of the Apostle (Illustrious Men 15). St. Jerome himself in several other places
follows this opinion, but here he correctly states that Clement was the fourth pope. One story
about Clement is that he was put to death by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.
Accordingly, he is often depicted with an anchor, and many churches in port towns intended to
minister chiefly to mariners are named for him.

According to St. Irenaeus, St. Clement had conversed with the Apostles (i.e. Peter and
Paul), and was bishop of the Church at Rome after St. Linus and St. Cletus. That is also attested to
by the liturgy of the Church at Rome, which to this day preserves the name of “Clemens” after the
names of ‘Linus’ and ‘Cletus’ in the litany of prayers, and these names follow directly after those
of the Apostles. The recitation of these names in the Roman liturgy has been in place apparently
since the second century.

Eusebius (AD 249 – 340 AD), in his History of the Church claims that St. Clement of Rome
is the same Clement referred to by St. Paul in Philippians 4:3, where St. Paul writes, “I ask you also,
who are a true co-worker, to help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the
gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of
life.” Some have claimed that the Fortunatus referred to at the end of St. Clement’s letter to the
Corinthians is the same Fortunatus referred to by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:17.

Ecclesiology of St. Clement of Rome

St. Clement opens his letter with this line: “The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to
the church of God sojourning at Corinth.” Here we see the recognition of distinct [particular]
Churches. There is a Church that sojourns at Rome, and there is a Church that sojourns at Corinth.
Then he continues two lines later to address the Church at Corinth as “dear brethren.” These
Churches then, are in some way related, within the universal Church.

St. Clément's letter is written to communicate the way in which God has set up the
Church in an ordered, hierarchical way so that there will be peace and harmony, just as God
created nature with an order so that all things move in harmony. St. Clement at this point
discusses the organizational structure of an army, with its generals, prefects, commanders of a
thousand, of a hundred, or of fifty.

He points out that the army’s ability to function in an ordered way, and also the well-
being of each soldier in the army, depends upon all of its members operating in accordance with
their particular rank.

Likewise, he draws an analogy between the Church and a living body. “Let us take our
body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the
head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body.
But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the
whole body.”

His point in drawing a comparison between the Church on the one hand, and an army and
body on the other is that in the Church we all need each other, and we are part of a divinely
ordered whole. For that reason we cannot divide from this whole or arrogate a role or rank within

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it that has not been given to us by Christ. This then gives us some insight into the relation of the
Church sojourning at Rome and the Church sojourning at Corinth. They are each members of one
Body, and one army. They are not a mere plurality or mere collection of independent entities; they
are a unity — an organic Body, with different roles and different gifts.

St. Clement explains: “It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, rather to obey
God than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a
detestable emulation.” The argument that St. Clement is constructing over the course of the
entire epistle is that we follow God by following those authorities whom God has appointed, not
those who rise up in sedition. We are not to follow those who make a rebellion, even if they do so
claiming to be for peace. “Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness,
and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.”

B. St. Ignatius of Antioch

Ignatius of Antioch, surnamed Theophorus, which in Greek means "God-Bearer," was

probably a convert and disciple of St. John the Evangelist. The fourth-century Church historian,
Eusebius, says that the Apostles Peter and Paul, who planted the faith in Antioch, left directions
that Ignatius should succeed Evodius as bishop of that city; he states further that Ignatius retained
the office for forty years, proving himself in every way an exemplary pastor.

During the persecution of the emperor Domitian, whose reign covered the period of 81 to
96, Ignatius kept up the courage of his flock by daily preaching, by prayer and fasting. After
Domitian's death there was a cessation of the persecutions during the fifteen months of Nerva's
reign, then in Trajan's reign we have records of a number of martyrs, though no general

In an interesting letter to the younger Pliny, then governor of the Black Sea province of
Bithynia, Trajan laid down the principle that Christians should be put to death if formally reported,
but not otherwise sought out for punishment. The Emperor was a humane man, yet the gratitude
which he felt he owed to his own pagan gods for his victories over the Dacians and the Scythians
later led him to authorize the death penalty for those Christians who refused to acknowledge
these divinities publicly.

The key to understanding the ecclesiology of St. Ignatius is clearly his presuppositions
concerning salvation. As will be indicated, the Church as the body of Christ exists, according to St.
Ignatius, for the sole purpose of salvation in Christ. Thus his ecclesiology without at least a general
examination of his Soteriology would be incomprehensible.

Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch

For Ignatius death and corruption is an abnormal condition which God came to destroy by
the incarnation of His Son. Death and corruption are abnormal conditions which God came to
destroy by the incarnation of His Son. By means of death and corruption the devil rules a captive
humanity. (Heb 2:14-15.) Because of the tyrant death man is unable to live according to his original
destiny of selfless love. He now has the instinct of self-preservation firmly rooted within him from
birth. Because he lives constantly under the fear of death he continuously seeks bodily and
psychological security, and thus becomes individualistically inclined and utilitarian in attitude. Sin
is the failure of man to live according to his original destiny of selfless love which seeks not its own
and this failure is rooted in the disease of death. Because death in the hands of Satan is the cause
of sin, the kingdom of the devil and sin is destroyed by the "abolition of death." (Ign. Eph. 19.)

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The world exists now under the power of corruption (Rom. 8:20-22), but in Christ is being
cleansed. Our Lord was "born and baptized that by His passion He mighty purify the water." (Ign.
Eph. 18.) Life and immortality are not proper to man, but to God. "For were He to regard us
according to our works we should cease to be." (Ign. Mag. 10.) God Himself was manifested in the
flesh "for the renewal of eternal life." (Ign. Eph. 19.) Christ is the source of life (Ign. Eph. 3; Mag. 1;
Smyr. 4) and "breathes immortality into the Church" (Ign. Eph. 17) "apart from whom we do not
possess the true life." (Ign. Tral. 9.)

By the victory of Christ over death and Satan he who believes in the flesh of Christ is
restored to the communion of the life and love of God in union with his neighbors and loves
"nothing but God only." (Ign. Eph. 9, 11; Mag. 1.) "It is therefore befitting that you should in every
way glorify Jesus Christ, who had glorified you, that by a unanimous obedience you may be
perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same opinion, and may all speak the same
thing concerning the same thing." ( Ign. Eph. 2.)

For St. Ignatius the primary characteristic of Christians is their corporate and selfless spirit
of love and their complete unanimity of faith. (Ign. Eph. 20; Tral. 12; Phil. sal.; Pol. 6.)

Faith and love for each other is one identical reality, as well as the beginning and the end
of life in Christ. (Ign. Eph. 14.) Unity with each other in love is "a type and evidence (of teaching) of
immortality." (Mag. 6.) "All these things together are good if you believe with love." (Ign. Phil. 9.)
Faith is to "be gathered together (synaxis) unto God." (Mag. 10. Therefore in your concord and
harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung." (Ign. Eph. 4.) Only in such a harmony of love can we know
that we are partakers of God. (Ibid.) Therefore salvation and sanctification can be accomplished
only by a unity of love with each other in the life of Christ. (Ign. Eph. 2.)

For Ignatius man does not have life of himself. Only God is self-life (autozoe). Man lives by
participation. Because man is held captive in death by the devil his communion with God is of a
distorted nature and ends in the grave. The act of restoration of permanent and normal
communion between God and man can be accomplished only by a real resurrection of man by God
Himself. (Ezek. 37:12ff.) "Who alone hath immortality." (I Tim. 6:16.) This immortality of God,
however, is not to be separated in its bestowal upon creation, from God's energy of love.
Therefore, "the drink of God, namely His Blood, ... is incorruptible love and eternal life." (Ign. Rom.
7.) The love of God is not a relationship (to pros ti) dominated by ulterior motivations. If God were
within the realm of happiness and so dominated thereby, then all His relationships, if such could
really exist, would be necessary.

C. St. Papias of Hierapolis

He was the bishop of Hierapolis in Phyrgia. He was born probably between 70 and 75
A.D., and died, perhaps, A.D. 163. No fact save his episcopacy is definitely known about him, yet he
is of great interest from his relation to the apostolic age. He was, according to Irenæus (Adv. Hær.,
v. 33, 4), "a hearer" of John the apostle, "a companion of Polycarp," "an ancient man," of the
primitive days of Christianity. By "John," Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 39) understands the presbyter,
not the apostle, of that name, and declares that Papias had no personal acquaintance with any

Papias, who was certainly acquainted with the present New Testament, wrote in Greek,
about A.D. 130, An Interpretation of the Sayings of the Lord, in five books. His work appears to
have been a collection of the words and works of the Master and his disciples, with explanatory

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matter derived from oral testimony. It has entirely perished, with the exception of a few small
fragments preserved by Irenæus and Eusebius.

This work contained the recollections of the Christian elders Papias had known or from
whom he had heard at second hand. From the fragments of this work that have survived we can
deduce that his life overlapped with two direct disciples of Jesus, John the Elder and Ariston. It is
possible that he heard these men speak when he was a young man, but if he did not actually hear
them himself, he heard reports of what they had said. This places him only one step away from
eyewitness testimony to Jesus’ life.

Ecclesiology of St. Papias of Hierapolis

As the presbyters say, then those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go
there, others shall enjoy the delights of Paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the
city; for everywhere the Saviour will be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see Him. But
that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and
that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold; for the first will
be taken up into the heavens, the second class will dwell in Paradise, and the last will inhabit the
city; and that on this account the Lord said, In my Father's house are many mansions: John 14:2 for
all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place, even as His word says,
that a share is given to all by the Father, according as each one is or shall be worthy. And this is the
couch Matthew 22:10 in which they shall recline who feast, being invited to the wedding. (From
the exposition of the oracles of the Lord)

D. St. Polycarp of Smyrna

This saint was respected by the faithful to a degree of veneration. He formed many holy
disciples, among whom were St. Irenaeus and Papias. St Polycarp was one of the most illustrious
of the apostolic fathers, who, being the immediate disciples of the apostles, received instructions
from their mouths, and inherited of them the spirit of Christ in a degree so much the more
eminent as they lived nearer the fountain head. He embraced Christianity very young, about the
year 80, was a disciple of the apostles, in particular of St. John the Evangelist, and was constituted
by him Bishop of Symrna, probably before his banishment to Patmos in 96, so that he governed
that important see seventy years.

Ecclesiology of St. Polycarp of Smyrna

St. Polycarp opens his letter to the Philippians with the following line: "Polycarp, and the
presbyters with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi ...". He writes as a bishop in union
with his presbyters. In chapter five of his letter he speaks of the duties of deacons. Then he writes
to the laity, "Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the
presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ."

In chapter six he describes the way presbyters should behave: “And let the presbyters be
compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not
neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always providing for that which is becoming in
the sight of God and man; (Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 8:31) abstaining from all wrath, respect of
persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil
report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin.”

The account of the martyrdom of St. Polycarp, written by eyewitnesses of this event,
opens with an explicit reference to the "Catholic Church":

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“The Church of God which sojourns at Smyrna, to the Church of God sojourning in
Philomelium, and to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place: Mercy,
peace, and love from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, be multiplied.”

Each particular Church is conceived as part of the "Holy and Catholic Church". The Holy
and Catholic Church is made up of congregations in all the various cities. This of course would not
include the 'congregations' of the heretics (e.g. Marcionites, gnostics, Valentinians, etc.) This
conception of the Catholic Church can be seen again in chapter eight of the account of St.
Polycarp's martyrdom:

In chapter nineteen, Jesus Christ is described as the Shepherd of the Catholic Church:
“For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of
immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous [in heaven], rejoicingly glorifies God,
even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our
bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.”

E. The Shepherd of Hermas

The early Christian document Hermas, or Shepherd of Hermas, was known to the early
Church Fathers. The Muratorian canon, a list of canonical books from about the 3d century, says
Hermas was written by the brother of Pius, Bishop of Rome, about 140-154. Despite much
speculation, the author remains unknown. It was written in Rome and involves the Roman church.
The document was composed over a longer period of time.
The book consists of five visions, twelve mandates (commandments), and ten similitudes
(parables) that were granted to Hermas, a former slave. The text makes use of allegorical
language to present its religious themes and teachings.

The Shepherd of Hermas was a very popular Christian writing of the second century C.E.,
considered to be canonical by some of the early Church Fathers. Cited as Scripture by Irenaeus
(second century C.E.) and Tertullian (ca. 155–230 C.E.), the text was bound with the New
Testament in the Codex Sinaiticus. Additionally, the work was listed between the Acts of the
Apostles and the Acts of Paul in the stichometrical list of the Codex Claromontanus. The text had
great authority in the second and thirrd centuries C.E. and was seen as a valuable resource for the
instruction of new catechumens.

Ecclesiology of the Shepherd of Hermas

The Shepherd of Hermas, also called the Pastor, is a very early Christian tract that
portrays the Church as a body of living stones that fit together to construct the Tower of God. It's
composition is dated between 85-150, and some Fathers (Irenaeus, Origen) call it "scripture." It is
largely hortatory in nature, utilizing the vision of the Church as a tower to exhort believers to a life
of piety and penance in order that they might maintain their place within the edifice.

A predominant image in the visions is that of the Tower, which represents the Church.
The individual stones in the tower represent the individual believers who make up the Church,
calling to mind St. Peter's reference to Christians as "living stones". Many of the visions concern
the various sorts of stones that compose this tower, their characteristics, and whether or not
stones that are rejected or cast out for various reasons can be reintegrated into the structure - i.e.,
the question of repentance and full restoration after serious sin, which was a matter of intense
debate in the early Church.

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The response of the angel demonstrates a clear belief in a purgatorial process, or at least
in the atoning nature of penitential acts: "Is repentance possible for all those stones which have
been cast away and did not fit into the building of the tower, and will they yet have a place in this
tower? Repentance, said [the angel], is yet possible, but in this tower they cannot find a suitable
place. But in another and much inferior place they will be laid, and that, too, only when they have
been tortured and completed the days of their sins. And on this account will they be transferred,
because they have partaken of the righteous Word. And then only will they be removed from their
punishments when the thought of repenting of the evil deeds which they have done has come
into their hearts. But if it does not come into their hearts, they will not be saved, on account of the
hardness of their heart." (I.3.7)

F. St. Justin Martyr

Justin was born around 100 (both his birth and death dates are approximate) at Flavia
Neapolis (ancient Shechem, modern Nablus) in Samaria (the middle portion of Israel, between
Galilee and Judea) of pagan Greek parents. He was brought up with a good education in rhetoric,
poetry, and history. He studied various schools of philosophy in Alexandria and Ephesus , joining
himself first to Stoicism, then Pythagoreanism, then Platonism, looking for answers to his

He was probably the most dramatic defender of the faith. He was a prolific writer. Around
the year A.D. 153, while in Rome, Justin wrote his famous Apology, whereby he tried to defend
Christianity against the charges of atheism and immorality. He tried to prove that Christians were
loyal citizens by teaching that the Lord's kingdom was not of this world. Therefore, the Roman
Empire had no reason to fear a social insurrection from the Christian community. In the midst of
his many literary efforts and his faithfulness to sound doctrine, Justin was beheaded for his faith in
A.D. 165.

Ecclesiology of St. Justin Martyr

He wrote two apologies to the emperor Antionius Pius (A.D. 138-161) and to his adopted
son Marcus Aurelius, who would one day reign from A.D. 161 to 180. He also wrote a dialogue with
Trypho the Jew, in which Justin contended that Jesus was the Messiah.

On his second stay in the city of Rome, Justin engaged in a public debate with a
philosopher by the name of Crescens. Shortly thereafter, about A.D. 166, he was put to death by
Marcus Aurelius, who was probably influenced by pagan philosophies. Justin’s last words were,
“We desire nothing more than to suffer for our Lord Jesus Christ, for this gives us salvation and
joyfulness before His dreadful judgment seat.”

Through the writings of St. Justin, we have records and have learned of the early Christian
practices especially that of the celebration of the Eucharist.

G. St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Born sometime between A.D. 115 and 142, Irenaeus, was reared in Smyrna. While there he
saw Polycarp and heard him preach. Moving to Lyons in Gaul (France), Irenaeus became a bishop
in the Church. In the year A.D. 200 he suffered a martyr’s death, having defended the faith in such
works as Against Heresies.

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Ecclesiology of St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Firmly rooted in the biblical doctrine of creation, Irenaeus refuted the Gnostic dualism
and pessimism which debased corporeal realities. He decisively claimed the original holiness of
matter, of the body, of the flesh no less than of the spirit. But his work went far beyond the
confutation of heresy: in fact, one can say that he emerges as the first great Church theologian
who created systematic theology; he himself speaks of the system of theology, that is, of the
internal coherence of all faith. At the heart of his doctrine is the question of the "rule of faith" and
its transmission.

The true teaching, therefore, is not that invented by intellectuals which goes beyond the
Church's simple faith. The true Gospel is the one imparted by the Bishops who received it in an
uninterrupted line from the Apostles. They taught nothing except this simple faith, which is also
the true depth of God's revelation. Thus, Irenaeus tells us, there is no secret doctrine concealed in
the Church's common Creed. There is no superior Christianity for intellectuals. The faith publicly
confessed by the Church is the common faith of all. This faith alone is apostolic, it is handed down
from the Apostles, that is, from Jesus and from God. In adhering to this faith, publicly transmitted
by the Apostles to their successors, Christians must observe what their Bishops say and must give
special consideration to the teaching of the Church of Rome, pre-eminent and very ancient. It is
because of her antiquity that this Church has the greatest apostolicity; in fact, she originated in
Peter and Paul, pillars of the Apostolic College. All Churches must agree with the Church of Rome,
recognizing in her the measure of the true Apostolic Tradition, the Church's one common faith.

With these arguments, summed up very briefly here, Irenaeus refuted the claims of these
Gnostics, these intellectuals, from the start. First of all, they possessed no truth superior to that of
the ordinary faith, because what they said was not of apostolic origin, it was invented by them.
Secondly, truth and salvation are not the privilege or monopoly of the few, but are available to all
through the preaching of the Successors of the Apostles, especially of the Bishop of Rome.

H. Tertullian

Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullianus was born sometime between the years A.D. 150
and 155 in North Africa in the city of Carthage. After studying law, he practiced in Rome where he
was converted to Christ. After his salvation, Tertullian returned to Carthage and became a
presbyter in the Church.

Ecclesiological Contributions of Tertullian

Tertullian is the first to call the church 'our mother'. In some of his works he describes the
church as the repository of true faith and doctrine. But later he seems to have come into conflict
with persons in authority in the church who he perceived to be abandoning the apostolic
teaching, and moved more to a view of the church as the gathering of spiritual men, and that the
church, properly, is simply the Holy Spirit himself. For this reason he is often regarded as the
father of Protestantism.

I. St. Cyprian of Carthage

Cyprian was born of well-to-do pagan parents shortly before 200 and was well educated.
He became a Christian about 246 and in 248 became the bishop of Carthage, which he held until
his martyrdom in 258.

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He viewed Tertullian as his master. He was a calm man, where Tertullian was more fiery,
according to Jerome. His most important work was De Unitate Catholicae Ecclesiae, which was
directed against the schismatic followers of Novatian. He clearly distinguished Bishop and Elder
and held to supremacy of the Bishop, emphasizing apostolic succession to Peter.

At the onset of the Decian persecution, 249-250, the Church was defined by a strict
penitential system and a strong network of leadership. Although the Church had endured and
triumphed over numerous persecutions, the Decian persecution came at a time when the Church
was vulnerable. The weakness of the Church was in its numbers.

Ecclesiology of St. Cyprian of Carthage

The dominating concern in both Rome and Carthage was the growing number of lapsed
Christians (lapsi) seeking restoration to Church fellowship. The interim decision developed in
several letters between the Roman clergy and Cyprian determined that all who lapsed were in a
state of sin beyond what even a bishop could affect. They were dead in their sin and were to
remain outside of the Church. Initially no distinction was made between the libellatici, those who
had purchased a false certificate of sacrifice, and the sacrificati, those who had physically
sacrificed by either eating the idolatrous meat or pouring a libation to the emperor and his
unnamed gods. Another lapsi were the thurificati who offered incense to the gods and exercising
the emperor worship.

He refers to them as unconscious or half-dead, semianimus, meaning they are capable of

being revived.121 The libellatici and thurificati, after individual examination, are to be restored to
full fellowship. The sacrificati are only to be restored in exitu, directly before death. In the summer
of 251, Cyprian still believed that idolatry and apostasy are sins that only God can forgive, and yet
he made concessions to allow a large portion of the lapsi back into the Church.

Cyprian felt a genuine obligation to these people to accurately judge their situation while
preserving the Church as a whole. Cyprian believed he acted out of necessity. There are three clear
bases of authority from which Cyprian was operating.

The first is his divinely appointed responsibility as the leader of the Church. He was
Christ’s priest, meant to intercede for the fallen and petition for their re-admittance. He was their
shepherd, and as such he was unwilling to leave them vulnerable.

Cyprian utilized the scriptures to support his conclusions in his strict view expressed in De
Lapsis. Cyprian’s declaration “ecclesia super episcopos constituatur” (the authority derived from
episcopal consensus) left no doubt concerning who would resolve this controversy and on whose
word the lapsed were to depend. The bishops were the only ones invested with the authority to
administer and regulate penitential discipline.

Cyprian had repeatedly been praised for his dutiful protection of the strictness of gospel
discipline, yet he recognized the need to shelter the lapsi currently outside of the grace and
security of the Church. Truly these sins are for God alone to judge, but now upon His return, God
will find these souls safety inside the Church. If they were to remain unsheltered, Cyprian argues,
their only option would be to seek fellowship with heretics or convert to paganism. He believes he
is now able to offer hope without disregarding gospel discipline.

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J. St. Clement of Alexandria

Titus Flavius Clemens (150-215) was a very able instructor in the theological school in
Egypt. During his years as a teacher (A.D. 190-202), Clement wrote the majority of his works, in
which he covered almost every aspect of Christian conduct. Later, when religious persecution
broke out under the Roman emperor Septimius Severus about A.D. 202, Clement fled Alexandria.
He died in Asia Minor.

As a Churchman he loved the church, her tradition and laws. The sign of our membership
of the Church is our spiritual knowledge of God. Its unity is based on the oneness of faith. Her (the
Church) motherhood is correlated to the fatherhood of God.

Ecclesiology of St. Clement of Alexandria


St. Clement of Alexandria speaks of the Church as the Virgin Mother of the
Christians, her motherhood is correlated to God's fatherhood, through her loving
kindness she feeds her children on the Logos as holy milk . She asserts Him as the
Educator (Paidagogue) and as the "Subject of teaching."

“O wondrous mystery! One is the Father of all, one also the Logos of all, and
the Holy Spirit is one and the same everywhere and there in only one Virgin Mother; I
love to call her the Church. This mother alone had no milk, because she alone did not
become woman, but she is both virgin and mother, being undefiled as a virgin and
loving as a mother; and calling her children to her she nurses them with holy milk, the
Logos for the children.”

In the final chapter of the Paidagogos Clement calls the Church the spouse
and mother of the Tutor. She is the school in which her spouse Jesus is the Teacher.
He then continues:

“O graduates of His blessed tutorship! Let us [by our presence] make

complete the fair countenance of the Church, and let us as children run to our good
Mother. And when we have become hearers of the Word, let us extol the blessed
dispensation by which man is brought up and sanctified as a child of God, and being
trained on earth attains to citizenship in heaven and there receives his Father, whom
he learns to know on earth.”


The Alexandrians often look to the Church as the "Community of Joy."

According to St. Clement, the Church was symbolized by Rebecca which - in his
opinion - means "laughter." He says: "The Spirit of those that are children in Christ,
whose lives are ordered in endurance, rejoice."


St. Clement of Alexandria clearly teaches that the Church is the body of
Christ, nourished on His Body and Blood.

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St. Clement of Alexandria states that the Church is the holy vine, or the holy
tree, where the saints, who became a new creation in Christ, together with the
heavenly creatures, dwell on its branches. He comments on the parable of the
mustard seed (Matt. 13: 31,32), saying:

"To such increased size did the growth of the Word come, that the tree
which sprung from it (that is the Church of Christ, established over the whole earth)
filled the world so that the fowls of the air, that is, the divine angels and lofty souls,
dwelt in its branches."


For this is the first-born Church (Heb. 12: 23), composed of many good
children; these are the first born enrolled in Heaven, and hold high festival with so
many myriads of angels. We too are first-born sons, who are reared by God, who are
genuine friends of the first-born, who first and foremost attained to the knowledge
of God.

f. THE CHURCH, Old and New

St. Clement of Alexandria who proclaims the Church as a continuation of the

old one, confirms that she is new in Christ. He asserts that she never become old, for
the Holy Spirit always renews her youthfulness.

The new people, in contrast to the older people, are young, because they
have heard the new good things.


The earthly Church is usually described as the image of the heavenly one,
and that it is this ideal Church, "the church on high," which is more often the subject
of Clement's thought in the Stromata.
St. Clement of Alexandria states that the earthly Church is a copy of the
heavenly one, that is why we pray that God's will may be accomplished on earth as it
is in heaven . He also says that the perfect Gnostic, i.e., the spiritual believer practises
heavenly life while he is on earth, for he "will rest on God's holy mountain, the Church
on high, in which are assembled the philosophers of God, the authentic Israelites who
are pure in heart ... giving themselves over to the pure intuition of unending
contemplation." He also says: "If you enroll yourself as one of God's people, heaven
is your country, God your legislation."


St. Clement, as a churchman, looks at "unity as a natural characteristic of the

Church, who is united with one God, has one Bible and one Faith. He stresses on the
Church unity based on the "One Faith," asking us to avoid the heretics for they cause

Like God Himself the Church is one. St. Clement is firmly convinced that there
is only one universal Church as there is only one God the Father, one divine Word and
one Holy Spirit.

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K. Origen

He was a pupil of Clement of Alexandria, was a great scholar in the Church. As a prolific
writer he wrote many books in defense of Christianity including Against Celsus. One of his
monumental works was the Hexapla, an enormous edition of the Bible arranged in six columns. It
contained the text from the Hebrew scriptures, a Greek translation of the Hebrew, the
Septuagint, and the Greek versions by Symmachus, Aquila, and Theodotian. His life ended as a
teacher in Caesarea.

Ecclesiology of Origen

He referred to the Church mostly in his exegetical writings. He built his ecclesiological
concept on the insights of Irenaeus and Clement. He particularly reflected on Irenaeus’ idea of
apostolic succession as a uniting agent that preserves the Church’s integrity. He also carried
further Clement’s distinction between the true church and the church as an empirical institution.

The former, for Origen, is the Church, which Paul in his letter to the Ephesians called “not
having a stain or wrinkle, or any such blemish, but holy and blameless.” It embraces only those
who are perfect. It is heavenly and exists from the beginning of the world.

The empirical church is comprised of both the pure and sinful members. Origen
demonstrated the ecclesial perfectionists, saying that: “it is impossible for the Church to be
entirely purified while it is on earth.” Until the last judgment, the church will have both righteous
and sinners: “I can confidently say that the treasury of the Lord is his Church, and in that
treasury…there often lurk men who are vessels of wrath…chaff with the grain, and fish which
have to be thrown out and destroyed together with good fish which have all come into the net.”

Origen contemplated not only the differences, but also convergence between the two
parts of the Church – earthly and heavenly. The imperfect members need to grow to perfection.
The perfect and imperfect sides of the Church, therefore, are not irreconcilable parts that
endanger the church’s integrity. They give the members of the church an opportunity to grow and
to improve. They make the church dynamic and expanding.

At the same time, Origen did not fall into star struck dreams about the church. He was
realistic about the need for hierarchical structures and accepted that they play an important role
in preserving the church’s integrity.

L. St. Jerome

Jerome was a native of Venetia and was baptized in 360 and then became a wandering
student. A decade later, he followed a monastic life while he was learning Hebrew. He became
secretary to Damascus, the bishop of Rome in 382, who suggested that he might profitably make
a new translation of the Bible.

In 386 he went to Palestine where he lived in a monastic retreat in Bethlehem for 35


His translation of the Scriptures was in Latin and is known as the Vulgate. He went
beyond the Greek of the Septuagint to make Latin translation from the Hebrew Old Testament.
He finished his work around 405 and it became the only official Bible of the Roman Catholic
Church from the Council of Trent until recent times.

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He wrote many commentaries on the Bible and biographies of the leading Christian
writers and their works.

M. St. Ambrose of Milan

His abilities covered church administration, preaching and theology. His father held the
position of "prefect of Gaul" and thus was high in imperial circles in Rome. He was educated in law
for a political career. He in fact soon rose to the position of imperial governor of the area around

When the bishop of Milan died in 374, the people wanted him to take that position, so he
gave up his political position to become bishop, giving away his money to the poor and began an
intensive study of scripture and theology.

Ambrose was a fearless and able administrator. He spoke against the powerful Arian
groups. Once he even opposed Emperor Theodosius.

In 390, Emperor Theodosius gathered the people of Thessalonica, whose governor had
been slain and ordered their massacre. The emperor then came to church to participate in the
Lord's Table. Ambrose refused him admission until he humbly and publicly repented of this deed,
which he did.

Although he used the allegorical method of interpretation, he was an able preacher and
was instrumental in bringing Augustine to salvation.

He introduced congregational singing of hymns and antiphonal psalmody to the Western


Ecclesiology of St. Ambrose

Saint Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the

“The moon is in fact the Church… [she] shines not with her own light, but with the light of
Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32).

N. St. Augustine of Hippo

He was an able polemicist, a good preacher, a fine administrator, a superb theologian,

and the creator of a Christian philosophy of history that is still valid in its essentials. He was born in
354 into the home of a Roman official in the North African town of Thagaste. His mother, Monica,
prayed for his conversion. He was educated at the local school where he learned Latin but hated
Greek. After he went to Carthage to study rhetoric, he indulged his passions and fathered a son,
Adeodatus with a concubine in 372. In 373 he adopted Manichean teaching, but then turned to
philosophy after reading Cicero and the Neoplatonic teachings. He stayed in Carthage until he
went to Milan in 384.

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He converted to Christianity, dismissed his concubine, and gave up his profession of

rhetoric. His mother died shortly after his conversion. In 391 he was ordained priest in Carthage
and in 396 he was made bishop of Hippo where he remained until his death in 430.

He left over 100 books, 500 sermons and 200 letters. The Confessions was his
autobiography, which is viewed as one of the great ones of all times.

a. It describes his life before conversion.

b. The events surrounding his conversion.
c. The events after his conversion.
d. He also includes a commentary on the first chapters of Genesis which he often

His understanding and appreciation of grace is one of his greatest contributions.

 Retractationes or Revisions discusses his works in chronological order and points out
the changes he had made through the years.

 Contra Academicos is a philosophical work that tried to demonstrate that probably

truth through philosophical study may be achieved, but that certainty comes only
through Biblical revelation.

 De Doctrina Christiana is the most important exegetical work. It deals with

hermeneutics. In it he develops the principle of the "analogy of faith." This means
that no teaching contrary to the general tenor of scripture should be developed from
any particular passage.

 De Trinitate is the most significant theological work. De Haeresibus is a history of

heresies. He also wrote many letters which deal with the practical problems a pastor
will face in his ministry.

 He viewed his greatest work to be De Civitate Dei (The City of God) which is an
apologetic work designed to refute the idea that disaster had come to Rome because
they had forsaken the old classical Roman ways.

In his discussion of how man is saved, he so emphasized the importance of a visible

institution, with a true creed, sacraments and ministry that the Roman church considers him
their father. is philosophy of history is to be found in this work.

a. He viewed history as linear and not cyclical.

b. He saw God as sovereign-in time, but not bound.
c. He saw the difference between the earthly and heavenly.
d. He saw the battle between God and evil.
e. He saw true progress as being along moral lines.

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The third document issued by the Second Vatican Council, on November 21, 1964, is undoubtedly the
crown jewel—the impressive Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). It is one of the Council's
two major documents on the Church, the other being the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. The
former document is clearly devoted to describing the nature of the Church in her deepest identity, while the
latter is pastorally oriented toward her specific situation in the modern age, and her mode of action in
contemporary circumstances.

Why is it important we know what the Church is?

Understanding who are the Church & what is the Church influences how the Church understands itself
and it’s relation with the world.

Influences the understanding of

 The nature of salvation outside the Church;
 the approach towards other religions or ecumenism
 the college of bishops
 the purpose of the liturgy
 the role of the laity

Background to Vatican II Document Lumen Gentium

John XXIII in preparation for this topic received over 9000 documents on what the Church is. The
Major themes of the draft document on the Church were then prepared by the committees composed mostly
of the cardinal from the Roman Curia but were later on rejected by the Council Fathers:

 Nature of the Church Militant

 Authority of Bishops & Obedience
 Need of the Church for salvation
 Highest office of the Church was the Ordinary (bishops)
 Religious tolerance

The Draft was rejected by the majority of bishops because:

 Lacks organic unity & ignored the living structure of the Church
 Bishops wanted emphasis on “communion” & not on the hierarchical structure of the
 Focus on outward role of the Church; rejected inward looking
 Corporate Nature of the Church as Light to the World
 Rejection of clericalism & legalism approach

Lumen Gentium keystone of Vatican II:

 Deals with Nature & Purpose of the Church

 Communion, meaning fellowship is central & fundamental foundation of the Church “I no longer call you
servants, but friends” John 15:15
 Communion with God through the Scriptures & Sacraments
 Mystery of the Church not fully comprehended by humans as founded by God & work of God’s grace
(art 6 gives many images of Church)

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Themes of Lumen Gentium

 What is the Church?
 Church is organic as it continues to grow
 Church reflects the Light of Christ
 Church exists to bring people into communion with God & each other
 Church is the source of union & rallying point for humanity
 All are called to belong to the Church
 Art 6 gives different images of Church – field, vineyard to give different insights to
traits of the Church
 Sign and instrument of communion with God & unity of all – the Church is Sacrament
Makes visible the invisible & visible structure communicates the Truth
 Visible & Invisible elements show Divine & human nature of the Church
 The Church is the People of God, chosen by God, called to salvation & to proclaim
Gospel for the salvation of the World

Chapters in Lumen Gentium

Chapter I: The Mystery of the Church

Chapter II: On the People of God
Chapter III: On the Hierarchical Structure of the Church
Chapter IV: The Laity
Chapter V: The Universal Call to Holiness in the Church
Chapter VI: Religious
Chapter VII: The Eschatological Nature of the Church
Chapter VIII: The Blessed Virgin Mary in the Mystery of Christ and the Church
Conclusion: Ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium

Chapter 1 – Mystery of the Church

Art 2: the Church is found in the Old Testament (present in figure) in the history of Israel and
the old Alliance (covenant)

Art 3: Jesus carries out the Will of the Father & inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth; the
Origin & Growth of Church is symbolized by blood & water that flowed from Jesus’ side - John 19:34

Art 4: the Father sends the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to continue to sanctify the Church;
guiding her to all Truths

Nature of the Church Reflects the Trinity

The primary role of the Church, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is to proclaim the Gospel
of Jesus Christ, in order that all might have an opportunity to receive Christ. Jesus’ act of love was not
so he could be anyone’s personal Savior. His dying on the Cross was an act of love for the world, by
which all are called to be in union with Christ, and God’s love continues to flow to us through the Holy
Spirit. The Spirit is the one who leads those who are lost to find eternal life. We the Church receive all
that we need from the Spirit in order to be provided the means for holiness. Our pursuit of holiness is
tied to the Spirit. The Spirit is also relevant to how unity is established. It is established through
pursuing God-like love.

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The unity of love present in the Trinity is the same love that binds us together. The depth of
this love cannot be fully understood by humanity. However, it can be understood much better by
coming to know what it is built on – Jesus Christ. Through Baptism we in a mysterious way become
one body. We all make up this Body of Christ. Connectedness to this Body is to lead to a profound
concern for all. There is both a human and a divine element to the Church, but it is one Holy and
Universal and Apostolic Church. We are sanctified through the cross and provided strength through
his Church. We receive the grace to overcome through the gifts of patience and love. If we remain
faithful, we succeed in announcing Christ to the world.

Chapter 2 – The People of God

The Church exists for Salvation; is Salvation possible outside the Church?

Reformation & Council of Trent

Protestant idea of the Church was invisible union of the members and that they were God’s
elect Catholic response in Trent was on the visible membership of the Church for Salvation with
bishops, laws & creeds

No salvation outside the Church

Yet many elements of the Church are found outside her – Scripture and acts of Charity

Time of the Council of Trent:

Tension between the Church as source of Salvation & no salvation outside the Church “But
you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare
the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light”. 1Peter 9

Art 14: the Catholic Church is a “pilgrim” church & Christ is necessary for salvation; those fully
incorporated into the Church are given access to all means of Salvation

Art 14: Fully incorporation without charity – not saved (rejection of “faith” alone); sacraments not
automatic path to Heaven.

Is Salvation possible outside the Church?

Art 15: the Church joined to those who are baptized & hold Sacred Scripture in honor as rule of Faith &
Life, celebrate the Eucharist & honor Mary are recognized as part of the “invisible” Church

Art 16: “those who have not received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways” –
those of the Jewish and Islamic traditions; those who seek with a sincere heart, moved by grace and try
in their actions to do His will

The fullness of Christ resides in the Church, but does not exclude elements of Faith & Truth found outside

Is there need then to evangelize?

Art 17: the Son himself sent the apostles saying, “go therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” John 20:21

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Art 17: The Church is driven to do her part to realize the plan of God in its fullness for the salvation of
the world

Art 17: Each disciple of Christ has the obligation of spreading the faith to the best of their ability

All elements – belief, desire and charity are considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel

It is in the unity of belief that the truth of faith is plainly seen and becomes clear to
unbelievers. The Spirit provides each of us individual gifts in order for us to become exactly who we
were created to be. The use of these graces is what forms us into a community – The People of God.
Unity is so important in the plan of God that He became one of us in Jesus, so we might realize better
the divine beauty of oneness. We are to understand that the Church is necessary for salvation
according to Scripture and Tradition, for it is in the Church that we are to encounter Christ who is The
Way. It is in encountering Christ that a heart can learn to be rooted in Christ and live for others. Those
who seek Christ in other churches are linked to us through Scripture, prayer, love, and in specific

There are also many who are not Christian and yet remain connected to the People of God. It
is the person who persists in evil and desires to foster despair that ultimately cuts off any relationship
to the People of God. The key law of membership is simple: to love as Christ loved. The Catholic Church
remains the sign of unity and is a sacrament of salvation for all. God saves us not as individuals but as
the People of God.

Chapter 3 - The Church is Hierarchal

Christ entrusted the apostles with the mission of leading, assigning Peter as the head. Their
successors, the bishops, are entrusted with the same mission until the end of the world. The bishops
are to work with each other and with the pope to lead the People of God. The bishop’s highest
priorities are to lead the people towards order, harmony, and unity. It is in the fullness of the
priesthood that a bishop is spiritually named as one who will take the place of Christ for us.

 The episcopal consecration empowers a bishop to sanctify, teach, and lead.

 They must lead bound together in relationship to all bishops and in a more special
way with the pope. This is vital to the hierarchal order.
 The bishops serve as a sign of unity in their own diocese. Preaching the Gospel is their
number one priority.
 They are to also ensure that the People of God have access to the Sacraments,
especially to the Eucharist.
 The bishop is responsible for the souls of those given to him by Christ.

A bishop requires assistance in carrying out the mission of the Church. Therefore God
established two levels of ministry to help in the cause – priest and deacon.

The priest becomes the representative of the bishop, and as such, works in conjunction with
the bishop. The priest effort is pastoral in nature. They are to look after the spiritual needs of their
parishioners. The deacon is ordained to the ministry of service. Through sacramental grace they are
committed to serve in the ministry of word, liturgy, and charity. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church is
firmly established in Scripture and Tradition.

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Chapter 4 – The Laity

The laity is most responsible for bringing holy order to the world. The laity profoundly
evangelize by how they live their everyday lives. Life is meant to be a vocation whereby each person
seeks out the will of God in his or her everyday work. The laity will certainly be attacked throughout
time, and a lay person, just like the ordained and religious, has an obligation to develop their faith so
they can gain the spiritual necessities to fend off that which is evil. Their life is to be about love and the
love the laity is to aim for is to express mercy, humility, and patience. There is a distinct and a unique
call for each of us to reveal love. The personal gift’s each of us receives determines in a real way the
path we are to take. These gifts are to be accepted in faith, accepting them as holy and a treasured gift
from God.

Chapter 5 The Call to Holiness

Art 39: Christ gave himself up for the Church; therefore all in the Church, whether they belong to the
hierarchy or cared for by it, are called to holiness.

Art 40: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48

Art 40: All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life

Art 41: “each one according to their own gifts & duties, must steadfastly advance along the way of a
living faith

All are called to holiness, regardless of state or condition of life, not just ordained & religious
“God is loves, and he who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him” 1John 4:16

Art 42: the First & most necessary gift is Charity by which we show love to God & our neighbor; but for
it to grow, it is necessary to hear the Word of God; frequent participation in the Sacraments, prayer,
service & self-denial

Holiness is only possible through the grace of God. We must always remember that the
People of God are never as holy as God would like them to be. Our vision needs to be about
reunification, justice based on human dignity, and a preference of love to be given to poor and
marginalized. The key to holiness rests in love – love of God. This call to holiness is from Christ himself.
It is the Holy Spirit who moves us closer to God’s holiness.

Chapter 6 – The Religious Orders

The vast majority of those called to live out holiness in religious orders must practice poverty,
chastity, and obedience. These vows allow a community to be set free from certain obstacles that can
get in the way of them specifically worshipping God.

Religious orders must cooperate with the bishop, in serving in ministries needed in the
diocese. The calling to religious life is to be praised for its rightful place, and those in religious life are
significantly useful to society. They are to be an inspiration and model for others to follow.

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Chapter 7 – The Eschatological Nature of the Church

Paul VI sought to honor Pope John XXIII request that the Council address our connectedness
to the saints. The reality is we are all travelling through time and place and on-the-way to the reign of
God. We are to realize that we must live for the One who died for us if there is to be hope for us. To be
wide-awake to the realization that heaven is but a breath away. The promise from Jesus is that we are
to become like God. We are in a special way connected to all those who have attained Christ’s
promise. Those in heaven are much more secure and alive in God’s holiness. They are the ultimate
witnesses of faith and love. We are too be inspired by them, so we might be transformed in our life
into the likeness of Jesus as well.

Our union in the Mystical Body of Christ is never more real than when we participate in the
Sacred Liturgy/the Mass. Celebrating the Eucharist closely unites us to the Church in heaven. We are
together in communion with those in heaven and we worship God together, through Christ, in the
Spirit. All though we cannot fully grasp all the details, the final destiny of human beings and the world
is revealed.

Chapter VIII – On Mary

Initially at the Council, there was a call for a separate document on Mary, the Mother of God
But the Council Fathers recognized Mary, the Mother of God as an example for the Church, the People
of God in her fellowship with us!

Biblical references of Lumen Gentium allows Mary to be understood in Scriptural terms Lumen
Gentium Chapter VIII is a powerful treatment of Catholic understanding of Mary & essential reading for
any Marian follower.

God sent His Son… born of a woman.. Gal 4:4

Art 52: “He, for us men and our salvation, came down from Heaven and was incarnated by the Holy
Spirit for the Virgin Mary” – the faithful recognize Mary’s role

Art 53: Acknowledged & honored as Mother of God & of the Redeemer; & been of the family of Adam,
she is united to all who are to be saved

Art 55: Articles of both Old & New Testament show the role of Mary in the plan of Salvation – Gen 3:15;
Is 7:14; Matt 1:22-23

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1Tim2:5

Art 60: Mary’s function as mother in no way obscures or diminishes this mediator role of Christ,
however, it should be understood that it shows its power; Mary’s influence originates in the
disposition of God & flows from the superabundance of the merits of Christ, depending on His role as

Art 62: The Virgin Mary is given many titles such as Advocate and Helper but this “neither takes away
anything from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ as the one Mediator”

Art 62: “No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer, but just as
the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by His ministers & the faithful….gives rise to a
sharing in the one source

The Church does not hesitate to profess the subordinate role of Mary

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Our devotion to Mary is out of love and respect to God and His plan. It does not and is not
intended to diminish the truth that Christ alone is our mediator. Mary is a great helper to us as we seek
the road to holiness. She was human and as such was forced to face temptation. She did not cave in to
temptation but endured in all things. She is the model of virtue. By meditating on her, we grow more
like her Son. We honor and have piety toward Mary for no other reason than to better know Christ and
to open the whole world up to receiving the graces of Christ. The Second Vatican Council encouraged
people to cultivate a loving devotion to Mary and strongly urged theologians and pastors to abstain
from gross exaggerations and or neglectful omission in considering the dignity of Mary. Mary’s place is
with God in heaven. Christians are called to understand as Mary did, that in the end truth will prevail,
as all things are restored in Christ.

Work of the Holy Spirit

The Council is a Faith Event where the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit. After the first draft
of Lumen Gentium which gave attention to the hierarchy & sacramental nature of the Church, the
speech given by Cardinal Suenens highlighted the charismatic nature of Church.

Art 12: “Allotting his gifts accordingly as He will (Cor 12:11), He also distributes special graces among the
faithful of every rank… for the renewal & building up of the Church… “the manifestation of the Spirit
is given to everyone for profit”

Work of the Holy Spirit & The Charismatic Movement

 Nature of the Church is charismatic - Catholic Catechism 749

 Charismatic movements recognized by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square in 1998
– Year of the Holy Spirit;
 gave recognition to charismatic movements Institution & Charismatics are essential
to the nature of the Church

Since Vatican II, there is a vast outpouring of graces with growth in lay & religious movements
Existence of Third Orders, groups, lay foundations exploded after Vatican II.


 Understanding what the Church is helps us understand the role & mission of the Church
 the Church is a sign & instrument of God
 Fellowship or communion in the Church reflects communion or fellowship found within the Trinity
 ALL are called to holiness, with Mary as example of responding to this call
 Lumen Gentium lays the groundwork for other documents & later encyclicals

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council provide us with a great challenge. The challenge is whether
we will get fully engaged in trying to become the best we can become. The best is possible when we engage
God, when we become united in Christ, and are fed together by him. What we need to understand and accept
is that the holiness of the Church flows from Christ despite the sinful nature of the People of God. You see the
Church itself is Lumen Gentium – which means: Light of the Nations. It is through oneness to Christ and his
Church that we will achieve perfection one day in the glory of God’s presence.

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His Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, (Benedict XVI)
Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
Excerpts from the Lecture during the Pastoral Congress of the Diocese of Aversa (Italy)
dedicated to a re-reading of the documents of
the Second Vatican Council. 2001

I. The Church, the Body of Christ

The Church is much more than an organization: it is the organism of the Holy Spirit, something
that is alive, that takes hold of our inmost being. This consciousness found verbal expression with the
concept of the "Mystical Body of Christ", a phrase describing a new and liberating experience of the
Church. At the very end of his life, in the same year the Constitution on the Church was published by
the Council, Romano Guardini wrote: the Church "is not an institution devised and built by men ... but a
living reality.... It lives still throughout the course of time. Like all living realities it develops, it changes
... and yet in the very depths of its being it remains the same; its inmost nucleus is Christ.... To the
extent that we look upon the Church as organization ... like an association ... we have not yet arrived
at a proper understanding of it. Instead, it is a living reality and our relationship with it ought to be—
life" (La Chiesa del Signore, [English translation: "The Church of the Lord"]; Morcelliana, Brescia 1967,
p. 160).

The Church grows from within and moves outwards, not vice-versa. Above all, she is the sign
of the most intimate communion with Christ. She is formed primarily in a life of prayer, the sacraments
and the fundamental attitudes of faith, hope and love. Thus if someone should ask what must I do to
become Church and to grow like the Church, the reply must be: you must become a person who lives
faith, hope, and charity. What builds the Church is prayer and the communion of the sacraments; in
them the prayer of the Church comes to meet us.

The communitarian nature of the Church necessarily entails its character as "we". The Church
is not somewhere apart from us, it is we who constitute the Church. No one person can say "I am the
Church", but each one of us can and ought to say, "we are the Church". This "we" does not represent
an isolated group, but rather a group that exists within the entire community of all Christ's members,
living and dead. This is how a group can genuinely say: "we are the Church". Here is the Church, in this
open "we" that breaches social and political boundaries and the boundary between heaven and earth
as well. We are the Church. This gives rise to a co-responsibility and also the possibility of collaborating
personally. From this understanding there derives the right to criticize but our criticism must be above
all self-criticism. Let us repeat: the Church is not "somewhere else"; nor is she "someone else". We
ourselves build the Church.

"Eucharistic Ecclesiology"

Further research led to a fresh awareness. Above all, more than anyone else, the great French
theologian Henri de Lubac in his magnificent and learned studies made it clear that in the beginning
the term "corpus mysticum" referred to the Eucharist. For St Paul and the Fathers of the Church the
idea of the Church as the Body of Christ was inseparably connected with the concept of the Eucharist
in which the Lord is bodily present and which He gives us His Body as food. This is how a Eucharistic
ecclesiology came into existence.

What do we mean today by "Eucharistic ecclesiology"? I will attempt to answer this question
with a brief mention of some fundamental points. The first point is that Jesus' Last Supper could be
defined as the event that founded the Church. Jesus gave His followers this Liturgy of Death and

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Resurrection and at the same time He gave them the Feast of Life. In the Last Supper he repeats the
covenant of Sinai—or rather what at Sinai was a simple sign or prototype, that becomes now a
complete reality: the communion in blood and life between God and man. Clearly the Last Supper
anticipates the Cross and the Resurrection and presupposes them, otherwise it would be an empty
gesture. This is why the Fathers of the Church could use a beautiful image and say that the Church was
born from the pierced side of the Lord, from which flowed blood and water.

When I state that the Last Supper is the beginning of the Church, I am actually saying the
same thing, from another point of view. This formula means that the Eucharist binds all men together,
and not just with one another, but with Christ; in this way it makes them "Church". At the same time
the formula describes the fundamental constitution of the Church: the Church exists in Eucharistic
communities. The Church's Mass is her constitution, because the Church is, in essence, a Mass (sent
out: "missa"), a service of God, and therefore a service of man and a service for the transformation of
the world.

II. The Church, as the People of God

The Church has not yet reached her goal. Her true and proper hope still lies ahead of her. The
"eschatological" import of the concept of Church became clear. The phrase conveys the unity of
salvation history which comprises both Israel and the Church in her pilgrim journey. The phrase
expresses the historical nature of the pilgrim Church that will not be wholly herself until the paths of
time have been traversed and have blossomed in the hands of God. It describes the unity of the
People of God amid the variety, as in all peoples, of different ministries and services; yet above and
beyond all distinctions, all are pilgrims in the one community of the pilgrim People of God.

The expression 'People of God' describes the relationship with God, the connection with God,
the link between God and those designated as the People of God, it is therefore a 'vertical
relationship'. The expression does not lend itself easily to a description of the hierarchical structure of
this community.

The Church does not exist for herself; rather, she is God's instrument to gather mankind in
Himself and to prepare for that time when "God will be all in all" (I Cor 15,28).

It expresses the ecumenical dimension, that is the variety of ways in which communion and
ordering to the Church can and do exist, even beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church.

III. The Church, as Communio (Ecclesiology of Communion)

The point of departure of communio is clearly evident in this passage: the union with the Son
of God, Jesus Christ, who comes to mankind through the proclamation of the Church. Fellowship
(communio) among men is born here and merges into fellowship (communio) with the One and Triune
God. One gains access to communion with God through the realization of God's communion with
man—it is Christ in person.

To meet Christ creates communion with Him and therefore with the Father in the Holy Spirit.

The Fathers recognized the internal theology of creation. Beginning with Christology this
image was amplified and deepened: they explained history—under the influence of the Old
Testament—as a story of love between God and man. God finds and prepares a Bride for His Son—the
unique Bride who is the unique Church. In the light of Genesis 2,24, where man and woman become
"two in one flesh" the image of the Bride merges with the idea of the Church as the Body of Christ—

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an analogy derived from the Eucharistic liturgy. The unique Body of Christ is prepared; Christ and the
Church will be "two in one flesh", one body and in this way "God will be everything to everyone". The
ontological priority of the universal Church—the unique Church, the unique Body, the unique Bride—
vis-à-vis the empirical, concrete manifestations of various, particular Churches.

IV. The Church of Vatican II

To understand the ecclesiology of Vatican II one cannot ignore chapters 4 to 7 of the

Constitution Lumen Gentium. These chapters discuss the laity, the universal call to holiness, the
religious and the eschatological orientation of the Church. In these chapters the inner goal of the
Church, the most essential part of its being, comes once again to the fore: holiness, conformity to God.

There must exist in the world space for God, where he can dwell freely so that the world
becomes His "Kingdom". Holiness is something greater than a moral quality. It is the presence of God
with men, of men with God; it is God's "tent" pitched amongst men in our midst (cf. Jn 1,14). It is a new
birth—not from flesh and blood but from God (Jn 1,13). Orientation towards holiness is one and the
same as eschatological orientation. Beginning with Jesus' message it is fundamental for the Church.
The Church exists to become God's dwelling place in the world, to become "holiness".

In any event I believe it was appropriate to insert the Marian element directly into the
doctrine on the Church. In this way the point of departure for our consideration is once more
apparent: the Church is not an apparatus, nor a social institution, nor one social institution among
many others. It is a person. It is a woman. It is a Mother. It is alive. A Marian understanding of the
Church is totally opposed to the concept of the Church as a bureaucracy or a simple organization. We
cannot make the Church, we must be the Church. We are the Church, the Church is in us only to the
extent that our faith more than action forges our being. Only by being Marian, can we become the
Church. At its very beginning the Church was not made, but given birth. She existed in the soul of Mary
from the moment she uttered her fiat. This is the most profound will of the Council: the Church should
be awakened in our souls. Mary shows us the way.

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Christ established only one Church. From the moment he created it, it has existed continually and it
will always exist. In this Church alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted. So there is only
one Church, not many. The Church doesn’t come and go with the changes of history. “This one Church of
Christ, which we confess in the Creed [is] one, holy, catholic and apostolic.… This Church, constituted and
organized in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the
Bishops in communion with him.” The true Church then has these four “marks”. The true Church has this
particular hierarchical structure.

In Lumen Gentium, no. 8, “subsistence” means this perduring (enduring, never ending), historical
continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church, in which the
Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth. It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm
correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial communities not yet
fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are
present in them. Nevertheless, the word “subsists” can be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely
because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe… in the “one”
Church); and this One Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

A. The Church is ONE

What is an immediate, practical value of the four marks?

They help distinguish the true Pilgrim Church on earth from any others that claim to be Christ’s Church.

How do we know that the Catholic Church possesses the four marks of the Church?

Through faith and the historical record.

Where does the Church get these four marks, or characteristics?

She receives them from God. Extension: Eyes of faith only can recognize that these marks are because
of her divine origin, but the historical manifestations of these marks are signs that speak clearly to human

What does it mean to say the Church is One?

The Church is unique and singular. Christ has instituted one Church rather than multiple churches.
Extension: One way of understanding this is that Jesus Christ has not forged multiple paths to salvation but
one way only.

How many “flocks” did Christ intend to have?

Just “one flock,” having “one shepherd.”

What did Christ mean when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father,
but by me”?

He is the only way to salvation.

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Why is one Church enough?

Having establishing the Church on earth, Christ gives all people the opportunity to be united to him,
the one Savior of the world, by becoming part of his one Mystical Body.

What is a second meaning of the statement, “The Church is One”?

The unity and solidarity of the Church.

Why is one Church enough?

Having establishing the Church on earth, Christ gives all people the opportunity to be united to him,
the one Savior of the world, by becoming part of his one Mystical Body.

What is a second meaning of the statement, “The Church is One”?

The unity and solidarity of the Church.

What is perhaps the best image to express the unity of the Church?

The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ.

How does the Mystical Body of Christ express the unity of the Church?

In the Mystical Body of Christ, the many diverse members of the Church are united to Christ the Head to
form the whole Christ, united and animated by the Holy Spirit, the “soul” of the Mystical Body.

What are the three visible ways, or attributes, of the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ?

Unity of faith, worship, and leadership.

What does it mean to say that the unity of the Church will perdure?

The unity achieved at the beginning of the Church’s life will never disappear.

What are the three types of ruptures that wound the unity of Christ’s Body?

Heresy, apostasy, and schism.

• What is apostasy?
• Apostasy is the total rejection of the Christian Faith by someone who has been
• What is heresy?
• Heresy is the deliberate and persistent denial by one who has been baptized of a
truth of the Faith taught by the Church.
• What is schism?
• Schism is the refusal by one who has been baptized of unity with the Pope or the
refusal of communion with the members of the Church.

• Can a non-Christian be a heretic or schismatic or be in a state of apostasy?

• No. These are states that only a baptized member of the Church can possess.

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Jesus prayed before He died that the Church would be in unity with one another as Jesus was
with the Father; the gift of unity in the Church is essential. The ultimate example of the Church’s unity
is that of the three Divine Persons in the Trinity, creating one God together.

We are brought in to unity with the Trinity as part of the one Church. That unity with God was
hurt by Adam and Eve’s sin, yet Jesus brought us all back into unity with Himself and the Trinity by His
death, collecting us all into Himself and making the Church united.

The Church is also one because of the Holy Spirit, since the Spirit can be seen as the soul of
the Church that lives within all the Church’s members, bringing them closer to one another and Christ
in word and deed.

• Unity should not be confused with uniformity; as mentioned before, the Church is full of
diverse people, all of whom are not expected to strive to be the same as a fellow Church
• People are diverse and so are the gifts they receive, yet they receive such gifts all from the
same unified one Holy Spirit.
• We are a Church of many nations and people, yet we all possess a single citizenship: that of a
citizenship in Heaven as a people of God.

B. The Church is HOLY

What is the origin of the holiness of the Church?

The Church receives her holiness from Christ her Founder through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

What means does the Church possess to sanctify people?

The teachings of Christ, the Sacraments, and the life of prayer.

Why does Christ make the Church Holy?

Christ loves the Church as his Bride and so makes her holy, as he is holy.

How is the Church Holy if her members are sinners?

The Church’s holiness is not defiled by the presence of sinners; rather, her holiness transforms sinners into
saints if they live her life.

What is the effect of the sins of individual members of the Church on people outside the Church?

Our sins obscure the Church’s holiness in the eyes of the world. Extension: Because people tend to notice
other’s sins and but are blind to their own, critics may accuse the Church of hypocrisy or failure without
recognizing or while minimizing their own.

What is the antidote to the sins of individual members of the Church?

Purification, penance, and renewal.

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The Church depends on God’s free gift of grace completely to be holy.

The Church has the Holy Spirit active in Her existence, gaining for us holy people like the saints as examples
of how we are to be holy, i.e. Mary was perfectly holy by God’s grace and is an example of how we are to be
holy and respond to God’s calling for each of us.

We see the human element of the Church all around us in the people gathered in the physical building of
the Church, the leaders of the Church, and such things as the Bible and religious icons. But the Church is more
than what just meets the eye; she is the bearer of the invisible divine life with God.

The Holy Spirit helps us see with the eyes of faith the union of both human and divine elements by way of
putting us in communication with the divine through what we see at Mass and in Church. The earthly structure
of the Church only exists for the sole purpose of sanctifying her members and making them holy so as to fulfill
God’s will, even despite our failings.

The Church is holy because God created her, Jesus loves and gave up His life for her, and the Holy Spirit
dwells in her so she may have life. The Church is also holy because God has made the Church an instrument of
salvation, allowing her to sanctify through Holy Scripture, the Sacraments, models of holiness, and the
leadership of the Apostles and their successors.

Love is at the heart of holiness and is the means by which the Church sanctifies her members. We are all
called to love, whether married, single, priest, religious, etc., in different ways through the example of God’s
love found in Scripture and the Sacraments.

The Holy Spirit is the first to move in our lives; otherwise, if left up to our own accord, we probably would
never choose to seek Him or holiness. The gift of grace allows us to cooperate with the Spirit to grow closer to
God and His holiness. God made us to be in loving communion with Him, yet with grace comes freedom, and
we either have the freedom to participate in His grace or deny it completely.

With all this talk about grace, it is important to know that there are different types of grace that are given
by the Holy Spirit.

• Sanctifying Grace is the grace that heals our human nature wounded by sin and restores us to
friendship with God, infused into our souls by the Holy Spirit that help us to continually make us holy.
We receive sanctifying grace at Baptism and is always with us, helping us to live according to God’s will
for us.

• Habitual grace, meaning it is a stable and supernatural disposition. Habitual grace differs from Actual
Grace, or God’s intervention and support for us in the everyday moments of our lives or during a
conversion, since actual grace occurs at a specific moment, while habitual grace is stable and lifelong.

• Sacramental Grace are gifts that are associated with each of the Sacraments. Grace comes from the
Sacraments since Christ instituted them and works through them.

C. The Church is CATHOLIC

• When we say the Catholic Church is “catholic,” we are actually referring to meaning of the word
catholic, which means “universal.”
• The Church is present around the world, in communion with the bishops and the Pope, making it
• The Church is Catholic because she has a universal authority to fulfill her universal mission.

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• The word catholic comes from the Greek word katholikos, which means “universal.”
• But notice how the word catholic is not with a capital “c” when we speak about catholic as
one of the four marks of the Catholic Church.
• The Catholic Church is catholic.
• The Church is catholic in two senses by:
• Because Christ is present in her (The Church has it all)
• She has been sent on a mission by Christ to all people of the world to gather all into the People of God
(The Church calls to all)
• Therefore, the Catholic Church is “catholic,” or universal, because she possesses the total means of
salvation for all people.
• Catholic refers to the Catholic Church founded by Christ; catholic refers to the Church having the
fullness of Christ in her and her mission to all people.
• The Church does not only affiliated themselves with people who are Catholic and Christian; the Church
also has special relationships with the other 4 billion people who are non Christians.
• The Church recognizes other non Christian religions seek God and that goodness and truth can be
found in them.
• These religions prepare people for the Gospel message preached by Christ.
• The Church seeks dialogue with other religions by bearing witness to Her own faith, as well as seeing
the good that can be found in other faiths that do not distort the image of God.

D. The Church is CATHOLIC

The Church is apostolic because she was founded on the Apostles. Jesus sent out His Apostles to perform
the Father’s mission on Earth, the mission He started. The bishops of the world are the successors of the
Apostles and the Pope is the head of the Church, just as Jesus gave Peter that leadership position before His

What is the parallel between the Twelve Apostles and the twelve ministers of Solomon?

Solomon appointed twelve ministers to assist him in ruling his kingdom, and Christ appointed twelve
Apostles to assist him in ruling his kingdom.

What tasks did Christ give his Apostles the authority to carry out?

To teach, sanctify, and govern his Church.

According to the Catechism, no. 861, how did the Apostles pass on their authority?

They appointed their immediate collaborators to carry on their work and directed those men to appoint
other proven men to take over their ministry when they died.

How can the true Church of Christ on earth be recognized?

One test is whether the church in question can be shown to be led by shepherds who received their
mission and powers from the Apostles through an uninterrupted chain of lawful succession. Extension: The
true Church of Christ possesses all four marks of the Church, including apostolicity.

What reflects a bishop’s direct link with the Apostles?

The laying on of hands.

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Jesus commanded the Apostles to spread the teachings they heard from Christ to all people and all nations
throughout the world. Thus, the teachings of Jesus are passed from one generation to the next, in word and

Sacred Tradition, from the Latin tradere, means “to hand on;” referring to the passing of the Gospel
message beginning with oral communication, then the writing of the oral tradition down and forming
Scripture, to being interpreted by the hierarchy of the Church through guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The Church is the source of faith. It is important to remember that faith is not something we are born with;
it is something we receive from others, such as the Church. Therefore, we too are called to pass the faith on to
others so they can do the same. In this way, Apostolic succession assures us that the leaders of the Church are
teaching what the Apostles taught themselves 2000 years ago.

The source of all apostolate for the Church is Christ. The essential nature of the apostolate is love since we
are sometimes called to either love or not love throughout daily life. Every member of the Church has a
vocation to the Apostolate, or the Christian’s activity that fulfills the apostolic nature of the whole Church
when they work to extend the reign of Christ to the entire world. The entire Church is apostolic since she is in
communion with the life and faith of the Apostles, as well as their mission to spread the Good News to the
entire world.

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337 (SPCK, 1957, 1987)
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the Church, AD 337-461 (SPCK, 1966, 1989)
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Frances Young, The Making of the Creeds (Trinity Press International, 1991)

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