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Brookline Carmel Bulletin                        

December 11, 1960

Cogitatio Sancta

(Holy Meditation)


The Church – Visible Cause of Sanctification



The sanctifying influence of God, Christ, Our Lady, the Angels and Saints is secret and hidden from our eyes.  We know of it only through Faith; it doesn’t make itself felt.  We humans are, however, composites.  We have a material body as well as a spiritual soul.  For the sake of reassurance, then, we need to have also some tangible source of holiness, something visible to which we may have ready recourse.  So, by the Will of God and the design of Jesus Christ, we have the Church.  She is more than just tangible and visible.  She is solid and enduring as rock; She dominates History in the same way a massive mountain dominates a surrounding plain.


The Church is Jesus Christ extended throughout space and time, His Mystical Body.  Together with its Head, the historical Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, this Body forms the whole Christ.  God has willed that Jesus be the sole source and fount of holiness.  Because He never acts except in and with and through Her, the Church is also, therefore, a fount of holiness; all salvation and sanctification is wrought by her.  If, at times, and quite exceptionally, God sanctifies souls by acting directly in them, i.e., without the immediate physical intervention of the Church, it does not mean Her influence is wanting.  For those persons who are juridically outside the Church She obtains graces of salvation through the merits of Her prayer and sacrificial action.  It is always true in the wide sense:  Outside the Church there is no salvation.


Theologians, with their customary flair for clarity and precision, distinguish three modes of activity in Christ:  the merely human, the purely divine, and Theandric.  Under the last label are classified all the works produced in collaboration by His divine and human natures.  E.g., “…He put His fingers into the man’s ears, and spitting, He touched his tongue.  And looking up to Heaven, He sighed and said to him ‘Ephpheta,’ that is, ‘Be thou opened.’  (Mark VII: 33,34)  High on the list of theandric actions are the works of redemption and sanctification wrought by Him.  We find something like this kind of activity true of the Church, especially in the administration of the Sacraments.  The latter are external, symbolic rites consisting of human activity:  words, gestures, etc.  Of themselves, they are incapable of producing supernatural effects.  But when performed by the Church, i.e., by a person duly ordained and authorized to act in Her name, they produce Sanctifying Grace.  Jesus was constituted the Christ, the Anointed One, by the decree of the Triune God, which united the Divine Nature with a Human Nature in the unique Person of the Word of God.  Theandric action has its basis in this union.  Jesus in turn instituted the Sacraments and gave them to the Church to administer.  She carries on His redemptive, salvific, sanctifying work; she is, therefore, ‘Christ’ to men of all times and all generations.  St. Paul once aid:  Jesus Christ if the same, yesterday and today, yes, and forever (Heb. 13: 8).  We may say the same of the Church.  It doesn’t matter who fills the ranks of the Hierarchy, who the ranks of the faithful; Her organic structure does not change; She doesn’t lose Her identity.


The Church penetrates into every level or society.  Among her members are numbered the poorest and humblest of suffering mankind as well as Kings and Presidents enjoying the utmost in influence and prestige.  Where Her members are, so is She, sanctifying, just as Jesus sanctified every phase of human existence from the cradle to the grave.  As mentioned previously, everything the members of Christ do in union with Him and in conformity to His Will is sacred and sanctifying.  Because of the Church, natural institutions such as family life, education, capital, labor, commerce, politics, etc. are rendered holy and pleasing to God.  This last statement may surprise the reader.  Can we really say that family life, education, labor, etc. are pleasing God nowadays?  Indeed, we have to contend with a more fundamental objection:  “How can we say the Church is a source of holiness if we find among Her members robbers, adulterers, murderers, liars, drunkards, blasphemers?  It’s very simple.  Being a member of the Mystical Body does not take away one’s autonomy.  We remain free.  Whether or not we are vivified by the Holy Spirit, the Soul of the Church, is up to each individual member to determine.  Unfortunately, some prefer to remain ‘dead’ members.  Nevertheless, even we who strive to be true to our vocation as members of Christ’s Body are not altogether free from sin.  But if we persevere, we will eventually be sanctified.  For the truth is, the Church was founded for sinners.  And so the Church is like leaven.  Its members, as we said, are found everywhere.  If every one of them were profoundly imbued with the Spirit of Jesus, the whole of society, family, neighborhood, civic, national, international would be transformed.  The entire human family of men and nations would mirror divine perfection; it would be sanctified.

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