The Constitution on the Church "Lumen Gentium" Of the II Vatican Council (1962-1965)
October 28, 2012 The readings of today invite us to continue our reflection on the Church, according to the Document of the Vatican Council. In the first reading, the people of God, the remnant of Israel, is the community of those who are saved by God and go back together to the presence of the Lord. God is a Father for Israel. Israel is figure of the Church. In the Psalm, Israel shows the nations the great works God did for them. The second reading speaks about priesthood, which is part of the structure of the Church, and is exercised by men among the flock, weak and sinners. To these men belongs the task of offering sacrifices for sins, first for themselves and also for the sins of the people. Finally the Gospel shows us a blind man who receives light from Jesus, and then follows Jesus. The Church is the community of those who by faith welcome Jesus, the Light of the World, and follow him in the works of grace.
Let's see today some of the contents of Lumen Gentium, the constitution of the Church of the second Vatican Council. Let me first briefly present the eight chapters of the document, and finally a short explanation of only one point. For reasons of space is not possible to take into account many of the important issues treated in this beautiful document, which you will never regret reading.
The Constitution on the Church has eight chapters.
1) The Mystery of the Church: we see here her sacramental nature and the reason why the Church was established by God. There are various biblical images of Church: body of Christ, vine, spiritual building, flock... We see what the Bible says about the mystery of the Church.
2) The People of God. We see here in general the members of the Church, and how other people are related to the Church: non-Catholic Christians, and non-Christians.
3) Hierarchical Structure of the Church, with Special Reference to the Episcopate. The 1st Vatican Council had in its business to treat not only the figure of the pope, but also the figure of the bishops in relation to the authority of the pope. But after they talked about the pope, the war began, and they couldn't continue. That's why one of the tasks of the II Vatican Council was to complete the doctrine of the Church regarding the bishops. This chapter III is for this reason one of the most important texts of the Vatican Council.
4) Laity: it clarifies the proper role of the lay people in the Church and in the world, as those who sanctify the world from within, those who subdue the earth according to the commandment of God, and bring back the world to God by offering themselves as a living sacrifice in the Eucharistic celebration. If anyone wants to understand the dignity and the mission of a lay person in the Church, please read this chapter.
5) Call to Holiness. After seeing the members of the Church in particular, we move now to the goal or end of the Church: holiness and communion with God. Everyone in the Church is called to holiness, not only priests or religious. The Church is the instrument that helps us to go back to God, to enter in communion of love with him, by conversion from sin, by the sacraments, by a virtuous life. We may read here also why the Church is holy, if we are sinners.
6) Religious Life. The universal call to holiness takes a special feature in religious life. Religious life belongs to the sanctity of the Church, and religious people are taken from lay people and clergy as well. It is a special consecration to the Lord's affairs.
7) Eschatological Nature of Pilgrim Church and its Union with the Heavenly Church. The end of the Church, her fulfillment, will be at the end of the world. On that day the Church will be completely holy and beautiful, and what is dirty and unworthy will be left aside. The Church will be ready as a bride to meet Jesus, and will enter heaven to be with the Lord forever. We have also here the doctrine of communion of saints.
8) The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the mystery of Christ and the Church. The last chapter shows us the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model of the Church, and she is called Mediatrix. Many beautiful things are said of our Blessed Mother, and everything is presented with biblical grounds, fostering the dialogue with other Christian denominations regarding the Mother of God.
I would like just to point something that gives us an idea of what the Church is. The document says "the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of an intimate union with God and of the unity of the whole human race" (LG 1).
The Church is an efficacious sign of unity with God and our neighbour: that means that in the Church we are really, spiritually, united with God and with our brothers and sisters. That union is real, like the union of the members of a body. But not only that: the Church is also an instrument of unity, so that those who are still not united with God, e.g. because they don't know him, come to union with God through the preaching and sacraments of the Church. Those who have lost union with God and with their brothers and sisters because of sin, are re-united with God through the sacrament of reconciliation. The Church is an instrument of communion.
And why all this? Because God loved us so much, He wanted to give himself to men and women. Therefore, so that we may attain a complete communion with him, he established the Church. Through the Church we get to know God, we receive him in communion, we help others to reach that same communion, and we hope to enter in complete communion with him in heaven. This is the Church: it is a gift of God, the instrument to reach communion with him, and the place where this communion is realized, at least initially, in this life.
Mary is our model. God invites us to communion with him, to share his happiness. May we accept, like Mary, his invitation, in total availability to his plan. May we say like Mary: "Be it done unto me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).