05 Creed: I believe in the Catholic Church

posted 12 Jan 2013, 12:51 by Fr Peter Weatherby   [ updated 12 Jan 2013, 13:49 ]

What is the Church?

This is a simple question, which can have varied answers. For many it just means "all Christians". For others it is their own local congregation or even building. For some it is a word which refers to clergy - ministers, bishops, priests whatever they may be called. For yet others it is some murky, rich and powerful organisation which is set in the past and which resists change.
There is some truth in all of these, perhaps. But none of them have the full answer.

The Church is the People of God

The first thing to say is that the Church is people. Not just clergy - but ordinary people. 98% or Christians, of the Church are not clergy, but ordinary Church members.
The phrase 'people of God' tells us that the Church is a Holy Nation, as were the people of Israel in the Old Testament.
It has a local, regional, and international structure (the Parish, the Diocese with the Pope at the Head). It has its own system of law (Canon Law). It owns property, has a range of activities, especially schools and hospitals.
In many ways it looks like other human organisations. 

The Church is the Body of Christ

The Church is a visible institution, with governed by its own rules and with its own history. But its is more than this.
The Church is more than just people - the People of God, make up the Body of Christ. This means several things.
It is first of all rooted in Christ. Christ founded the Church and is the Head of the Church.
The Church has a structure - but this is a holy rule, not like other organistions or nations - made up of bishops and priests, with the Pope at the head.
Baptism - a sacrament - is the way in which we enter into the Church.
The Sacraments are the spiritual work of the Church, increasing the holiness of God's pople.
The Work of the Church is driven by its Mission - to build up the Kingdom of God in the world. Most of its activities - care for the poor, health care for the sick, and education - come from this Mission.

The Church is not only on earth

The Church on Earth, doing Christ's work and preparing for his return, is sometimes called "The Church Militant" - at war with evil and carrying on the work of Christ.
But this is only part of the Church.

The Church in Purgatory

There is also the Church of the Holy Souls, those who have died and are waiting for the return of Christ at the end of time.
This is called "The Church expectant".

The Church in Heaven

And there is also the Church in Heaven, "The Church Triumphant" which is also known as "The Communion of Saints".
The Saints are those good souls who enter heaven after their deaths and are now in heaven praying for us.
We in the Church on earth are joined in prayer with the saints in heaven. We therefore honour them and pray for their intercession in our earthly pilgrimage.
In Scripture, the Church in glory is described as the ‘bride of Christ’ and the ‘new Jerusalem’.