October 28, 2009

An Aspect of the Nature of the Church

In Light of Approaching All Saints Day

There is continued discussion in some circles about the relationship between a church as a body and the various members who make it up — a discussion no doubt started by Saint Paul!

Richard Hooker once observed,

The Church is always a visible society of men; not an assembly, but a Society... Assemblies are properly rather things that belong to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before. (Laws III.I.14)

That is, the structures of the society endure even as different individuals take part in the assembly of that society from time to time. Congress is still congress, regardless of the change in party majorities, and of the actual senators and representatives seated. And a parish is still a parish regardless of the fact that, for instance, none of the founding members of Saint James Church Fordham in 1853 are still active members!

Like the cells of ones own body, which die and are replaced, while each of us still is who we think we are as a continuing entity, a person with an identity that survives the change in our actual substance — the church goes on, living a life not entirely its own: With saints below and saints above, some having crossed the stream, some crossing now, and some with their feet unmoistened yet!

This is also why the notion of transforming our wonderful communion-in-diversity into a kind of patchwork of special-interest-chapters-in-affinity is such a terrible step backwards. The big tent is so much more, while still imperfect, a vision of what we are called to be, than the proliferation of franchise outlets (or ‘tiers’ or ‘tracks’) into which we might further devolve.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

1 comment:

Grandmère Mimi said...

This is also why the notion of transforming our wonderful communion-in-diversity into a kind of patchwork of special-interest-chapters-in-affinity is such a terrible step backwards.

Perhaps after the Vatican's recent overture, Rowan will take his eyes off Rome long enough to make that leap.