Jacques Maritain Center : On the Church of Christ

VII

The Church Considered in Her Integrality
(at once in glory and in time)
and the Church Considered Only According
As She Is in Time

A Preliminary Remark

1. One knows that the Church exists under three different states, that of Heaven, that of the earth, that of Purgatory. When one says "the Church glorious," "the Church in pilgrimage," "the Church suffering," one does not designate three different Churches, but the same Church, the same person of the Church, under the three states in question. The subject of this book has nothing to do with the Church suffering, I shall therefore say nothing about the latter, except that the Church of Heaven and that of the earth come constantly to her assistance by their prayers, as the Church of Heaven comes constantly to the assistance of the Church of the earth by her prayers and by her inspirations.

2. It is to the Church of Heaven and to the Church of the earth that the present chapter is devoted. It is essential to understand that they are, as I have just said, the same and unique Church of Christ under two different states. This is a classical doctrine{1} and one which I believe is recognized by all theologians. Jean Bréhal referred to it in the clearest terms at the trial of rehabilitation of Joan of Arc.

Being given the importance attached in this book to the person of the Church, one will not be surprised that I envisage this doctrine in the light of the central idea of the supernatural personality conferred by God on the Church.

3. We are going to try now to widen and to deepen our thought on the Church, in considering the latter not only in her state of earthly pilgrimage, but also in her state of glory in Heaven.

Heaven, -- one finds today some students in the sacred sciences who seem annoyed by this word. No one however expected the cosmonauts to meet in their explorations the angels and the blessed souls; and one will continue always, by virtue of the most spontaneous and the most connatural of the metaphors which the eye suggests to the mind, to say "heaven" in order to signify symbolically the invisible world.

When Christ taught us to say: "Our Father, who art in Heaven," He made use, in speaking thus, only of a mere symbolic designation of the mystery in which the infinite transcendence of God envelops itself. And this symbolic designation was fully justified, and remains forever valid, from the sole fact that it is necessary for us to raise our head in order to look at the sky; sensible appearances are here alone in play, and they impose themselves on us irresistibly, when they show us the sky, along with the benefits which it pours upon us by its sun and along with the splendors with which it lights up the night, as the sign par excellence offered by our universe of the invisible kingdom where the spirits live with God.

I am fully aware that the cosmology of the ancients confused everything by masking with a physical sense this purely symbolic sense, and by causing the heaven of the blessed to be regarded as a physical place prepared on the celestial spheres for their residence, -- the place of incorruption: that which gave the worst facilities to our imagination. But all of this has been fortunately swept away by modern science, so that the "heaven" of the elect has no longer anything to do with the "heaven" of the astronomers,{2} except with regard to the fact that the latter is and will remain always for the spontaneous instinct of the human heart the symbol of the former.

The Two States of the Church.
She Endures and Advances Not Only in Time,
But Also in the Duration Proper to Glory

1. The first point to be noted here is that the personality supernaturally received by the Church, by virtue of the image of Christ imprinted in her, is given to her for always. The person of the Church is imperishable.

Living ourselves in time, it is also in time that we are naturally inclined to consider all the existents of which we speak. It is the same with regard to the Church. At first, when we reflect that she is imperishable, this means for us that she is there among us, in time, until the end of the centuries and of the generations (and beyond, in the land of the resurrected, but then time will have ceased, such at least as we know it, and suddenly our reflections on the subject stop also).

In other words, our consideration bears upon the person of the Church considered in her state of way, or of earthly pilgrimage. This consideration is more normal and is necessary; but it does not suffice, for it refers only to a single one of the two states under which it is important for us here to consider the Church: duality which will cease only at the resurrection of the bodies, when the universe of matter, fully reconciled to the victory over death, will be itself transfigured in glory, and integrated in order to serve it in the beatitude of the spirits.

2. The other state under which the Church finds herself is that of glory and of beatitude. The duration in which she lives there, and of which theology has elaborated the notion, is not time, which is linked with the essential mutability of material being, substantially subject to becoming; it is the duration proper to pure spirits, which one calls aevum or eviternity, and which, as regards the very being of these, is mere fixation in existence, without mutation or succession, but is accompanied by mutation and succession as to the operations which they produce. Each time for example that an angel turns his thought toward a new object, he marks so to speak the indivisible aevum, in which he remains forever, of the initial point and of the final point of an operation which, in the immobility of an instant which endures, coincides with a certain flow of our time. It is in this duration proper to pure spirits, and intermediary between time and eternity, that the Church in state of glory pursues her existence, and that there enter, one by one, once separated from their bodies, the souls of the elect. The holy angels had begun to see God for eternity from the instant, immediately upon being created, they chose to obey Him and separated themselves from the angels of pride. It is at the time of the Incarnation, Cardinal Journet tells us (III, p. 207), -- I would prefer to say: at the end of the blessed trajectory Passion-Resurrection-Ascension, -- that their grace (already virtually Christie by reason of Christ to come) became actually and fully Christic by reason of Christ come, and that the world of beatitude became the Church of Christ in Heaven. As to human souls, all those which since Adam and Eve repentant{3} were saved by the merits of Christ to come entered into beatitude only after He had come. They waited in "the bosom of Abraham." And it is "after the Passion and the death of the Lord Jesus," after the redemptive work was accomplished, that they "saw the divine essence face to face."{4}

But it is the Church of Christ come who is the object of our reflections. She began at Pentecost;{5} and the innumerable saints whom she has engendered since then and who see God and who praise Him, and who pray with men as one generation succeeds the other, compose with the angels that which one calls the Church of Heaven.

The person of the Church in her state of glory is essentially the same as the person of the Church in her state of earthly pilgrimage. She is a single and same imperishable person. But in Heaven her members are (along with the holy angels) blessed souls separated from their bodies, whereas on earth they are men wounded by the sin of Adam, and saved, if they do not refuse grace, by the Blood of the Lamb of God.{6}

Let us note in passing that the immortality of the human soul does not entail the imperishability of the human person, for the latter is soul and body together, and a separated soul is no longer, ontologically, a person. But the soul of the Church (that is to say, sanctifying grace, which in Heaven is glory or consummated grace) is never separated; it animates its body in Heaven as on the earth, -- here people of human persons, succeeding each other from generation to generation, there people of separated human souls awaiting the resurrection of their bodies. This is why the ontological personality of the Church, -- supernatural personality received by reason of the image of Christ which the Church bears in her, -- knows no interruption. The person of the Church is a single and same person under the state of way here on earth and under the state of eternal glory.

Let us think of the human beings assumed by the personality of the Church who, in the fifth century for example, lived here on earth the time of a generation. They were consequently much less numerous than the multitude of souls, they too assumed by the personality of the Church, who since Peter had begun to feed the sheep of the Savior had already entered into eternal glory. Today, when Christians have behind them twenty centuries of history, the multitude of souls assumed, in glory, by the personality of the Church, is immensely more vast than that of the men, our contemporaries, who, assumed likewise by the personality of the Church, proceed here on earth with us. And it is the same supernatural person of the Bride of Christ who embraces in her these two multitudes, the one already in Heaven, the other yet a little time on earth, where the generations sprung from it are going to succeed it.

The Church in her state of earthly pilgrimage appears then as the advanced point, -- living and enduring in time, generation after generation, under the government of the vicars of Christ succeeding one another, -- of the Church in her state of glory, who lives and endures in eviternity, and under the direct government of Christ Himself (there the Popes have returned again into the ranks). And the personality of the Church invests at one and the same time, on earth her members in state of grace, and in Heaven, along with the multitude of the holy angels, that of the blessed souls, whose number does not cease to grow since Pentecost, and who from earth hurl themselves into eternal life like a torrent gushed forth from the wounds of Jesus.

The Person of the Church Considered
in Her Integrality, According as She
Advances at Once in Aevum and in Time,
or Considered Only According
as She Advances in Time

1. If one wishes to form for himself a complete idea of the person of the Church at a given moment of the history of the world, it is therefore thus that it is necessary to consider her: both according as at this moment she endures and advances in her peregrinal state here on earth and in the transluminous obscurity of faith, and according as, all along what in the history of the world has been a more and more extended past, she has grown unceasingly in multitude in her state of glory, where she endures and advances outside of time, eviternally, beatified by the vision of God.{7}

I hold that this consideration of the Church in her integrality has a major importance, as does also the distinction which it implies: The person of the Church, of the Bride of Christ, presents herself to our thought under a double aspect; she can be considered either only according as she endures and advances on the earth and in time, or both according as since the day of Pentecost she endures and advances in Heaven and in eviternity, and according as she endures and advances on the earth and in time. The first manner of considering the Church is normal and necessary, but it is incomplete and does not suffice.

2. Epochs can arise (let us think of the crisis of Arianism) in which the greater number of the members of the Church of the earth are in the process of losing their way: very reduced in extension can be then the universality of grace and of divine assistance of those who do not err more or less in the faith. But in the Church of Heaven the immense multitude is there of those who see God, and they have not forgotten the earth, they pray unceasingly for their brothers making their way here on earth, they send to such and such of these their inspirations, they assist and illuminate the saints who suffer in this world, they have their own means of intervening in the affairs of this Church whom in leaving the earth they have certainly not left, since in Heaven and on earth there is but a single Church under two different states.

In short, the person of the Church being the same person here and there, it is necessary to consider her both in Heaven and on earth, in order to see that which the Church is at the worst moments themselves in which considered according as she is only the Church of the earth she seems to risk ruin, and in order to understand at the same stroke that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against her.

3. The Son of man, when He shall return, will He find faith on earth? It is He who has posed the question,{8} making allowance thus for human liberty. One can think that then, although the Gospel has been preached everywhere, a very small flock only will have kept the faith, -- a faith so ardent and so pure that it will compensate before God the apostasy of the great number.

It is this very small flock which will remain assumed here on earth by the personality of the Church. But it will have with it the whole multitude, assumed by the same personality, of the blessed souls gathered together in Paradise, along with those of Adam and Eve, since the Fall and the repentance, and of whom the incalculable number will have a hand in its accomplishment. The person of the Church, considered both in her state of earthly pilgrimage and in her state of eternal glory, will be more resplendent than ever.

And on the last day, as I have already noted, this duality of states will come to an end; the Jerusalem of Heaven will descend upon the earth, the souls will rejoin their risen bodies; and to the immense multitude of the resurrected will be united the small flock of witnesses of the faith still in life on the earth, who will pass into glory without having known death.{9)

It is thus that the Bride will go to meet the Bridegroom.
Digression on the Church of Heaven

1. Angels and separated souls, the blessed spirits are immutably fixed in the vision of God, by which they participate in the divine eternity itself. But in the eviternity which is their proper duration, they lead, outside of the vision, the highest life which the created being can enjoy, -- that of the supreme activities of love and of truth in the unimaginable plenitude of the sovereign peace. They render to the three divine Persons a worship of praise and of thanksgiving, they each meditate in a sacred silence the mystery of the redemptive Cross and the other revealed mysteries, they adore Christ in glory, they pray for men and occupy themselves, each according to his office, with the things of our world and with the course of our history, and with each immortal soul created anew here on earth; they live among themselves in a mutual love which is the perfect communion of the saints, they converse among themselves (what marvellous confidences they must make to one another, and what marvellous stories they must tell to one another!), they do not cease to break together the bread of truth. And in all of this they rejoice in doing the will of the Father.

I note here that the vision of the divine essence is absolutely ineffable and incommunicable; that which is seen in it, indivisibly from it, cannot be expressed and communicated by any mental word, for this is infinitely above the capacity of every created spirit; it absorbs, it devours in it the gaze of the separated souls and of the pure spirits whom it beatifies. The concepts of which they make use in order to express to themselves that which they know, and in order to communicate to each other their thoughts, in the angelic manner,{10} -- it is in the light of the infused science that they produce them in themselves; and it is in this same light of the infused ideas that the highest among them instruct the others, in opening themselves to them with the limitless generosity of charity.

2. In the Church of Heaven the blessed souls are equal with the angels, they have their place at the diverse degrees of their hierarchies, -- indeed at the highest of all, -- and through them also passes the flow of illumination which causes to descend through the immensity of the invisible world the communicable knowledge of the mysteries of nature and of grace, infused at first by God into the noblest created intelligence.

The noblest of all the created intelligences is that of Christ in his human nature. And immediately after this intelligence comes that of the human person who is the mere creature nearest to God, the Queen of Heaven and the Queen of the angels. In the soul of the Blessed Virgin in glory, the infused science, which she receives directly from Christ, is more universal and more perfect than in any other mere creature; it is Mary who in the Church of Heaven illuminates the highest of the angels (and perhaps, why not, certain human souls elevated like her higher than the angels; for there is nevertheless a privilege of man over the angel, merits which only he can gain: he can be a martyr, give his life for God . . . . )

I add that if one thinks of the infinite abyss of the divine transcendence, and of the fact that even seen in the beatific vision, the uncreated Essence will never be comprehended by a created spirit, one can think, it seems to me, that the illumination which, through the infused science, makes known to the pure spirits and to the blessed souls the depths of God, will never cease to grow, -- in Heaven and then in the material universe transfigured at the time of the resurrection, -- all through the endless duration which one calls eviternity: God alone enjoying eternity, unique instant without beginning or end which contains everything.

3. In order to envisage in its fullness the infallibility of the Church, -- which is exercised not merely in matters of faith, but in matters of morals, and also in the judgment which it bears when it canonizes a saint, -- we must take under our gaze, in a single block, the Church of Heaven and the Church of the earth, the Church who sees and the Church who believes.

It goes without saying that the Church of Heaven is absolutely and wholly infallible, since she is fixed in the blessed vision, and since the teaching which is given there is an illumination of spirit to spirit in the light of God. Consisting in the impossibility of all error in that which is "seen" or intuitively grasped by all the intelligences of Heaven, one can say that this infallibility is an infallibility "immanent" in the immense assembly of the elect.

Infallibility is immanent also in the Church of the earth, who, through her theological life itself and, as the second Council of the Vatican says (Ch. II, Sect. 12), through "the supernatural sense of the faith" present in "the holy people of God" (in the universitas fidelium, or what I have called the universality of grace of the Church) "cannot err in the faith." But this infallibility in credendo has for condition, on the side of the object, the infallibility in docendo of the magisterium. So that the Church of the earth is infallible only because she has in her midst the Pope{11} assisted by the episcopate in union with him, whereas in order to be infallible the Church of Heaven has no need of pope and of magisterium.

I have said above that the Church of Heaven comes constantly to the assistance of the Church of the earth by her prayers and by her inspirations. It is necessary to go much further, and to say that the infallibility of the Church of the earth in matters of faith has for ontological foundation the fact that she and the Church of Heaven are but a single and same person, the person of the Church under two different states: which person of the Church, in her peregrinal state, can clearly, by reason of her unity, neither exercise, in credendo, the sensus fidei proper to the holy people of God, nor, in docendo, propose to us in human language the revealed truths of God, objects of our faith, except in believing and teaching that itself which in her state of consummated grace she sees in Heaven. Thus it is the Church herself, the person herself of the Church, who speaks to us through the instrumentality of her magisterium. I am not unaware that if the magisterium is infallible, it is insofar as it participates in the kingship of Christ and is assisted by the Holy Spirit. But this does not at all exclude the intermediary role played there by the person of the Church. The assistance of the Holy Spirit and the authority of Christ pass then through the person of the Church speaking to us herself, through the instrumentality of those of her members who are commissioned to teach us.

It is as voice of the Church in her celestial state and in her earthly state at one and the same time that (ordinary magisterium) the episcopate in union with the leader of the Church of the earth and (extraordinary magisterium) the Councils in union with the leader of the Church of the earth teach infallibly all the members of the latter. And if the Pope by himself alone, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is to say, according to the terms employed by the first Council of the Vatican,{12} "when, fulfilling his function of pastor and doctor of all Christians, he defines, through his supreme apostolic authority, the doctrine in matters of faith or of morals to be held by the universal Church," has the power to teach infallibly the whole Church of the earth, it is because then he is the voice of the person of the Church, who as Church of Heaven causes to pass through him her infallibility of Church who sees, when as Church of the earth she enlarges the field of her infallibility of Church who believes.

The Infallibility of the Church
and the Infallibility of the Pope

1. It is especially with reference to pontifical infallibility that appears, to my mind, the importance of the distinction, on which I have insisted in this chapter, between the Church considered only under her state of earthly pilgrimage and the Church considered both under her state of glory and her state of way.

Let us consider indeed the Church considered both according as she is in the state of glory and embraces in her bosom a constantly increasing multitude of blessed souls, and according as she is in the state of earthly pilgrimage, and according as at a given time, let us say during a half-century, the multitude which she embraces is that of a generation which lives here on earth, while waiting to give way to future generations. Our gaze bears then on the person of the Church considered in her integrality. This person of the Church, who has for Leader, in the invisible world, directly Christ, and on earth His vicar, visible leader of the visible Church, is, in the celestial glory of all her saints, and of their Queen, and in the work of salvation which she accomplishes here on earth, that which is most sacred, most beautiful and most worthy in creation. The Pope is her servant, the most humble and the most venerable, the noblest and the most engaged, the most heavily burdened of her servants of the earth; the burden which he has to bear for her is the cross of his Master. His charisma of successor of Peter, -- feed my sheep, feed my lambs, -- it is from Christ, -- insofar precisely as Head and leader, in Heaven, of the entire person of the Church,that he receives it. He is head and leader of the Church of the earth in order to be able, according as he fulfills his function, and in the measure of the more or less lofty exigencies of the latter, to act here on earth under the inspiration and in the virtue of the Spirit of Christ exercising supreme authority over the person of the Church considered in her integrality.

It is on the relation between the Pope speaking ex cathedra and the person of the Church integrally considered, at once as Church of the earth and as Church of heaven, that I would like to insist here. If it is a question for example of a new dogmatic definition, I shall say that the content which constitutes the truth to be defined has had from century to century its witnesses in the Church here on earth, (witnesses also of the sensus fidei mysteriously diffused in the universality of grace of the "holy people of God") who have personally believed in this truth (it is the affair of theological and historical studies having reference to the preparation of the definition to show this); and that the infallible decisive discernment of this content is effected by the Pope under the assistance and the inspiration of Christ and of the Spirit, passing themselves through the person of the Church considered above all (this is the capital point to be considered) in her state of Church of Heaven, -- I do not see why it could not be thus, since the Church of Heaven herself knows intuitively this same truth. (I remember moreover that Pius XI told me one day that he often received inspirations of major importance during his Mass, -- and the Mass is always celebrated in persona Ecclesiae . . . . )

Likewise, with regard to the infallible authority with which the truth in question is defined as of faith, I think that it is always brought into play, not only under the inspiration of Christ and of the Holy Spirit as first and principal cause, but also under the motion of the person of the Church in her state of Church of Heaven and of consummated grace, because it is the Church herself, the very person of the Church, whom God wishes to have us hear through her earthly leader, and because the latter is then the instrumental agent of the person of the Church considered in her integrality, but principally and above all in her state of Church of Heaven, herself serving then as instrument to the absolutely supreme authority of her human-divine Head. The Pope speaking ex cathedra is the voice of the Church of the earth and also of the Church of Heaven, the latter bringing the former to enlarge the message which she transmits to us.

This is how I picture to myself the relation between the Pope speaking ex cathedra and the person of the Church integrally considered. The latter does not reveal to him the truth to be defined. She uses him in order that this truth, which in actual fact belonged already virtually (or rather in actu exercito) to the treasury of revelation received by the Church of the earth, be henceforth taught formally (or rather in actu signato) to the Church of the earth as truth of faith.

Thus the Pope is the voice of the person of the Church considered in her integrality, together as Church of Heaven (proximate foundation of the infallible authority with which the new definition is proclaimed) and as Church of the earth (to whom is now manifested as of faith that to which she adhered already in act lived by all those who in her followed on this point the impulse of the Holy Spirit).

It seems to me that when the Blessed Virgin appearing at Lourdes said to Bernadette: I am the Immaculate Conception, it was precisely in order to signify that the dogma proclaimed by Pius IX was sanctioned by Heaven, and that the infallible authority with which the Pope had defined it was the very infallibility of the Church of Heaven descending into him and passing through him. It is of the divine truth itself of the Immaculate Conception that the immaculately conceived one came to bring amongst us a sensible sign.

It follows from all of this that the Pope, -- according as assisted by Christ and by the Spirit he is also instrumental agent and voice of the person of the Church considered in her integrality, as Church of Heaven and as Church of the earth together, -- exercises his infallibility in sovereign fashion with regard to the Church considered only according as she is in the state of earthly pilgrimage. When he speaks ex cathedra, the authority of his infallible word imposes itself on the entire multitude of the members of the Church of here on earth. Those of them who on the point in question were in doubt or maintained another opinion know then the truth which they are held to believe. What the Pope has said in making explicit such or such a point of faith finds itself incorporated in the sacred deposit of revelation, and imposes itself on the faith of all the times to come.{13}

2. The views presented here are directly opposed to the conception according to which the Pope, when he speaks ex cathedra, would only express the accord, on such or such a point concerning the faith and morals, of all the local churches of the world grouped together in the Church (considered only according as she exists on the earth).

This conception, which results from a naive transfer of democratic themes (valid, if they are well understood, in the order of the temporal) to the order of salvation, and which in the end views the fold of Christ as governing itself by representatives of the human community deriving all their authority from the latter, forgets blithely that it is the Truth which saves us, and it is simply aberrant. It is not surprising that he whom one calls Pope becomes there the world president of a federation of religious clubs which one still calls churches, presided over by prelates whom one still calls bishops, and whose function consists in expressing the thought and satisfying the wishes of those at the base.

3. It seems to me, on the other hand, that in the perspective which I have proposed the notion of pontifical infallibility escapes the difficulties which it meets often in our separated brothers, for want of being adequately presented to them.

The Pope is not a human being suspended so to speak between Heaven and earth, and who by his charisma of infallibility would find himself above the Church. Christ alone is, as St. Paul says, caput super omnem Ecclesiam, human-divine Head above the entire Church. The Pope is a purus homo like the other members of the Church, and he is, in the Church and at her summit, but not above her, the head and the leader who, as vicar of Christ here on earth, directs her in her earthly pilgrimage. But, by very virtue of his function of supreme pastor and doctor here on earth it is necessary that in order to maintain intact the deposit of faith and to cause it to progress in explicitation, he be able in certain cases, -- when he speaks ex cathedra, -- to establish infallibly that which is to be believed.

It is not by making use of a privilege accorded to his person as proper or principal cause that he acts then; it is by making use of a privilege accorded to his person as instrumental cause, -- according as then, under the first action and the inspiration of the Spirit of God, he is on earth the Voice of this person of the Church who is the same person in Heaven and on earth, and who as Church of Heaven is the proximate foundation of the infallible authority with which, in the progressive explicitation of the revealed datum, he manifests on such or such a point to the Church of the earth that which in this Church a great many were already inclined to believe through the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

The infallibility of the Pope is thus doubly at the service of the person of the Church integrally considered: it invests the leader of the Church of the earth with an authority which is each time that itself of the Church according as she is in the terminal state of vision, or of consummated grace; and it establishes explicitly as point of faith a truth which found itself implicitly contained in the revealed deposit entrusted to the keeping of the Church according as she is in the state of way, where she believes without yet seeing.

4. All that I have just said of the Pope speaking ex cathedra, -- I shall say also of the ecumenical Council. It also has supreme and full authority.{14} Assisted and guided by Christ and the Holy Spirit, it extends the field of the infalliblity of the Church of the earth in causing us to hear the voice of the latter in the instant that, through the instrumentality of the episcopal college united with the Pope, she receives communication of the infalliblity of the person of the Church in the state of consummated grace.

And the teaching of the episcopate is likewise infallible when by the ordinary magisterium, and under the ordinary assistance of the Holy Spirit,{15} it transmits to us all through the centuries and in unanimous manner the deposit of the apostolic faith. It may be, I remark in passing, that in the faith of the Christian people such as they live it under the aegis of the ordinary magisterium there is included such and such a particular point which has not yet been defined by the Church or admitted by all her doctors. If it happens that the Pope, as Pius XII did when he proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption, takes into consideration the attachment to the point in question of popular faith, it is not at all because the latter has of itself the value of rule of faith; it is because in the very exercise of his charisma of infallibility, and therefore enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Pope has seen in it a witness of the faith of the Church. And it is only by virtue of the solemn declaration of the Sovereign Pontiff, and of his extraordinary magisterium, that the point in question imposes itself then on the faith of all.

It remains nevertheless interesting to note that popular faith can thus find itself sometimes in advance of the new decisions of the magisterium. Is not this a mark of the sense of the faith present in the people of God, a sign showing that the assistance of the Holy Spirit is given in the universal Church, in the diffused state, to all the souls, those of the simple as well as those of the doctors, that -- something that God alone knows -- are inhabited by lively faith and do not obstruct the divine motions?


{1} Cf. Ch. Journet, op. cit., t. II, p. 1174; and t. III, pp. 187-200: "It is the doctrine of St. Augustine and of St. Thomas Aquinas, of St. Bernard and of St. John of the Cross."

{2} If it is a question of the glorified body of the Lord and of that of Mary, they must, being bodies, exist, since the Ascension and the Assumption, in some physical place. Since the scientists tell me that the universe is expanding, therefore limited, I think quite simply that these two glorified bodies exist outside of the universe. One can conceive, it seems to me, that they themselves delimit in mathematical space (in itself, purely ideal) a place which their own existence renders real and which is coextensive with them.

However it may be concerning this last point, if, as I think, they are outside of and beyond our whole universe (does not St. Thomas, III, 57, 4, teach, after St. Paul, Ephes. 4, 10, that Christ ascended "high above the heavens," super omnes coelos?), it is still in the symbolical sense indicated above that we say that they are "in Heaven." Wherever they are corporally (and it is certainly not the heaven of the astronomers), Christ and His Mother are spiritually nearer to God than any other being, and share in the glory of God to a supreme degree.

{3} In this repentance I believe with St. Irenaeus (cf. Ch. Journet, L'Église du Verbe Incarné, t. III, p. 549). -- On graces by anticipation, cf. ibid., p. 350.

{4} Cf. Benedict XII, Const. Benedictus Deus, Denz.-Schön., 1000. -- The souls of the just before the time of Christ, and who awaited His coming, found themselves -- since they were in grace, participation in the divine life, -- in a profound happiness, but, -- since they had not yet the Beatific Vision, -- in desire still: happiness and desire much greater, certainly, than those of children who die without Baptism or without a rite capable of taking the place of it, and before having been able to make their first moral option, and who will never see the divine essence. (They experience however no affliction either internal or external, -- cf. St. Thomas, De Malo, q. 5, a. 3, -- and enjoy all the felicity which nature alone can give, -- cf. Journet, op. cit., II, pp. 773-779. -- The case of children who die without Baptism has a quite special interest for the philosopher, for it testifies to the fact that all the degrees of being will be finally fulfilled, including that of the purely natural expansion of the animal endowed with reason, who bears in himself, but, in the case considered, without suffering from the aberrations into which wounded reason throws us in seeking substitutes in order to satisfy it, the natural desire to see the Cause of being.)

Why this long wait of the just who died before the coming of Christ? Apropos of Abraham (verses 8 to 19) and of Moses (verses 23 to 29), and of many others "of whom the world was not worthy," St. Paul tells us, in Chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews (39-40): "Yet despite the fact that all of these were approved because of their faith, they did not obtain what had been promised. God had made a better plan, a plan which included us. Without us, ,they were not to be made perfect." (Cf. SPICQ, in Études bibliques, L'Épitre aux Hébreux, t. II, p. 368.)

The descent of Christ into Hades is an article of faith. The holy Doctors are in disagreement concerning secondary points relating to what He did there (cf. Journet, op. cit., III, pp. 551-552). But on the point that the just retained in waiting saw God only after Jesus had liberated them from it by appearing to them, the apostolic tradition has unanimously transmitted itself from age to age, and I think therefore (a little regretfully, I confess) that the point in question is not a mere conjecture of the Fathers apropos of the descent into Hades, but must be considered as engaging also the faith. There is here a particularly significant example of the fact that theological faith does not bear only on that which has been the object of a Conciliar definition or of a definition ex cathedra; not only has the deposit of faith been entrusted also to the teaching of the ordinary magisterium, but further it is immanent in that which I have called (Ch. V, p. 38) the universality of grace of the Church (cf. p. 53, apropos of the sensus fidei of the universal Church).

In order to return to the descent into Hades, but this time with regard to that which on its subject is only matter of opinion, St. Thomas, with many others, thinks (Sum. theol., III, q. 52) that Christ not only visited there the just in order to infuse into them the light of eternal glory, but that He also spoke to the damned (in what terms, no one knows, not even St. Thomas). In opposition to the opinion of the latter (52, 8), I like to think that, by an act of royal amnesty, Christ also delivered from Purgatory those whom He wished, even if they had not yet completed in suffering their time of purification.

{5} This is what Cardinal Journet calls the third age of the Church. See further on, Ch. VIII, n. 3 and Ch. IX, n. 7.

{6} Here on earth Christ, Whose person was divine, found Himself in His human nature at once under the state of glory in the higher part of His soul, because He had there the Beatific Vision, and under the state of way in the lower part of His soul, because He progressed there in grace and charity. (Cf. my book On the Grace and Humanity of Jesus.)

The person of the Church, who is a person wholly human (collective person supernaturally one and individuated by virtue of the perfect unity of the image of Christ imprinted in her), finds herself at once under the state of glory and under the state of way by the members who compose her, and who are different in the two cases, -- blessed souls (and holy angels) in one case, men en route toward their final end in the other case.

{7} It is the Church thus considered in her integrality that St. Augustine invites us to consider. "The correct order of the Creed demanded that to the Trinity should be subjoined the Church, as one might say, to the Inhabitant His own house, to God His own temple, to the Founder His own city. And the Church must here be understood in its fullness -- not only of that part which is in exile on earth, from the rising of the sun unto its going down praising the Name of the Lord (cf. Ps. 113, 3), and after the end of its ancient captivity singing a new song (cf. Ps. 33, 3), but also of that part which always since its foundation has in heaven adhered to God nor has experienced any fall to do it injury." Enchiridion, c. 15, n. 56 [English translation from Saint Augustine's Enchiridion or Manual to Laurentius Concerning Faith, Hope, and Charity. Translated from the Benedictine Text with an Introduction and Notes by Ernest Evans. London: S.P.C.K., 1953, pp. 49- 50 -- Tr.].

{8} Luke 18, 8.

{9} Cf. I Thess. 4, 14-17.

{10} Concerning this wholly immaterial communication of thought (the "locution" of the angels), as also concerning the angelic illumination, and the manner in which it descends, in sheets of intelligible light, from the highest angels and the nearest to God to the less high angels, the first dividing their more universal conceptions in order to adapt them to the capacity of the second ones, and to make handsome presents to them of all that which they know, see my article "Le tenant-lieu de théologie chez les simples," Nova et Vetera, April-June, 1969, pp. 90-93.

{11} The Greco-Slavonic Orthodox Church (to which I shall return in Chapter X) has stopped, in dogmatic matters, at that which it professed and taught at the time of the separation from Rome. Not advancing in the explicitation of the apostolic faith, I shall say that it is immobile rather than infallible.

{12} Denz.-Schdn., 3074.

{13} Cf. first Council of the Vatican, Denz.-Schön., 3074: "Definimus: Romanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra loquitur, id est, cum omnium Christanorum pastoris et doctoris munere fungens pro suprema sua Apostolica auctoritate doctrinam de fide vel moribus ab universa Ecclesia tenendam definit, per assistentiam divinam ipsi in beato Petro promissam, ea infallibilitate pollere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instructam esse voluit; ideoque ejusmodi Romani Pontificis definitiones ex sese, non autem ex consensu Ecclesiae, irreformabiles esse."

I do not claim at all that the views which I present are contained in this text, but I think that they accord fully with it.

{14} "Together with its head, the Roman Pontiff, and never without this head, the episcopal order is the subject of supreme and full power over the universal Church." Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Ch. III, Sect. 22. Cf. further on, Ch. IX, pp. 77.78.

{15} "Divine faith is not to be restricted to matters expressly defined by ecumenical Councils, or the Roman Pontiffs, or the Apostolic See: but extends also to matters set forth as divinely revealed by the ordinary magisterium of the whole Church dispersed throughout the world." Pius IX, Ep. "Tuas libenter" (Denz.-Schön., 2879). Cf. Charles Journet, The Church of the Incarnate Word, Vol I, London and New York, Sheed and Ward, 1955, pp. 414-415.

It is a question here of the ordinary magisterium in the entirely strict sense, or according as, proposing to us as object of faith "that which, as St. Vincent of Lerins says, has been believed everywhere, always and by all" (cf. Journet, op. cit., p. 416), it implies complete universality, not only with regard to the extension over the surface of the earth (all the bishops of the world), but also with regard to the duration in time (all the bishops who have succeeded each other since the apostolic age). I shall say that then the instrumental causality (by reason of which it is the person of the Church who speaks through the episcopate) has an absolute primacy over the proper causality, which, moreover, in the case of the ordinary magisterium as in that even of the extraordinary magisterium, intervenes always in some manner (at least as to the connotations, variable from one epoch to the other, of the words which one employs), but without ever for all that, when it is a question, as here, of the magisterium strictly understood, altering in any way the infallible and irreformable character of that which is formally taught.

Considered in a broad sense, the ordinary magisterium can include at one and the same time infallibility in certain respects and fallibility in others, in other words a mixture of instrumental causality (in which it is the person of the Church who speaks through it) and of proper causality (as such liable to error, however wise it may be, -- I think for example of the Papal encyclicals, cf. further on, pp. 148-149).

(On the other hand, and in order not to omit the worst, it can happen that a bishop, or a few bishops, as at the time of Luther, or a great many, as at the time of Arianism, betray by a grave error the magisterium entrusted to the episcopate and fall into heresy.)

Finally the ordinary magisterium, when, considered in a still broader sense, it does not bear on the universal doctrine of faith and of morals, but on a particular and contingent matter, can, without falling into the slightest error against the faith, be itself fallible (just as then this can be also the case even of Conciliar prescriptions entirely regular, -- I think for example of the medieval legislation concerning the Jews, which, in the perspective of the mentality of the epoch and in relation to the empirical adjustment to the situations created by history, presented itself to the hierarchy of that time as prudentially required, but which, in itself, was simply iniquitous).

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