Unity, faith and discipline - The Nation
The common faith of the members of Christ is most intimately bound up withtheir priestly fellowship in prayer. The Catholic fellowship in faith does notmean merely that all the members of the Church loyally profess one and the samefaith, presented to them by apostolic authority, that they share the sameluminous ideal, the same effective rule and the same fruitful sources ofspiritual life. It means more than that. It means that there is a solidarity andpartnership of the faith, a reciprocal interaction and fruitful influence, whichby intimate and pervasive action make their external union an inward communionin the faith, a communion which out of the depths of the common experience ofthe faith is ever expressing itself anew in a single "credo" of themystical Christ.
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How is this catholicity of the Church realized? The internal catholicity ofthe Church, its essential aptitude for the whole of mankind, is of fundamentalimportance for its world- conquering power, its external catholicity. Thisinternal catholicity of the Church is based upon two particular qualities, andfirst on a resolute affirmation of the whole of revelation in all its livingfullness. Unlike all non-catholic communions, the Church affirms, completely andentirely, the whole of holy Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New. Sheaffirms therefore not only the theology of St. Paul, but also the mysticism ofSt. John, not only St. Matthew's teaching concerning the Church and doctrinalauthority, but also the faith and works of St. James and St. Peter. There is nothought in holy Scripture which is for her antiquated or unseasonable. Nor doesshe allow one truth to be obscured or garbled for the benefit of another. And bythe side of holy Scripture stands extra-scriptural Tradition. The Gospel itselfis based upon oral teaching, upon the preaching of Christ, of His disciples andof that apostolic succession of teachers which began with the first pupils ofthe apostles. Therefore the formation in the Christian communities of a livingstream of tradition was natural and inevitable. The New Testament is certainlyan important expression, but it is by no means an exhaustive expression, of thisapostolic tradition which filled and permeated the whole consciousness of theChurch. Oral tradition, the apostolic teaching alive and active in the Christiancommunities, that is prior to and more fundamental than the Bible. It atteststhe Bible, both in its inspiration and in its canon. It is more comprehensivethan the Bible, for it attests a mass of ritual and religious usage, of customsand rules, which is only slightly indicated in the Bible. And it possesses aquality which the Bible as a written document has not and cannot have, and whichconstitutes its pre-eminent merit, namely, that living spirit of revelation,that vitality of revealed thought, that "instinct of the faith" whichstands behind every written and unwritten word, and which we call the "mindof the Church" (phronema ekklesiastikon). This spirit of revelation livesin the living hearts of the faithful, and is quickened and promoted by theapostolic teaching authority under the guidance of the Holy Ghost. It is themost genuine, primary and precious heritage from the preaching of Jesus and Hisapostles. It is by means of this spirit that revelation acquires its inwardunity, its inter-connection and its ultimate meaning. Now, because the Churchaccepts as revelation the whole of holy Scripture and the whole of thatextra-scriptural Tradition which has come down from the teaching of Christ andHis apostles, without restricting herself to particular revealed thoughts, suchas the notion of the Fatherhood of God or of the certainty of forgiveness, andbecause the Church accepts and affirms that full Christian life and experiencewhich originated in Christ and was by the apostles conveyed to mankind,therefore she is able out of her abundance to be something for all men and togive something to all men. She is become "all things to all men." LikeSt. Paul at Corinth, she gives the "little ones in Christ" milk andnot meat, for they "are not yet able" for meat. To those who are notyet delicate enough of hearing and perception to appreciate the profoundspirituality and delicate inward power of the Christian message, and tounderstand the "liberty of the children of God," those who are notready for St. Augustine's rule, "Love and do what you will," theChurch in her sermons and instructions indicates the stern commandments of theDecalogue, insists upon the obligations of Christian morality and holds up theawful majesty of that Judge who condemns to everlasting fire all those who failin mercy and in love. If love of God cannot achieve it, at least fear of Hisjustice will deliver them from their earthliness and self-seeking and give thema spiritual life based on a fear of God which for all its imperfection is yetsupernatural And when souls are alive to her voice and can understand herdoctrine of inwardness and love, then she allures them by the sweetest methods,by the Mystery of the Tabernacle, by devotion to the Sacred Heart, by theStations of the Cross and by her Rosary. Thus she leads the simplest and rudestof souls to a height of spiritual life wherein the cry "Abba, Father!"is experienced in its full meaning, to the heights where St. Paul and St. Johnabide. And it may happen that a man is so penetrated with love of Christ andzeal for His Kingdom that his soul is stirred to its depths by those words ofthe Gospel: "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast and give tothe poor; and come, follow me" (Matt. xix, 21). Then deserts and greatcities alike are peopled with hermits and monks. There is no stage of religiousdevelopment which the comprehensive influence of the Church cannot grip andmould. It is impossible to describe the infinite variety of forms in which thereligious and moral life of Catholics is expressed. In this region variety isthe rule and an unrestricted freedom the dominant law of Catholic piety.
It is this stress upon the common meeting place of all mankind which hasresulted in his strong appeal to non-Catholics. For years he has beentremendously interested in and has been working tirelessly for a union ofChristian faiths in one faith. This theme runs through all of his books. Evenhis earlier limited works such as "Tertullian's Conception of theChurch" and "Eucharistic Teaching of St. Augustine" reflectedthis concern. His later books, "Christ Our Brother," "The Son ofGod," "The Spirit of Catholicism" and "One And Holy"were increasingly preoccupied with this all important phase of man's life onearth.
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Accordingly the development of the faith originates in the Church's teachingauthority, not only as regards that deepening which it receives at the hands ofthe theologians, but also as regards that extension in the dimensions of lengthand breadth which it receives from the compact living fellowship of thefaithful. There is therefore no piece of dogmatic knowledge which is theknowledge of individuals and not at the same time an experience and love of themany in the Holy Ghost. In this sense every new dogma is the child not only ofauthority, but of love, of the love of the fellowship of the faith, of the heartof the praying Church. Every dogma is consecrated by the reverence andearnestness, by the conscientiousness and loyalty, by the inwardness anddevotion, with which the fellowship of the members of Christ "rooted andgrounded in love" (Eph. iii, 17) "confirms the testimony of Christ initself" (cf. 1 Cor. i, 6). As a rule the "lex orandi," theunwritten law of prayerful, lived faith, precedes the "lex credendi,"the authoritative formulization of a truth as a dogma. Whenever any dogma hasbeen attacked in the name of historical criticism, its impugners have overlookedthis vital power of the living fellowship and its function in the formation ofdogma. When Dollinger (28 March 1871) wrote to Archbishop Scherr ofMunchen-Freising: "We have to do, in the present distracted state of theChurch, with a purely historical question, which, therefore, must be handled anddecided by means only of those resources which are at our command, and accordingto the rules which govern every historical inquiry, every manipulation of thingsin the past," he overlooked the fact that the Church is not a dead, buta living organism; and he failed to recognize that vigorous life of faith whichpulsates in the Church and which as a living thing cannot be found in deaddocuments but only in the hearts of the faithful, in the compact fellowship ofthe faith united with pope and bishops. Such was the tragedy of his intellectualdevelopment: he could not see the surging life of the present he saw only thepetrified life of history.