Jesus Lives On in the Church (Pt. 1): The Theological Tradition

800px-Cappella_Giustinian_dei_Vescovi_of_San_Francesco_della_Vigna_(Venice)_-_Ecstasy_of_Saint_Peter_(1765)_by_Francesco_Fontebasso

St. Peter of Alcantara, in ecstasy, being drawn to Christ, the ‘Sun of Justice’ (Mal. 4:2)


The Church: An Infinite Treasure to Men

The Catholic Church, cleansed and adorned with ‘the Precious Blood of Christ, as of a Lamb unspotted and undefiled’ (1 Pt. 1:19), is ‘an infinite treasure to men’ (Wis. 7:14); she is ‘the body of Christ’ (1 Cor. 12:27), redeemed out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation’ (Apoc. 5:9). United to Jesus Christ, the ‘Head over all the Church’ (Eph. 1:22), ‘we are members of His body, of his flesh, and of his bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is ‘our Everlasting Saviour’ (Bar. 4:22), Who, having loved us ‘with an everlasting love’ (Jer. 31:3), is ‘always living to make intercession for us’ (Heb. 7:25).

Christ: The Life of the Church
If we seek to be saved; if we seek the grace of God in abundance, we have but one thing to do: we have but to cling to the Church, our Mother. We must understand that the prayer of Christ, Who ardently prayed ‘that they may be ONE’ (Jn. 17:11), is not something vague or remote; on the contrary, Jesus continues to live in and through His Church; He continues to offer Himself on its Altars, drawing all men to Himself (Jn. 12:32).

The Eucharist: The Sacrament of Love and Union
In His “unwearying, unconquerable love” (St. John Henry Newman), Christ ‘loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it’ (Eph. 5:25). And why? To the end that He might espouse Himself to the Church in the eternal nuptials of Paradise, of which the Holy Eucharist is both a sign and a pledge: ‘THIS IS MY BODY (Mt. 26:26)… I WILL ESPOUSE THEE TO ME FOR EVER’ (Osee 2:19).

The Prayer of the Bride
We cannot measure His love for His Bride, which lives by His very life (cf. 1 Jn. 4:9). The more intimately we are united with the Church, which is animated by His Spirit, the more surely will our prayers be heard. “The Prayer of the Church,” writes Dom Gueranger, on account of its intimate union with Jesus Christ, is “… the most pleasing to the ear and heart of God, and therefore the most efficacious of all prayers. Happy, then, is he who prays with the Church, and unites his own petitions with those of this Spouse, who is so dear to her Lord, that he gives her all she asks…

‘… shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.’
– Cant. 2:14

It is… Jesus Christ himself who is the source as well as the object of the Liturgy; and hence the Ecclesiastical Year… is neither more nor less than the manifestation of Jesus Christ, and his Mysteries, in the Church and the faithful soul.

“Indeed, although Christ is no longer upon earth, although the historical reality of His mysteries has gone by, He ever remains our Head and the virtue of His actions and of His life is ever fruitful.”
– Bl. Columba Marmion

It is the divine Cycle, in which appear all the works of God, each in its turn; the Seven Days of the Creation; the Pasch and Pentecost of the Jewish people; the ineffable Visit of the Incarnate Word; His Sacrifice and His Victory; the Descent of the Holy Ghost; the Holy Eucharist*; the surpassing glories of the Mother of God, ever a Virgin; the magnificence of the Angels; the merits and triumphs of the Saints.

*“This Sacrament embraces the entire mystery of our salvation.”
St. Thomas Aquinas

… Happy indeed should we deem ourselves, if we could make the faithful understand the grand glory which is given to the Blessed Trinity, to our Saviour, to Mary, to the Angels, and to the Saints, by this annual commemoration of the wondrous works of our God!

‘He hath made a remembrance of His wonderful works, being a merciful and gracious Lord.’ (Ps. 110:4)

If, every year, the Church renews her youth as that of the eagle, she does so because, by means of the Cycle of the Liturgy, she is visited by her divine Spouse, who supplies all her wants. Each year she again sees him an Infant in the manger, fasting in the desert, offering himself on the Cross, rising from the grave, founding his Church, instituting the Sacraments, ascending to the right hand of his Father, and sending the Holy Ghost upon men. The graces of all these divine mysteries are renewed in her; so that, being made fruitful in every good thing, the mystic Garden yields to the Spouse, in every season, under the influence of the spirit he breathes into her, the sweet perfume of aromatic spices.

“… Jesus lives the reality of His mysteries in us, and when we have faith, and rest lovingly united to Him, He draws us with Him, making us partakers of the virtue proper to each of these states. Each year, as the soul follows the Liturgical cycle, it shares ever more intimately in these mysteries, and is identified more and more with Christ, with His thoughts, His feelings, His life.”
– Bl. Columba Marmion (p. 319, ‘Christ the Ideal of the Monk’)

… Now, what the Liturgical Year does for the Church at large, it does also for the soul of each one of the faithful that is careful to receive the gift of God. This succession of mystic seasons imparts to the Christian the elements of that supernatural life, without which every other life is but a sort of death, more or less disguised.” (Dom Gueranger, ‘The Liturgical Year,’ vol. I)