Dave “The Ariana Grande of Sacramental Evangelization” VanVickle and I continue with the fifth part of our series on the relationship between faith and the sacraments by discussing the role of the Church in God’s plan of salvation. We explain why the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation, and why it is called to always be on mission.
Snippet of the Show
The visible Church is not an “add-on”, it’s fundamental to how Christ wants to change the world.
Today we continue reading The Reciprocity between Faith and Sacraments and unpack the reality that the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation:
d) The Church and the Sacraments in the Sacramental Economy
33. [The Church: Grund-Sakrament]. The historical tangibility of grace, which has historically been made present in Jesus Christ, remains privileged, but derived, through the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. To the being of the Church belongs a visible and historical structure, at the service of the transmission of invisible grace, which she herself receives from Christ and transmits thanks to the Spirit. There is a remarkable analogy between the Church and the Incarnate Word (cf. LG 8; SC 2).From these premises, contemporary theology has deepened the understanding of the Church as fundamental sacrament (Grund-Sakrament), in a line close to the understanding of Vatican II of the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation. As a sacrament, the Church is at the service of the salvation of the world (LG 1; GS 45), at the service of the transmission of grace whose reception has made it a sacrament. Sacramentality always has a missionary character, of service for the good of others.
34. Now, also as a sacrament, in the Church itself there is already a perceptibility of God’s grace, of the irruption of the Kingdom of God. Thus, if on the one hand the Church is at the service of the establishment of the Kingdom of God; on the other hand, the presence of the Kingdom of Christ in mystery is already present in her (LG 3). Endowed with these means of grace, she can truly be the germ and the beginning of the kingdom (LG 5). As a pilgrim and made up of sinners, there is no total identification between the Church and the Kingdom of God; as a reality constituted by grace, it possesses an eschatological dimension, culminating in the heavenly Church and the communion of saints (cf. LG 48-49).
35. [The Church: Christological and Pneumatological Reality]. As creatures who abide in the Trinity, that is, “the people united” within the unity of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the Church not only maintains an intimate relationship with the Incarnate Word, to the point of being able to affirm with truth that it is the Body of Christ (cf. LG 7), but also with the Holy Spirit. And this is the case not only because the Spirit, the great gift of the Risen One (cf. Jn 7:39; 14:26; 15:26; 20:22), works in her constitution (cf. LG 4), dwells in her and in the faithful as in a temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), unifies it and generates the missionary dynamism inherent in it (cf. Acts 2:4-13); but also because the Church is a spiritual, pneumatic people (cf. LG 12), enriched by the various gifts that the Spirit gives to the faithful for the good of the whole community (cf. Rom 12:4-8; 1 Cor 12:12-30; 1 Pt 4:10). These charismatic gifts lead to a particular appropriation of the richness of the Word of God and of sacramental grace, strengthening the community and promoting its mission (cf. AA 3), in short: strengthening the sacramentality of the Church.
36. [Sacramental Continuity of the Salvific Order]. The salvation that was historically offered in Jesus Christ continues in the Church (cf. Lk 10:16), the Body of Christ, through life-giving sacraments, thanks to the action of the Spirit; “what was visible in Christ has passed into the sacraments” of the Church. The Catholic Church holds that the seven sacraments have been instituted by Christ, since only he can authoritatively unite effectively the gift of his saving grace to certain signs. This affirmation emphasizes that the sacraments are not an ecclesial creation, and the Church cannot change their substance, but that they are based on the event Christ took as a whole: Incarnation, Life, Death and Resurrection. The institution of the sacraments gathers meaning from the Incarnation and proclaims it (cf. §§ 30-32), for they specify characteristics of Jesus’s humanity, the unfolding of the mysteries of his human life which culminate in Easter, for here Jesus gives himself fully as the source of all graces, beginning with the gift of the Spirit. The Church is enlightened by the Spirit which she received at Pentecost and is encouraged by the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. PO 5), which is the source and summit of the Christian life (SC 10; LG 11). The Church has recognized that the sacramental gift of Christ is eminently continued in the seven sacramental signs which go back to the same Christ in different ways, while maintaining that divine grace is not limited exclusively to the seven sacraments.
37. [Sacramental Grace and non-Christians]. The Church affirms that the grace that justifies and gives salvation is given and, therefore, true faith is also given outside the visible Church, but not independently of Jesus (primordial sacrament) and the church (fundamental sacrament). The action of the Holy Spirit is not limited to the limits of the visible Church, but “its presence and action are universal, without any limit of space or time.” Non-Christian religions may contain aspects of truth and may be the means and indirect signs of the spiritual grace of Jesus Christ. But this does not mean that they are salvific paths parallel to Christ or independent of Christ and his Church.
38. [Sacramental Grace and Faith]. In short, the Word of God, creative and effective, has created the interpersonal language of the sacramental words, which are the sacraments; words in which the Word continues to act thanks to the Spirit. In the words that the minister pronounces in the name of the Church, e.g. “I baptize you”, the Risen Christ continues to speak and act. Since the sacraments make possible today by the Spirit a personal relationship with the dead and risen Lord, they have no meaning without such a relationship, which is condensed in the word “faith.”
39. [Sacraments: Supreme Exercise of Ecclesial Sacramentality]. The fundamental sacramentality of the Church is exercised in a privileged way and with special intensity in the celebration of the sacraments. The sacraments always have an ecclesial nature: in them the Church puts her own being at stake, at the service of the transmission of the saving grace of the risen Christ, through the assistance of the Spirit. Therefore, each and every sacrament is an intrinsically ecclesial act. According to the Fathers, the sacraments are always celebrated in the faith of the Church, since they have been entrusted to the Church. In each and every sacrament, the faith of the Church precedes the faith of the singular faithful. It is, in fact, a personal exercise of the ecclesial faith. Therefore, without participation in the ecclesial faith, such symbolic acts become mute, inasmuch as faith opens the door to the operative sacramental signification.
40. [Sacramentals]. Ecclesial sacramentality is not only embodied in the sacraments. There is another series of sacramental realities that form part of the life and faith of the Church, among which Sacred Scripture stands out. For Christian piety, of great importance are the so-called sacramentals, which are sacred signs, created according to the model of the sacraments. Sacramentals dispose towards the sacraments and sanctify the various circumstances of life (SC 60). What is proper to the sacraments is that in them there is an authorized and sure ecclesial commitment to the transmission of the grace of Christ, provided that all the requirements are fulfilled. In the sacramentals, however, one cannot speak of an efficacy similar to that of the sacraments. In them, there is a preparation for the reception of grace and a disposition to cooperate with it, not an efficacy ex opere operato (cf. § 65), exclusive of the sacraments. Thus, while the water of baptism produces the effect of forgiveness of sins in the womb of the sacramental celebration, holy water, remembrance of baptism, does not cause an effect by itself, but in the measure in which it is received with faith, for example when crossing oneself at the entrance to the temple.
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Meet Your Hosts
Michael “Gomer” Gormley
Michael spent 17 years in full-time parish ministry and is now the Mission Evangelist for That Man Is You!, a men’s apostolate for Paradisus Dei. Michael is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and parish missions all over the US and Canada.
He is the founder and creative director of LayEvangelist.com, and hosts two popular Catholic podcasts: Catching Foxes and Every Knee Shall Bow.
He is married to his college sweetheart, Shannon, and has four beautiful and hilarious children: Kateri, Cecilia, Noah, and Thomas.
Dave VanVickle fell in love with the Lord at the age of fourteen and has since dedicated his life to bringing others into a radical relationship with Christ.
He is a speaker and retreat leader who focuses on proclaiming the universal call to holiness, authentic Catholic spirituality, spiritual warfare and deliverance. Additionally, Dave has over ten years of experience assisting Priests with their ministries of exorcism and deliverance.
Dave married his late wife Amber in 2010. He now resides in Pittsburgh with his five children: Sam, Max, Judah, Josie and Louisa.