Friday, March 2, 2012

The Documents of Vatican II - Lumen Gentium - Part 2

The second section of Lumen Gentium (Chapters IV through VII) focuses on the role of the laity in the Catholic Church, the call to holiness that extends throughout the entire Church, religious life, and the Church as a pilgrim in the world.

Here's a sampling of the topics and ideas you'll find in these four chapters of Lumen Gentium.

Chapter IV: The Laity

* The laity contribute in a special way to the welfare and mission of the Church. They are fully members of the body of Christ and share, in their own way, in the priesthood, prophetic office, and kingship of Christ.

* Lay people “seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God's will.” By living Christian lives in the world, they help to sanctify the world and consecrate the world to God.

* All members of the Church share a common dignity, a common grace, and a common call to sanctity. All members of the Church are truly equal in dignity and are united in the Holy Spirit, but they have different roles and ministries according to the gifts the Spirit has given them.

* The laity “make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth.” In other words, the laity spread the Church throughout the entire world and cooperate in the divine plan of salvation.

* Lay people share in the priesthood of Christ, into which they were incorporated at baptism. They laity perform their priestly role by offering their entire lives to God as a spiritual sacrifice and “worshiping everywhere by their holy actions.”

* As witnesses to Christ, the laity share in Christ's prophetic office. By living lives of faith in the midst of the world, they offer testimony to Christ in word and action and thereby help to evangelize everyone around them.

* Christian families especially proclaim the love of God to the world.

* By living holy lives and exercising self-control, the lay faithful participate in Christ's kingship and seek to spread His Kingdom throughout the world.

* The laity must work together to fill the world with the spirit of Christ and promote justice, unity, and peace. They ought to permeate “the culture and all human works with moral value.”

* In all their temporal duties, the laity should be “guided by Christian conscience.”

* The relationship between laity and clergy must be steeped in love. The lay faithful should obey their pastors and pray for them. The clergy should guide the laity with paternal love and encourage them to progress in sanctity, take active roles in the Church, and spread their Christian faith throughout the world.

Chapter V: The Call to Holiness

* The Church is holy because she is joined to Christ and has received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

* All Christians “in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered in earthly society.” By using the strength Christ gives them, the faithful follow God's will in all things, devoting themselves to God's glory and to serving their neighbors.

* Bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, and lay ministers strive for holiness as they perform their duties in the Church.

* Christian families offer the world an example of “unfailing and generous love” as they witness to the “fruitfulness of mother Church.”

* The Church recognizes the dignity of human work. By their work, the faithful can perfect themselves, serve their neighbors, and contribute to the advance of human society. Workers who imitate Christ the worker will find that their daily work can help them them achieve sanctity and promote the mission of the Church.

* The suffering are united to Christ in a special way.

* Christians have the responsibility to grow in love. God has poured His love into their hearts and given them the gift of love for Himself and for their neighbors. Christians cultivate this gift of love by listening to the word of God, following His will, receiving the sacraments, assisting in the liturgy, and performing acts of prayer, self-denial, virtue, and service. True disciples of Christ are marked by love, which “governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification.”

* The faithful must take up their crosses and follow Christ even in the midst of persecution.

Chapter VI: Religious

* The religious life is both a call and a gift from God. Religious offer themselves completely to God and vow to faithfully practice the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty, and obedience.

* Religious enjoy many special benefits and graces that help them work toward holiness as they contribute to the Church's mission of salvation.

* The evangelical counsels are “means to and instruments of love” that “unite those who practice them to the Church and her mystery in a special way.”

* Religious act as inspiring signs of eternal life, for they seek to imitate Christ as closely as possible and to transcend earthly life to focus the Kingdom of Heaven.

* Christ shows Himself through His faithful who have embraced religious life. These religious, in turn, seek to embrace the evangelical counsels in order to purify their hearts, grow in a life of love, and conform more closely to Christ.

Chapter VII: The Pilgrim Church

* The Church will receive perfection only in Heaven, but she is already “the universal sacrament of salvation” and is “endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect.”

* The Church is the family of God and the communion of saints. She is made up of the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth; the saints in Heaven; and the souls being purified in Purgatory. All of these, in living communion, share the same love in Christ and exchange prayers and spiritual goods.

* The saints intercede for their brothers and sisters on earth, offer examples of true Christian living, and show forth the presence of God. The saints point to Jesus, witness to His love, and seek to help others towards unity with Him. Prayer to the saints does not diminish worship of God but enriches it.

* “When...we celebrate the eucharistic sacrifice we are most closely united to the worship of the heavenly Church...” The Mass is a little bit of Heaven on earth.

The full text of Lumen Gentium is available online at the Vatican website.

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