By: Jason Songe, Seminarian, Archdiocese of New Orleans
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”–Mt 16: 18-19(RSV)
Recently I spoke to a person who said the Catholic Church is a man-made institution. Which led me to research why we, The Catholic Church, say that Jesus Christ is our foundation. Since one of the main educational thrusts for my Theology 1 class this Spring has been The Patristic Period, I started there and then moved onto the Catechism. I am not presenting an exhaustive answer to the question of who founded the Catholic Church. What I am presenting is incomprehensive.
- In Against Heresies St. Irenaeus says that Christ is “Himself the Head of the Church.”
- “The Books and the Apostles declare that the Church belongs not to the present, but has existed from the beginning. She was spiritual, just as was our Jesus…the Church, being spiritual, was manifested in the flesh of Christ.”–An anonymous homily, 150 A.D.
- In St. Clement of Rome’s “Letter to the Corinthians,” he says that God chose those in the Church, through Jesus Christ, to be a special people.
- Tertullian, in The Demurrer Against The Heretics, says that the Church has been “established by Him…we are what Christ has established.”
- St. Hilary of Poitiers says in The Trinity that the Church is “instituted by the Lord and confirmed by the Apostles.”
1. CCC 759, Lumen Gentium 2:
“The Father . . . determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ.” This “family of God” is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father’s plan. In fact, “already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvelous fashion in the history of the people of Israel… Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time.”
2. CCC 760, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria:
Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.” God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called “the Church.”
3. CCC 763, Lumen Gentium 3 and 5:
“The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures.” The Church “is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery.”
4. CCC 765, Mk 3:14-15:
The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.
5. CCC 766, Lumen Gentium 3, Sacrosanctum Concilium 5, St. Ambrose:
The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.”
“For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'” As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.
The Faith of The Early Fathers by William Jurgens, vols. 1, 2, and 3
About the Author: Jason Songe, Seminarian, Archdiocese of New Orleans
Jason is a seminarian in First Theology.
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