Shedding Light on Lumen Gentium
The New Pentecost Series
The New Pentecost Series offers an article-by-article summary of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) documents to encourage study by lay Catholic adults. After the Bible, these documents help us understand who we are supposed to be as Church.
The majority of lay Catholic adults don’t know much about what Saint John Paul II called the greatest event in the life of the Church during the twentieth century. The 16 documents record the teachings of Vatican II, but—as Pope Benedict XVI said—they are hardly ever read by the laity. The New Pentecost Series aims to change this.
This is not a series of theological treatises on the Vatican II documents; there are plenty of excellent ones written by outstanding theologians. The New Pentecost Series is the CliffNotes^®^ for the Vatican II documents. The series name comes from what Saint John XXIII—inspired by the Holy Spirit—said Vatican II was going to be for the Church: a “New Pentecost.”
For more about Vatican II, including why it was called that and what it accomplished, see http://GilMichelini.com/introduction_to_vatican_ii/.
The Purpose of This Book
The goal of this book is to inspire you to read and study The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, better known by its incipit,^^1^^ Lumen Gentium. We will do this by summarizing the eight chapters and 69 articles in layman’s terms.
About Lumen Gentium
This apostolic constitution^^2^^ is the first self-examination of what it means to be the Church. The document explores the inner nature of the Church and our universal mission from a dogmatic^^3^^ perspective. Studying Lumen Gentium helps lay Catholic adults better understand our role in the Church and ultimately the purpose for which God created us.
What did Jesus teach about more than anything else? Some might say love and forgiveness, but He spent more time teaching about the coming of the Kingdom than anything else. Forgiveness is fruit of the Kingdom, and love is how we accomplish the work given us; however, without the Kingdom, we cannot offer the world either. “The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. Its keys are entrusted to Peter.”^^4^^
The Holy Spirit gave us the gift of Lumen Gentium to help us understand and live a preview of the Kingdom within the Church as well as a place where we can work out our salvation.^^5^^
Brief History of Lumen Gentium
Knowing a little of the document’s history can help in our understanding it.
The foundation of Lumen Gentium was laid during the First Vatican Council^^6^^ in the document Son of God (Dei Filius). In the preparation for Vatican II and during the first session,^^7^^ what would become Lumen Gentium was referred to as The Church (De Ecclesia).
During the second session, a draft of De Ecclesia was debated, changes were suggested, and it returned to committee for work. The debate on the second draft dominated the Council Fathers’^^8^^ efforts through most of the third session in 1964. Lumen Gentium was approved and promulgated^^9^^ by Pope Paul XI on November 21, 1964.
Lumen Gentium is often called the most significant of the Vatican II documents because it presents the expectations Jesus set for the Church by defining our mission and how we are to accomplish it. In many ways, Lumen Gentium answers Saint John XXIII’s desire for Vatican II to present “doctrine [that] shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on human moral lives.”^^10^^
Lumen Gentium editor Monsignor Gérard Philips wrote[_ ]that _Lumen Gentium “gives us an overall view of the mystery of the Church, the depth and richness of which has seldom been obtained in all of her history.”^^11^^
Using This Book
To get the most from this book:
- Ask the Holy Spirit to open your mind to what He has for you in this book and in Lumen Gentium.
- Lumen Gentium builds on itself; therefore, read the articles in order. This book follows the chapter layout of Lumen Gentium. After a brief introduction, each chapter has summaries of its articles.
- Obtain a copy^^12^^ of Lumen Gentium, and study the articles that piqued your interest while reading this book.
- Share your insights with someone else to help you better understand it.
- Repeat until you have studied all 69 Lumen Gentium articles.
You will notice repetition in the concepts. The Council Fathers remind us of the basics of our faith, and, as good teachers—one of the primary functions of a bishop—they use repetition to help us understand what the Holy Spirit has for us.
One helpful resource as you study Lumen Gentium is the CCC’s (Catechism of the Catholic Church) Index of Citations. Within that index (at the end of the Ecumenical Councils section) are references to the Lumen Gentium articles within the CCC.
Chapter 1 – On the Mystery of the Church
Does it frustrate you that many speak about the Church and God as mysteries?^^13^^ I did, and that was one of my excuses for keeping my distance from the Church. I would ask, “Why should I listen to what the Church leaders are preaching about Jesus if they haven’t got things figured out?”
I didn’t understand.
As I learned more about God, I discovered that He wants to be known and that He leaves plenty of information about Himself. With the right mindset, we can find and accept these clues He leaves for us. In this life, we are called to have faith in Him like that of a child.^^14^^ This is not a blind faith but the faith children have to trust in their parents that they will do what is best for them.
God WANTS us to ask hard questions and to dig deep. In the next life, “we will see Him as He is,”^^15^^ and all our questions will be answered. Until then, we are called to have faith in Him even though we don’t understand everything that is going on.
As mentioned in the introduction, Jesus gave us the Church as a preview of His Kingdom. Since we cannot fully understand Him, it makes sense that we are not going to be able to fully understand the Church He gave us, but that doesn’t mean we should not work to understand what we can.
The Vatican II Council Fathers devoted the first chapter of Lumen Gentium to examining the Church as a mystery. The eight articles of this chapter remind us of the basics of our faith. The topics include:
- Jesus is the light to the world that prefers the darkness of sin.
- God has a plan for our salvation from sin.
- The Kingdom of God is the standard by which we need to judge how we are doing as the Church.
- Without the Holy Spirit, the Church becomes a social club or an international aid agency.
- The Church is not the building but the people who have become part of the body of Christ through baptism.
- There is no salvation outside the church.
Article 1) The Need for Lumen Gentium
- The first sentence defines Jesus as the light of truth, peace, and wisdom. He is the light driving away the darkness of lies, conflict, and ignorance. As His disciples, our calling is to allow the Holy Spirit to kindle His light within us and then take it to the world. This is evangelization,^^16^^ which is the general calling for ALL who claim the title of Christian, not just for clerics or those in religious orders.
- In addition to evangelization, the Council Fathers tell us about another difficult work given to the Church: unity. We need unity in our relationship with Jesus, our marriages, our families, our parishes, our communities, our nation, and our world. When the Church becomes united, we become a brighter light to the nations.
Article 2) The Plan of Salvation
- For no reason that makes sense to us, “In the beginning God created”^^17^^ knowing His creation could reject Him. When Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t love them any less; instead, He implemented a plan based in His perfect justice to save us from ourselves.
- God sees all time in one instance.^^18^^ To Him, the beginning, the end, and everything in between are occurring now. It’s not God’s will that only a few be saved,^^19^^ but He has seen that not all will choose to follow Him. Out of love for us, He gave us the freewill choice if we want to follow Him or spend forever away from Him.
- We are living in the age of the Church foretold by the prophets. Established by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, God is using the Church to bring salvation to all.
Article 3) The Unity That Comes From the Kingdom
- Adam’s sin broke the family bond between humanity and God. Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God established a method by which we can be adopted into the unity of God’s family through baptism and the gift of faith.
- Within the Church—the earthly representation of His Kingdom—we can participate in the unity of the family of God in our reception of “the sacrament of the Eucharistic bread.”^^20^^
Article 4) The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Church
- While it was Jesus who established the Church,^^21^^ it’s the Holy Spirit who gives it life and makes it holy. As members of the Church, we have access to salvation from our sins and we gain the grace to spend forever with the Father.
- Through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we become temples of the Holy Spirit.^^22^^ This means that what we think of as Church—cathedrals, vestments, smells, and bells— is not what’s important. The humans participating in the sacraments, offering preaching and teaching, and serving others are the fullness of the Church as the Kingdom on Earth. People are more important than the outward signs of the Church.
- Christianity is about a people striving against the pull of sin to become “one with the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”^^23^^
Article 5) The Revelation of the Kingdom
- The Kingdom of God was promised by the prophets and announced through Jesus’ preaching, His works, and His presence. The primary method Jesus used in helping us understand the Kingdom was His parables.^^24^^
- The history (His-story) of the Church gives us the examples of countless thousands^^25^^ who struggled against sin to live worthy lives (the saints). They show us that when we focus more on Jesus than on the world, we begin grasping the mysteries of the Kingdom.
- Through the Holy Spirit, the Church is given the gifts (the graces) needed to build the Kingdom. We are called to this noble work not for our glory but for the glory of our King.
Article 6) The Images of the Kingdom
- Through metaphors in the Hebrew Scriptures, God began revealing the Kingdom. Jesus spoke metaphorically to explain what’s beyond our comprehension. In His teachings, Jesus compared the Kingdom and therefore the Church to concepts His audience would understand
- Sheepfold^^26^^ is a protected area where the flock stayed at night. Jesus called Himself a shepherd and gives that term to His apostles.
- Land^^27^^ where ancient olive trees with their strong root structures can last for centuries is like the Church. Jesus tells us that each of us is a branch in His vine.
- Structures^^28^^ includes temples and parishes, where Jesus is our cornerstone, the apostles are the foundation, and we are the stones of the walls.
- Mother^^29^^ is protecting and nurturing. Later we will see how this applies to Mary.
- The Bride^^30^^ is waiting for her bridegroom, Jesus.
- Journey^^31^^ includes a pilgrimage. The Church is journeying through a foreign land on our way back from our exile. For our map, we follow the practices and standards of our homeland while in this place that rejects the way of our King.
Article 7) The Body Of Christ
- When Jesus speaks of death, it’s the death of the soul, not the body.^^32^^ The body is a container for the soul, which is infinitely more valuable than the body. Death comes when a soul makes the choice to be separated from God to live in Hell.
- Access to life—to Heaven—requires living a sin-free life, which is impossible for humans since the fall of Adam. Jesus created a way to give us access to Heaven. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus established the Church as His body and gave us the sacraments to enable us to become more like Him.
- Every human is of great value to God; therefore, every human must be highly valued by His disciples. This is why the Church is concerned about life social issues from conception to casket and why we pray for those who have died.
- The ultimate purpose for every human life is to conform ourselves to His image and to bring Him greater glory. Outside of the body of Christ—the Church—it is difficult if not impossible to accomplish this purpose.
Article 8) The Church in Our Day
- There is not a Church on Earth and one in Heaven but one Church,^^33^^ one “complex reality.”^^34^^
- What we call Roman Catholicism is the Church founded by Jesus from which the rest of Christianity branches. The Council Fathers declare “many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure.”^^35^^ This means there is holiness and truth found outside of Roman Catholicism in the other Christian faith traditions and world religions.
- While the Church needs money as a means to fulfill our calling, we must not to seek earthly glory and riches. We are to live as He lived and love as He loved, with a particular focus on those who cannot repay us. Exactly what that looks like has been debated for centuries.
- If we encounter opposition from the world, then there is a good chance we are following the calling of our Lord.
Chapter 2 – On the People of God
We just covered the mystery of the Church, and now we will look at how all Christians belong to the one people of God and share in the common priesthood through baptism. An old misconception is that the laity were not worthy of Christ or the Church. One of the Vatican II reforms^^36^^ is the concept of the dignity that all God’s people possess.
The eight articles of this chapter start from our Jewish roots and our role as the new people of God. We then look at the items that make us a people, especially the seven Sacraments and the unity found in the Holy Spirit. While we touched on it a little in article 8, articles 14–16 address the issue of salvation and the Church. The chapter ends by looking at what the universal mission of the Church is.
You will come away from this chapter with a better understanding of what it means to be a Christian and a member of the people of God.
Article 9) From the Jews to the Christians
- Each person is called to “fear^^37^^ [God] and do what is right”^^38^^ as well as develop a friendship with Jesus. These are the basic requirements of the people of God.
- While our friendship with Jesus is personal and unique, Christianity is a social religion. We can’t be a good Christian by staying home on Sundays. Jesus calls us individually to be in communion with others in the Kingdom.
- The Hebrew Scriptures show God forming the Church of God in preparation for the Church of Christ governed with a new covenant.
- Christians have the noble duty of building the Kingdom of God on Earth. Though it appears the Kingdom is losing various battles for souls, we are never to give up the fight. The war was won with Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our battle is now for souls with the weapons of hope, salvation, forgiveness, and unconditional love given by Jesus. Through the Holy Spirit, our greatest defense is our unity in Him.
Article 10) The Common Priesthood
- In trying to do everything expected of us as spouses, parents, parishioners, community members, employees, and citizens, it’s easy to miss the dignity and the responsibility given to us in the Sacrament of Baptism. The grace we received is more than the cleaning of the stain of original sin. We are consecrated into the common priesthood of Jesus in a manner similar to those who wear Roman collars.
- All priests—includes laity—must be open to:
○ Fulfilling our calling
○ Participating in the sacraments
○ Offering the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving
○ Living the witness of a life worthy of our calling
○ Preaching the good news of Jesus Christ.
- The ministerial priests—those called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders and consecrated life—fulfill their priestly calling in a certain manner, while the faithful priests—those called to the laity—fulfill our priestly calling in a different manner.^^39^^
- Imagine how different our parishes and communities would be if we laity lived the common priesthood to which we are called.
Article 11) The Sacraments as the Path to Perfection
- Jesus makes us His people through the sacraments. This article contains brief statements about each of the sacraments.
- This is where the often quoted statement that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith is found.
- The majority of the second paragraph deals with the Sacrament of Matrimony and the concept of domestic Church, which has its roots in the life of the early Church.^^40^^
- It is through the sacraments that we are able to increase our personal and collective holiness. By being set apart (a definition of holiness), we can answer Jesus’ command to become perfect as God our Father is perfect.^^41^^ While this perfection is not possible in this life, Jesus told us to strive for it anyway.
Article 12) Without the Holy Spirit, We Cannot Become the People of God
- A prophetic gift given to the Church from the Holy Spirit is infallibility concerning teachings on faith and morals.
- Vatican I teaches the gift of papal infallibility is available under certain conditions for him to declare infallible teachings.^^42^^ From King Saul and King David we see that while God entrusts humans to powerful leadership roles and anoints them with amazing gifts and abilities, they often fail. This explains how we can have bad—even evil—popes.
- To all members of the Church, the Holy Spirit gives a certain mixture of gifts to help us accomplish the task for which we were born. Not all of us have the same gifts nor are they evenly distributed. Part of our growth in holiness is being satisfied with our gifts to overcome the sin of envy toward the gifts others have.
- We are encouraged to take our gifts to Church leadership for assistance in discerning their use in building the Kingdom.
Article 13) The Call of Unity
- The call of Christ is to ALL of humanity. NO human is a mistake. Each of us were born “for just a time as this”^^43^^ with specific skills to accomplish a specific purpose in building the Kingdom.
- Humanity finds unity under the cross of Christ.
- In previous centuries, the Church forced Western European culture on other cultures during missionary activities, and that was an error. The Gospel message can be embraced by all cultures. The Church adapts the presentation of the Gospel to be accepted by the culture to allow the unchangeable Truth of Christ to adapt the culture to the Gospel.
- A Vatican II reform (detailed in the next chapter) gives bishops more autonomy within their “particular church,”^^44^^ allowing them to adapt to the culture within the framework of the Church. This is what allows the archbishop in Abuja, Nigeria, and the archbishop in Guatemala City, Guatemala, to present the same Gospel and accomplish the same goals but to do so in a manner unique to their cultures.
- Only 20 years removed from World War II, the Council Fathers end this article with a hope that greater unity in the Church will lead to universal peace.
Article 14) What Is Necessary for Salvation
- The Church is necessary for salvation. For this reason, those who know of the Church and walk away from it put their salvation in jeopardy.
- Jesus established the Church’s hierarchical structure.^^45^^
- Christians without love cannot be saved.
- Salvation cannot be earned.
- We must respond to the gift of salvation by doing the work Jesus gave us.
- Those moved by the Spirit to become part of the Church are welcomed.
Article 15) Looking for Unity Among Our Separated Brethren
- After declaring salvation is not possible outside the Church, the Council Fathers turn their attention to those who follow Jesus outside of Roman Catholicism.
- The heart of this article is a list of beliefs and practices we look for among our separated brethren^^46^^ to have a common ground to build a relationship.
- As part of the Vatican II reforms, we are reaching out to the separated brethren to find unity. With the belief that the Holy Spirit wants us to work to heal the wounds of division within the body of Christ, we must be aware of the sins of envy and vainglory we see in the older son of the parable of the Prodigal Son.^^47^^
Article 16) Salvation Outside the Church
- God calls for the salvation of ALL.^^48^^ The Council Fathers tell us the Church is necessary for salvation. Does that mean those outside the influence of the Church cannot be saved?^^49^^
- The offer of the Gospel is always available for the Jews. They are a people most dear to God, and He does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.
- For the Muslims, “the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. Professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.”^^50^^
- Does this mean that because salvation is available to the Jews and Muslim through their teachings we are released from the duty of preaching the Gospel to them? “Of course not.”^^51^^ Preaching the Gospel to all nations in words and deeds is the calling for which we will be held accountable.
- What of those who have not heard the Gospel? God puts a desire in humans to follow His teaching, although some have not heard it through the Church. For them, salvation is available based on the lives they live. This path is ONLY available for those who have never heard the Gospel. Once we are aware of the Truth, we are accountable to the Truth.
- For those who reject God, He will honor their desire to live in Hell.
- Christians are to follow the standard Jesus gave us in the shepherd who leaves the 99 to find the one.^^52^^ We are always to be preaching the Gospel to all we meet in words and deeds.
Article 17) THE Mission
- THE primary mission, THE reason to be a Christian, THE reason to belong to your parish is found in what is commonly called “The Great Commission.” If we are doing ANYTHING else, we are wasting time.
- The universal call of the people of God is to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days even to the end of the world.”^^53^^
Chapter 3 – On the Hierarchy
The two major divisions of the people of God are those in religious life and those in the lay life. We begin with those in the hierarchical^^54^^ religious life with a particular focus on the role of bishop. Chapter 4 covers the laity, and chapter 6 covers those in consecrated life.
The role of the pope was addressed in the Vatican I document, Pastor Aeternus.
Over the 11 articles in this chapter, the Council Fathers offer a self-examination of the role of bishop, how the priests fit into this role, and the call for the restoration of the permanent diaconate role.
There might be a temptation for a layperson to skip this chapter, but that would be an error in judgment. While most of us will never become a member of the hierarchy, we interact with it as members of the body of Christ. It is good for us to be aware of the role assigned to each member of the body. They learn about the lay life to better interact with us.
This chapter’s teachings on bishops were put into action with Vatican II Decree Concerning the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church (Christus Dominus), while the role of the priest was further explained in Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis). _]Priestly formation was reformed in the [_Decree on Priestly Training (Optatam Totius),[_ ]and the call for restoring the permanent diaconate was accomplished with Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter, [_General Norms for Restoring the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin Church (Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem)] in June 1967.
Article 18) Pastor Aeternus
- The Council Fathers reaffirm the teachings of Eternal Shepherd (Pastor Aeternus) that Jesus established the Church, gave us bishops as shepherds to lead us, and put Peter as the shepherd of the shepherds.
- The Vicar of Christ^^55^^ has full authority over the Church and has the gift of infallibility on teachings of faith and morals.
- The papal authority of declaring teachings free from error—putting it on the same level as teachings from the Bible—has only been used twice. Both times it was used to establish long-held traditions about Mary as dogmatic: her immaculate conception and her assumption into heaven.
Article 19) The Establishment of the Bishops
- After seeking the guidance of the Father, Jesus called the disciples and established them as shepherds of the Church with Peter as their leader. They received power to accomplish the Great Commission^^56^^ through the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. That power and authority has been handed down in an unbroken line to the bishops today.
- While this chapter speaks often of the authority of the bishops and the pope, the Council Fathers continually remind us that all authority comes from Jesus.
Article 20) Apostolic Succession
- Apostolic succession is the handing on of the bishop role to the next generation. This ensures the timeless gifts given to the Church from Jesus are protected across the generations. The current pope sits in the place of Saint Peter as prime minister of the Kingdom on Earth, and the bishops of the world sit in the place of the other apostles.
- One of the responsibilities of a bishop is preparing the man who will take his place. This is why bishops and priests must be obedient to those in authority and follow the long-held teachings entrusted to the Church. It’s their responsibility to pass on the faith to their successors.
- The laity’s primary connection to Church hierarchy is a priest. Our parish priest represents the bishop to us, which is why he is under the authority of the bishop.
Article 21) Episcopal Consecration Is the Fullness of Holy Orders
- Bishops^^57^^ represent Jesus to the world today as the apostles did in the first century.
- To them is given the fulfillment of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Following in the teaching of Scriptures, priests are raised up to serve as the bishop’s assistants in shepherding the flock entrusted to them. Jesus sends men into the world with a calling to be His priests and bishops to guide the rest of humanity back to Him.
- The gift of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost^^58^^ has been handed down over the centuries through apostolic successions to our bishops, priests, and deacons. That same gift is given to the laity at our baptism and sealed at our confirmation. By virtue of our calling, the gifts are used in a different way.
Article 22) The Call to Unity and Obedience
- One of the major Vatican II reforms concerning bishops was the concept of collegiality.^^59^^
- Our bishops are members of an apostolic college^^60^^ or episcopal college. The unity of this college comes from the leadership of the pope. There can be no episcopal college without the pope.
- An expression of this unity is seen during an episcopal ordination (consecration) when several bishops are in attendance.
- The college of bishops has no authority except that given to them by the pope. The Council Fathers emphasize this point because our sinful nature wants to rebel against authority.
- Scripture shows over and over that God wants obedience from us in a parent–child relationship in order to keep us safe.
- One of the major errors of Protestantism is the rejection of Peter’s authority. Matthew 16:18–19 is clear that Jesus gave the authority of prime minister in the Kingdom of God only to Peter. The worst errors in the Church are caused by a rejection of authority, which was the sin of Lucifer.
- The call to obedience is not only to those under Holy Orders and consecrated religious but to all the laity.
Article 23) Bishops’ Duties to the Church
- When bishops are in unity with each other and the pope, they represent the unity Jesus prayed for.^^61^^ In their unity, bishops are assigned to only certain regions of the earth and are not allowed to exercise authority over other regions.
- There are three major functions of a bishop:
○ Protecting and promoting the unity of faith
○ Providing instruction of the faith
○ Promoting the works of the Church
- Bishops are to proclaim the Gospel within their diocese, support other bishops, and remain in union with the pope.
- There are dioceses in union with the pope, but they do not share all of the same practices that we do. These are Eastern Churches or Eastern Rite, which are not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox, who are not in union with us. Eastern Rite bishops are part of the same episcopal college to which our bishops belong.
Article 24) Only by His Grace
- This article drives home the point that as successors of the apostle, bishops have the duty of the Great Commission that the 11 were given at the Ascension.^^62^^
- It is only by the Holy Spirit that the Church has been able to overcome the sinful leadership and participation of humans. Humans have done everything possible to tear down the Church, but only by the grace of God, it survives.
- No one may assume the office of bishop without the authority and approval of the pope. Those who declare themselves bishop remove themselves from the Church because they have broken the union with the Vicar of Christ.
Article 25) Learn From the Bishops
- To fulfill the mandate of the Great Commission, those called to the order of bishop have an outpouring of the gifts from the Holy Spirit of teacher, preacher, and writer. Not all bishops have been given these gifts equally or with the desire to learn to use them; however, because of their office, we are called to be willing to learn from them, listen to their preaching, and read their writings. Even if you disagree with a bishop, you are called to respect the man because of his office.
- We are called to consume the teaching, preaching, and writing of the Bishop of Rome. Even if we do not agree with what he is saying or writing and would not accept it from anyone else, we must prayerfully consider all papal teachings.
- The last half of the article is given to the topic of papal infallibility. There is not enough room in this summary to do this concept justice. I encourage you to read this article to gain an understanding of papal and episcopal infallibility.
Article 26) Episcopal Fruit
- The measurement of a bishop’s success in ministry is the level of devotion to the Eucharist in his diocese. In the Eucharist, we find the unity promised to the Church along with the source of life and salvation.
- Saint Leo the Great taught that receiving the Eucharist transforms us into that which we consume: Jesus.^^63^^
- While bound by the standards of his national conference, who in turn are answerable to the Vatican, a bishop^^64^^ has full responsibility and therefore full authority to regulate the manner of liturgical celebration within his diocese. No bishop, priest, deacon, or lay liturgist can change the liturgy^^65^^ on their own authority. It is in the liturgy that we find our unity as Church. Liturgical abuse is one of the elements that led to the Protestant Reformation.
- The article concludes with a listing of how the work of a bishop benefits the flock under his authority.
Article 27) Servant Leader
- Bishops rule remembering that the Church is an upside down kingdom where those in higher offices are called to be the greater servants.^^66^^
- A bishop’s authority comes from the pope. A pope’s authority comes from Jesus.
- As long as a bishop remains under the authority of the pope and uses the Gospel as his standard, he is free to rule as he discerns is best for his flock.
- Being human, bishops fight sin just as the rest of us do. Church history is pocked with the stories of failing bishops, which is why we are called to pray for all bishops and the pope.
- We must regard our bishop with the respect due to his office even with his failings as a human. In turn, he is to treat us with the respect due to the people of God.
Article 28) Priests: The Spiritual Sons of Bishops
- Priests do not have the fullness of Holy Orders given to bishops. This is why they are subordinate to bishops in Church hierarchy. This is also why they are served by bishops.
- In union with their bishops, priests are our preachers and teachers while never publicly contradicting or undermining their bishops’ authority.
- Priests are to be to their bishop as sons are to their father. This of course means bishops are to be fathers to their priests (sons). Priests form a brotherhood among themselves, while bishops are brothers to each other.
- Most laity don’t have a relationship with their bishop, which is why priests bear the responsibility of representing the entirety of the Church to the majority of the laity.
Article 29) Bringing Back the Deacons
- “Beginning already in the early days of the Apostles, the Catholic Church has held in great veneration the sacred order of the diaconate, as the Apostle of the Gentiles himself bears witness.”^^67^^
- Permanent deacons are first seen in Acts 6 but were replaced with transitional deacons (those on their way to the priesthood) by the year 800.
- Permanent deacons are ordained and complete many of the duties of a priest except that they cannot preside at Mass (they can assist the priest, preach the Gospel, and offer a homily) or administer the sacraments of anointing of the sick, confirmation, or reconciliation. Of course, they cannot administer the sacrament of holy order, but neither can a priest.
- Local bishops make the determination whether they want permanent deacons in their diocese. This is why some diocese have them and others do not.
- Like priests, permanent deacons are under the direct authority of the bishop.
Chapter 4 – On the Laity
Before Vatican II, Church documents were rarely addressed directly to laity. Part of the Vatican II reforms was returning to a direct relationship between the hierarchy and the laity.
This chapter gives the standard for our relationship with the Church. [_The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem) _]defines how these standards are put into action.
- Following the model of the early Church, laity are to take on a greater role in leading our parishes but always under the authority of our parish priest.
- No longer is the responsibility for the fulfillment of the Church’s mission given only to the religious. The laity’s role in the Great Commission is explained in this chapter.
- The Church celebrates the diversity God gave us in humanity. It works to eliminate discrimination and forbids it within the Church.
Article 30) The Laity and Parish Pastors
- The Counter-Reformation^^68^^ gave parish priest a stronger shepherding role. Over the centuries, this role evolved into the priest becoming supreme ruler over the laity. One of the Vatican II reforms was to change the practice of diocesan priests running a parish without input from the laity.
- Laity are to replace the priest or take any of the authority given to him. We are called to follow the model given us in Scripture to serve those called by God to serve us.
- Never buy into the lie that we don’t need our priests. That comes from our enemy.
- Vatican II clarified the priestly role as our shepherds. To them is given the duty of helping us discern our individual callings and enabling us to use our gifts to build the Kingdom.
- “Priests therefore, as educators in the faith, must see to it either by themselves or through others that the faithful are led individually in the Holy Spirit to a development of their own vocation according to the Gospel, to a sincere and practical charity, and to that freedom with which Christ has made us free.”^^69^^
Article 31) The Secular Nature of the Laity
- The laity are defined as “all the faithful except those in holy orders and those in the state of religious life specially approved by the Church.”^^70^^ In our “own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.”^^71^^ This we do in the secular world.
- We laity “are called [to the ordinary circumstances of life] by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.”^^72^^
Article 32) The Diversity of the Laity
- Christians are called to one holy apostolic and catholic^^73^^ Church with rich diversity among the members.
- There is NEVER to be discrimination within the Church. This is easy to say, but we know that just like sin, discrimination occurs where it shouldn’t. Discrimination of any type is a sin against God because it’s a rejection of part of the Father’s creation; therefore, it cannot be tolerated. When it does occur, we need to use Jesus’ model of dealing with those who have made errors.
- The Council Fathers acknowledge that all members of the Church are going to progress on their path of holiness at a different rate and that each has their own calling. There is NOT only one way of holiness.
- We are all called to serve as Jesus did. To each of us is given a unique set of gifts to accomplish our specific calling. No form of service is better than others. If we are living a life worthy of our calling, we are doing the right thing.
Article 33) The Noble Duty of the Laity
- With our unique mixture of gifts for the building of the Kingdom, each is given a unique blend of energy and ability to use these gifts.
- Gone are the days when the calling of the Great Commission is left to the religious alone. As members of the laity, we have a role in going and making disciples of all nations by virtue of our baptism and confirmation.
- We are not called to replace the work of the religious but to support them. They, in turn, are called to support our role in the mission of the Church.
- We have the ability to bring the light of Jesus to places and people where a Roman collar and habit cannot go.
- Fulfilling the Great Commission is a noble duty and an expectation of all those who desire to have the title of Christian.
Article 34) The Royal Priesthood of the Laity
- In various locations, Scripture teaches that Jesus is prophet, priest, and king.^^74^^
- At baptism, we are consecrated to God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to join Jesus in His mission.
- In learning, living, and preaching the Gospel, we bring the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God.^^75^^
- We are allowed to share in the priesthood of Jesus in a manner unique to the lay life.
- Saint Peter teaches that as living stones we are being built into the wall of the Church, which is on the foundation of the apostles, with Jesus as the cornerstone.^^76^^ What we do during our lives helps in building the walls of the Church, as was done for us in generations past.
Article 35) Vocation of the Laity
- Lay Catholic adults are not called to hide the light of Christ; rather—empowered by the Holy Spirit—we are to be like Jesus, proclaiming the Kingdom of God by the testimony of our lives.
- Another Vatican II reform revives the role of laity as preachers and teachers of the Gospel in union with our bishops. This means we must also know the Gospels well enough to tell the story of Jesus and what He has done in our lives.
- “This evangelization…takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.”^^77^^
- The missionary fields for the laity begin within our homes.
○ For those of us called to the vocation of matrimony, we are to help our spouse come to know Jesus better.
○ For those of us blessed with children, we are called to evangelize to them and continue to do so in love when they stray from the Church. We are to be like the father to the younger son so they know they will always be welcomed home.^^78^^
Article 36) The Royal Role of the Laity
- In addition to sharing in the priesthood of Jesus, we share in His Kingship. We are to take this role with the same humility and virtue that Jesus did.
- We are called to expand the Kingdom not as worldly kingdoms expand through the sword do but as God does through truth, holiness, justice, love, and peace. Our duty is to learn to use these weapons as God intended to bring greater glory to the Kingdom.
- We are called to treat creation with the greatest of respect. Of course, this includes the environment and animals but even more so our fellow humans.
- We are called to become ambassadors of the Kingdom.^^79^^ In this role, we should expect rejection from family and friends. Count it all joy that we are rejected as Jesus was.^^80^^
Article 37) Our Relationship With Our Spiritual Shepherds
- We have the expectation that our “spiritual shepherds”^^81^^ will provide us with “the spiritual goods of the Church, especially the assistance of the word of God and of the sacraments.”^^82^^
- For our part, we have the responsibility to support our priest and bishops with our prayers, with our treasure, and with our talents. By the gifts given us by God, some of us have the further responsibility of offering them religious instruction and correction in love and respect.
- We are to defer to our spiritual shepherds in issues of theology, virtues, and morals.
- When presented with a Church teaching we disagree with, we are obligated to give an appropriate assent of faith, seeking the Truth in the teaching. This is not blindly following the Church. This is trusting in the Holy Spirit to give us sound teaching and to help enlarge our hearts to what He wants us to know. Ultimately, we use our freewill to make the decision if we accept the teaching.
- We are to take roles in the Church working in mutual respect and love with our spiritual shepherds. In this way, the Church, “strengthened by each one of its members, may more effectively fulfill this mission for the life of the world.”^^83^^
Article 38) Christians Bring Life to the World
- We are to be lights to the nations as proud witnesses of Jesus. This is not easy in a world that prefers the dark. Popular culture wants us to keep quiet, but as the old hymn says, “How can I keep from singing?” To be a Christian, we must learn what Jesus taught, live what Jesus taught, and preach what Jesus taught in words and actions.
- We are to offer our gifts to the universal mission of the Church: The Great Commission.
- “Christians must be to the world what the soul is to the body.”^^84^^ Without the Gospel, the world is dead. While the religious have their duty to spread the Gospel, they make up less than 10% of the Church. The calling to bring life to the world is for all Christians; it is up to you and me—in union with our bishops—to become lights to the nations.
Chapter 5 – On the Universal Call to Holiness
We have defined the inner nature of the Church and the roles of the people of God. In this short chapter, we look at the way the Church accomplishes its mission: holiness.^^85^^
As a council father and later pope, Saint John Paul II addresses the obligation of the universal call to holiness in his 2001 apostolic letter, At the Beginning of the New Millennium (Novo Millennio Ineunte). “The rediscovery of the Church as mystery, or as a people gathered together by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, was bound to bring with it a rediscovery of the Church’s holiness, understood in the basic sense of belonging to him who is in essence the Holy One, the thrice Holy. To profess the Church as holy means to point to her as the Bride of Christ, for whom he gave himself precisely in order to make her holy. This as it were objective gift of holiness is offered to all the baptized.”^^86^^
The focus on the saints in this chapter and the next two is a response to the desire of Saint John XXIII that the Church speak not only about the Church Militant^^87^^ but also about the Church Triumphant.
Article 39) Indefectibility Holy
- Our faith teaches that because Jesus founded and sanctified the Church, and because the Holy Spirit is bringing it into perfection, the Church is indefectibility holy.
- Saint Paul teaches that it is the will of God that we be holy.^^88^^
- A proven method of living a holy life is to follow the Evangelical Counsels^^89^^ of chastity, poverty, and obedience. “For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.”^^90^^
Article 40) You Must Be Perfect as Your Heavenly Father Is Perfect
- Holiness is a grace (a gift) from God to set us apart from the stain of sin in the world. While the grace of holiness is freely given, it’s difficult to accept because of the powerful draw of sin.
- We cannot become holy on our own. Holiness is only possible when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us.
- When we sense holiness in someone, we are drawn toward that person even though getting closer to them makes us more aware of our sins.
Article 41) The General Call to Holiness for Each Vocation
- No matter our calling, all Christians must work to increase their personal holiness.
- This article overviews the specific calling of holiness for bishops, priests, deacons, laity, and the poor.
- For laity, the Council Fathers offer these suggestions on how we can increase our holiness:
○ Married couples are to sustain one another in grace throughout the entire length of their lives.
○ Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves His Bride, for whom He delivered Himself up.
○ Welcome children as gifts from God (never as burdens).
○ Raise up children with Christian doctrine and the evangelical virtues.
○ Be an example of unwearyingly and generous love.
○ Represent Holy Mother Church well.
○ Widows and single people are asked to make great contributions toward holiness and apostolic endeavor in the Church.
○ Labor makes us better by aiding our fellow citizens.
○ Encourage society to a better mode of existence.
○ We are called to voluntary sharing of each other’s burdens.
- In all this, we are called to climb to the heights of holiness and apostolic activity.
Article 42) Holiness Begins With Agape
- Quoting 1 John 4:16, the Council Fathers tell us that holiness begins in loving as God loves, which is called agape.^^91^^
- Love that leads to holiness is shown in laying down our lives for another^^92^^ as the example of Jesus shows us.
- The Church honors those willing to forgo a “normal” life to live as Jesus lived. Those willing to marry Jesus and the Church are given an eminent position because they show us holiness in loving God more than enjoying the stuff of Earth. We honor those willing to die for the faith with the immediate title of saint.
- Holiness is not an option for the Christian. Holiness can only be attained by loving God; it can never be attained by loving the stuff of Earth.
Chapter 6 – On the Religious
When this document was promulgated, there were 2,268 Council Fathers present. Of that number, 694 (30.6%) were associated with the various religious orders. The world and the Church owe a great debt to the religious orders because they are the ones who blazed the path as missionaries, protected the wisdom given to us by the early Church fathers, built our educational system, developed the hospital system, and cared for the least of the world.
This chapter acknowledges their contribution, reminds them of the standard to which they are held, and thanks God for the gift they are to the Church. Among these five articles, we can better understand their role, which is not that much different from ours.
Article 43) The Value of the Religious Life to the Church
- Beginning with an explanation of the evangelical counsels, the Council Fathers extol the virtue of religious communities.
- Religious life is not a step between the laity and diocesan clerics.
- Throughout our history, God calls people to the consecrated religious life for a specific purpose that cannot be accomplished by diocesan clerics or the laity.
Article 44) The Charisms of Orders
- The cement of religious life is their vows or sacred bonds used to consecrate themselves to God and to each other. This is why those in religious orders are often called consecrated religious.
- Based on evangelical counsels, each order has distinct vows following in the charism of their founder. This is also what directs the function or purpose of the order. God raises up order-specific needs in the Kingdom at various points in our history.
- All orders share in common the “duty of working to implant and strengthen the Kingdom of Christ in souls and to extend that Kingdom to every time.”^^93^^
- The love that binds the members of an order together is only possible through the Holy Spirit. They give us a model of agape.
- Laity need not get along with others, but that is not what God wants. Diocesan clerics don’t have to play well together, although it’s preferred. The consecrated life demands members die to self by following the example of Jesus for the good of the order and the Church.
- Though the orders are not part of the hierarchical structure of the Church,^^94^^ they are an integral part that “undeniably belongs to its life and holiness.”^^95^^
Article 45) The Relationship Between Orders and the Church
- All religious orders are under the authority of the pope. The leader of each order reports directly to the pope.
- Order can only be established by the pope, which gives him authority to regulate the order. Only the pope can disband an order.
- Orders must have the bishop’s permission to function within a diocese.
- Permission must be given for an order to function within a parish. The parish pastor has authority over consecrated religious working within his parish.
- Another reason to honor those in consecrated life is that in addition to answering to the superior of their order, they are also answerable to the bishop and priests while working within a diocese.
Article 46) The Value Religious Life Brings to the Earthly City
- Consecrated religious are one of the most outward signs of the Church to the world. Consider the Christian witness of a woman in her habit or a man in a cassock.
- Those in the religious life bear witness that dying to self for the sake of Christ is not giving up the stuff of Earth but gaining the promises of Heaven.
- Using the analogy of Saint Augustine, while some in consecrated life may seem removed from the pilgrim Church, those behind the cloistered are helping to ensure “the earthly city may have its foundation in the Lord and may tend toward Him.”^^96^^
Article 47) Our Encouragement
- The Council Fathers end this chapter by thanking God for those willing to answer the call for consecrated religious.
- The Fathers offer their prayers that the consecrated religious will remain faithful to their vocations and will in turn call the rest of the Church on to greater holiness.
Chapter 7 – On the Pilgrim Church
The full title of this short chapter is “On the Eschatological Nature of the Pilgrim Church and Its Union With the Church in Heaven.”
Eschatology is the study of the last things: Heaven, Purgatory, Hell, and the end of the world. Our eschatological nature is that the Church is a means to the end and is not the end. The end to which we pilgrim is Heaven—the actual presence of God.
While what we do each day as Christians is important and critical, we need to see everything in light of the return of Jesus. This is why He gave us the parables of a king or master going away for a long time and then returning for the harvest.^^97^^ We are not to be sitting around waiting for Jesus to return but to be active in the fields.
This chapter focuses on our destination as pilgrims by following the examples of the saints. The complex reality of the Church is also discussed when talking about the Church here, in Purgatory, and in Heaven.
Article 48) The Pilgrim Church
- We (the Church) are a pilgrim people on our way to Heaven. Where we are now is not our final destination.
- In our pilgrimage, we are guided by the Holy Spirit, and we are being transformed into the people of God through the sacraments.
- We are called to a standard that is opposed to the spirit of the world.
- At the end of our pilgrimage, we will be judged by God’s perfect justice according to our works, in particular how we treated others.
- Those that have chosen not to follow God will be given their desire and spend forever separated from Him.
Article 49) The Communion of the Saints
- According to Scripture and wisdom given to the Church, we believe in the communion of saints. Those who are with Christ are just as active in the pilgrimage of the Church as are those on Earth.
- We can ask for the intercession of those now in the presence of Christ as we call out for the intercession of those we see each day.
- We do not seek the intercession of the dead but of those living in the Kingdom, the Church Triumphant.
- We do not worship these fellow humans, because worship is reserved for God alone.^^98^^ We venerate them for their accomplishment in living a life worthy of their calling.
Article 50) The Saints and Those in Purgatory
- This article describes our relationship with the members of the Church in Heaven and Purgatory.
- Among the saints, there is a hierarchy of greatness:
○ The apostles are given the highest level because they were the first witnesses to Jesus and all but one were martyred.
○ At the next level are the martyrs.
○ Those who forgo carnal and earthly pleasures for the sake of serving Christ are honored next.
○ We recognize those who lived a virtuous live worthy of imitation, which is anyone in Heaven. We are encouraged to get to know the saints because their lives show us how personal holiness is possible.
- During Mass, we hear, “We are most closely united to the Church in heaven in communion with and venerating the memory first of all of the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, of Blessed Joseph and the blessed apostles and martyrs and of all the saints.”^^99^^
Article 51) The Extended Church
- The Council Fathers reaffirm the teachings of previous councils concerning our relationship with the saints.
- We are warned of the practice of some who gamble by living a sinful life, hoping the fun enjoyed here is better than Purgatory or that they will be able to make a death bed conversion. This is dangerous because like the fool in one of Jesus’ parables,^^100^^ we don’t know when our lives are going to be demanded of us.
- Proclamation and veneration of the saints must follow the teaching of the Church. When done correctly, it adds to our worship of God rather than taking away from it. When we go too far in our veneration of saints, we end up worshiping them, which is a grave sin against God.
- In love, all Christians are called to be in a family relationship, including those who have experienced physical death.
Chapter 8 – On the Blessed Virgin Mary
The final chapter of Lumen Gentium was intended to be its own document, which is why it is formatted differently than the other seven chapters. Its full title is “The Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in the Mystery of Christ and the Church.”
Those who pushed to have this chapter included seem to be following the prompting of the Holy Spirit because our understanding of Mary does belong within the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church rather than as a decree. Among these 17 articles, the Council Fathers present the basic teachings of the Church concerning Jesus’ mother. Also included are admonishments for those who take our obligation to Mary too far and put her on the same level as her Son. The information in this chapter is unpacked in the CCC paragraphs 484–975.
There are several points in this chapter where you will see the phrase “Queen Mother.” When I learned this concept and what it meant to the first century Christians, I understood why the church venerates Mary. If you struggle with Mary and her relationship with the Church, there is an article that explains her as queen mother on my website.^^101^^
Article 52) Our Obligation to Mary
- Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles and their successors have told us that as Christians, we are to follow the example Jesus gave us at the cross^^102^^ and honor Mary as His mother and ours.
Article 53) Mary, the Mother of God
- Several Christian faith traditions can agree on the title of Mary as the Mother of God.^^103^^
- The first two chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke make it clear that Jesus was conceived, grew in Mary’s womb, and gave birth to Him. Since Jesus is the incarnation of God, Mary is the mother of God.
- Mary is the “preeminent and singular member of the Church,”^^104^^ meaning that she is the great example of how humans are to respond to Jesus.
Article 54) Purpose of This Chapter
- Rather than describing the purpose of a chapter in the opening, the Council Fathers wait until the third article to tell us what this chapter is about.
○ To describe the role of the Blessed Virgin in the mystery of the Incarnate Word and the Mystical Body
○ To explain the obligations we have toward Mary
- From Pope Paul VI’s homily at the close of Vatican II’s second session, we are told Mary “occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.”^^105^^
Article 55) Mary in the Hebrew Scriptures
- Note: This article begins section two, “The Role of the Blessed Mother in the Economy of Salvation.”^^106^^
- The Hebrew Scriptures help our understanding of the role of Mary in the Church today.
- While only citing Genesis 3:15, the Council Fathers tell us there are several references in the Hebrew Scriptures to the Mother of the Redeemer. She is directly referenced in Isaiah 7:14, which is quoted in Matthew 1:22–23.
- For more study, refer to CCC 489 for a discussion of how the holy women of the Hebrew Scriptures prefigured Mary.
Article 56) Loosening the Knot of Disobedience
- Just as Eve willingly allowed our enemy access to humanity, Mary willingly allowed our salvation access to humanity.^^107^^
- How could someone not full of grace become the handmaid of the Lord?
- Both here and in article 53, there is a veiled reference to the long-held teaching of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which was dogmatically defined^^108^^ in 1854 by Pope Pius IX.
- Now here comes the amazing part: A daughter of Adam became the mother of our mediator to God the Father. The created helped the Creator in the salvation of humanity. Saint Irenaeus taught that Mary’s faith loosened the knot of disobedience Adam and Eve had tied.^^109^^
Article 57) The Remaining Joyful Mysteries
- This article picks up with the rest of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. Each of these mysteries show us examples of how the incarnation^^110^^ of God in Jesus helped in our salvation as well as giving us examples of how to live a life worthy of our calling.
- Mary is held out in each of these mysteries as an example of how we need to be open to doing the will of God no matter the request.
- The Visitation: Jesus taught many times that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and to be willing to extend them mercy.
- The Nativity: God taught us through the Holy Family the gift of spiritual poverty. This is a freeing of ourselves from the stuff of Earth so that God can give us “life in abundance.”^^111^^
- The Presentation: The Holy Family demonstrates obedience to the teachings of God that are protected and interpreted by the Church.
- The Finding of Jesus in the Temple: Jesus showed us that we are to have a zeal for God above all.
Article 58) Mary and the Public Jesus
- There are four powerful times when Mary participates in the public ministry of her Son and Lord. This article suggests that her actions demonstrated the role she was going to fill as the queen mother.
○ She is our Intercessor^^112^^ to the King of Kings.^^113^^
○ She is our example of how to hear the teaching of Jesus.^^114^^
○ She is our example of how to endure redemptive suffering,^^115^^ although not as powerful an example as is Jesus.
○ She is the mother to the Church.^^116^^
Article 59) Mary Beyond the Resurrection
- Mary was an active member of the early Church.^^117^^ In following with the command of Jesus,^^118^^ she would have been treated by all as the queen mother.
- While not specifically mentioned, it’s presumed that Mary was present at Pentecost for her second miraculous encounter with the Holy Spirit (the first being the Annunciation).
- From the time of the Church Fathers, the tradition has been held as a truth that after Mary died, her body was assumed into Heaven in a manner similar to Jesus. In 1950 Pope Pius XII used his authority to declare^^119^^ “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory”^^120^^ as a divinely revealed dogma.
Article 60) Is Mary Our Mediator?
- NOTE: This article begins section three, “On the Blessed Virgin and the Church.”
- To clear up confusion about how we understand Mary’s role, the Council Fathers invoke the words of Saint Paul: “There is but one Mediator as we know from the words of the apostle, ‘for there is one God and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a redemption for all.’”^^121^^
Mary *]*][* another Mediator between us and the Father. *]
- She on our behalf to God as I would intercede for you; however, because Mary enjoys the role of queen mother—a role given to her by God—she has a greater role as intercessor than we do (more on this in article 62).
Article 61) Spiritual Mother of the Church
- As a reminder of what we have already covered and to prepare us for what is coming in the next article, the Council Fathers tell us again how Mary is the Mother of Jesus and therefore the Mother of all Christians.
Article 62) Mary as Our Intercessor
- We learn through the presence of Moses and Elisha at the Transfiguration^^122^^ that those in Heaven can intercede for us. Bathsheba shows that part of the role of queen mother is to intercede.^^123^^
- In this intercessor role, Mary has been given various titles that can lead some to conclude—both inside and outside the Church—that we believe she is at the same level as her Son and King. The Council Fathers tell us it “is to be so understood that [Mary’s various titles] neither takes away from nor adds anything to the dignity and efficaciousness of Christ the one Mediator.”^^124^^
- The Council Fathers reiterate that Mary is equal to Jesus: “For no creature could ever be counted as equal with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer.”^^125^^ Just as a human may serve in the priesthood of Christ and sinful humans can also participate in the amazing works of God, the queen mother is subordinate to the King.
Article 63) The Church as Mother
- We change our viewpoint and look at the Church as our mother, following the example of Mary.
- As the Church, we are called to follow her example in being open to the will of God, allowing ourselves to be guided by God’s will, forgo the stuff of Earth for God’s greater glory, to care for others, and to intercede.
Article 64) Mother Church
- This is a continuation of the previous article describing how the Church is our mother by following the model of Mary.
- It is in preaching that the Church brings Jesus to the world.
- Saint Ambrose teaches that we are to imitate the mother of the Lord and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep the virginal purity of the entire faith, a firm hope, and a sincere charity.
Article 65) A Model of Virtues
- Mary is a model of virtues.
- The model of a virgin might be difficult to understand for those of us called to the vocation of married life. The Council Fathers are tying it to Ephesians 5:27 to show that we are to strive toward a life of holiness so we can come before God “without spot or wrinkle.”
- We should model her willingness to serve God without question and how she lived a life of service to Jesus.
- The Council Fathers clarify Mary is “proclaimed and venerated.” In Luke 1:48, she says that all nations shall call her blessed.
Mary is blessed, but she is *]*][* to be worshiped. *]
Worship is reserved for God alone.
Article 66) The Cult of the Blessed Virgin
- NOTE: This article begins section four, “The Cult of the Blessed Virgin in the Church.”^^126^^
- This article presents an introduction to the cult of Mary.
- As members of the Church, we are called to honor Mary with great respect as we have talked about for this entire chapter^^127^^; however, some of us go too far in their proclamation and veneration of Mary.
- The last sentence makes clear that proclamation and veneration of Mary must be done “within the limits of sound and orthodox doctrine.”^^128^^
Article 67) Mary’s Proper Place
- The Council Fathers tell us that with regard to the cult of Mary, we are to “assiduously keep away from whatever—either by word or deed—could lead separated brethren^^129^^ or any other into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church.”^^130^^ Some see this as a command to hide our light under a basket for the sake of unity. Not true. The Council Fathers are telling us to stay true to the Magisterium of the Church^^131^^ concerning Mary and that her cult is to be “generously fostered” and “religiously observed.”^^132^^
- This is the greatest proclamation and veneration we can offer concerning Mary: “True devotion consists [of being] moved to a filial love toward our mother and to the imitation of her virtues.”^^133^^
Article 68) Mary as a Sign of True Hope and Comfort
- NOTE: This article begins section five, “Mary the Sign of Created Hope and Solace to the Wandering People of God.”
- Mary is an image of what the Church is to become. In that role, she leads us to her Son and King. “Do whatever He tells you.”^^134^^
- In her role as “a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth,”^^135^^ Jesus has sent her to Earth^^136^^ several times to call us back to Him.
Article 69) All Who Call Her Blessed
- Those in the Eastern Rite Church have a strong devotion to Mary.
- No matter your feelings about the role of Mary in the Church, no one can deny she is one of the few humans in Scripture called blessed. Even the King James Bible translates Gabriel’s greeting in Luke 1:28 as “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
That was a BRIEF summary of what the Holy Spirit has given us in the Vatican II document The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). I highly encourage you to prayerfully read the entire document. It can be accessed at this link.
Becoming a Light to the Nations
During the Year of Faith in 2012, the Holy Spirit inspired me to begin an apostolate He first made me aware of when I came into the Church in 1990. Becoming a Light to the Nations helps lay Catholic adults learn why and how to live lives worthy of their calling through the wisdom found in the Vatican II documents.
This book is the first of a series of introductory books on each of the Vatican II documents.
I am doing an in-depth study of Lumen Gentium through a podcast called The Becoming a Light to the Nations Show that can be access at GilMichelini.com/podcast as well as on iTunes and Sticher.
You can learn more about me at GilMichelini.com.
The Lord teaches us to be grateful in all things. I want to thank Him for the privilege of being a part of this journey to help bring light to the nations. He has also blessed me with many wonderful people who helped in the development of this book.
For my best friend, coach, and wife, Fran. For my daughters—Anna, Mara, Celia, and Gemma—for inspiring me to learn from the Father how to be a better dad and man. For my sons-in-law—Matthew and Devin—for helping me to learn the gift of mercy and my responsibility to the next generation of men. For my beta readers, including Andi and Dr. Bob, for your excellent feedback. For my editor, Daphne Parsekian, who cleaned up my abuses of the written word to make this book better. For the countless others who have allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them to help me become the person I am today and for setting the standard of who I need to become.
Thank you for getting to the last page. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me through social media or email: [email protected]
May you be open to receiving the blessings that the Father has for you.
May you be open to conforming yourself to the image of Christ, the light of nations.
May you be open to the boldness of the Holy Spirit guiding you to live a life worthy of your calling.
May you be seeking God’s will for your life and doing what brings Him greater glory.
And I for all these blessings on you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God!
Saint George Preca, pray for us!
^^ The Latin word incipit means “it begins.” Vatican documents follow the ancient tradition of taking their title from the first words of the document. The title of many hymns are their incipits. The first sentence of Lumen Gentium in Latin is “Lumen gentium cum sit Christus,” which translates in English to “Christ is the Light of nations.”
^^ An Apostolic Constitution has the highest level of authority from the Vatican. As a political constitution is binding on all members of a country, an Apostolic Constitution is binding on all members of the Church. Think of the four Vatican II documents as the standard for which we are called. There are generally no actionable items in Constitutions; these are found in the various decrees.
^^ Those working against the Church have made dogma or being dogmatic a negative because it holds a society to a standard that cannot be changed. A dogma is a truth concerning faith or morals revealed by God, transmitted from the Apostles or by tradition, and proposed by the Church for the acceptance of the faithful. All Christian dogmas are Divine revelations and authoritative teachings. The best way to think of dogmas is that they are the standards Jesus gave us to live by.
^^ Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 567. As a footnote to this footnote, the CCC was released in 1992 under the authority of Saint John Paul II in an effort to celebrate the achievement of Vatican II by pulling together all of what the Gospels reveal through the Church in one volume. Some call the CCC the great fruit of Vatican II.
^^ Philippians 2:12
^^ The First Vatican Council (Vatican I) was called by Pope Pius IX in 1869 to address the –isms that came from the Enlightenment, including Relativism and Humanism. They were able to release (in Church-speak: promulgate) two documents before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 postponed the council’s second session. Vatican I was never reconvened.
^^ Vatican II was in session between 1962 and 1965 in four sessions These often started in the autumn (September or October) and ended by the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8). The work of council continued in committees between sessions, but nothing could be approved outside of the sessions.
^^ This is the name given to the bishops who participated in the council. While the numbers varied over the four sessions, there were at least 2,400 bishops from around the world at each of the sessions.
^^ This is a fancy way to say that the document was approved by the pope and permission was given for publication.
^^ From Saint John XXIII’s opening address at the first session of Vatican II, October 11, 1962.
^^ Gerard Philips, “History of the Constitution”
^^ The official version of the document can be accessed through this link: http://bit.ly/LumenGentiumFromVatican
^^ The Webster’s definition of a mystery is “a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand.” While God has revealed much to us, there is still much He asks of us on faith. This is what is meant by the mystery of the Church.
^^ Matthew 18:2–4
^^ 1 John 3:2
^^ Evangelization is bringing the Gospel to the world. How we do this will be discussed later.
^^ Genesis 1:1
^^ CCC 600
^^ Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.” Some Protestants take this verse to mean that God created some people to be with Him and some people to be in Hell. The people that hold this belief always happen to be the ones God chose. We reject this because Saint Paul also tells us in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
^^ Lumen Gentium §03, ¶01
^^ Matthew 16:18
^^ 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19
^^ Lumen Gentium §04, ¶02
^^ Matthew 13 and 25 are filled with these. Other parables concerning the Kingdom are in Matthew 18:23–35, Matthew 20:1–16, Matthew 22:2–14, Mark 4:26–29, and Luke 13:18–19.
^^ Those canonized as saints by the Church are the ones the Holy Spirit has given us as models of how to live a life worthy of our calling. We know there are billions of others who have led lives worthy of the title of saints. We celebrate them on the Feast of All Saints Day.
^^ John 10:1–10; Isaiah 40:11; Exodus 34:11; John 10:11–15; 1 Peter 5:4
^^ 1 Corinthians 3:9; Romans 11:13–26; Matthew 21:33–43
^^ Psalm 117:22; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Corinthians 3:9, 11; Ephesians 2:19–22; 1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5, 7; Revelation 21:1, 3
^^ Galatians 4:26; Revelation 12:17
^^ Ephesians 3:19, 5:24–29; Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9, 22:17
^^ 2 Corinthians 5:6; Colossians 3:1
^^ John 11:11–14
^^ While the Church is one “complex reality,” names are given to differentiate the states of the Church. What you and I are now experiencing is called the Church Militant because we are fighting against sin to build the Kingdom on Earth. The Church Suffering are those who sought salvation in Jesus but left the Church Militant still needing purification. They are in Purgatory awaiting their entry to Heaven. See Lumen Gentium §51 ¶01 for more on this. The Church Triumphant refers to all those in Heaven who have fought the good fight and finished the race. This is where the saints are.
^^ Lumen Gentium §08 ¶01
^^ Lumen Gentium §08 ¶02
^^ To re-form something is to return it to its original form. Within the Church, our original form is in the teaching of Jesus Christ and the early Church Fathers. Vatican II was a council of reform rather than a council addressing an issue with new teaching. A key point you must remember is that[* there were NO NEW teachings from Vatican II.*]
^^ According to Saint Thomas Aquinas, this is filial fear (family fear), which is the fear a child has at offending parents or being separated from them. What most of us think of fear as related to a powerful person is servile fear, the fear of punishment. When Scripture speaks of the fear of the Lord, it is fear of damaging the relationship you have with Him. This is why we try not to sin and ask His forgiveness when we do.
^^ Acts 10:35
^^ CCC 1546-1547
^^ Acts 11:13–14, 16:31, 18:8
^^ Matthew 5:48
^^ This teaching is in the document Pastor Aeternus (Eternal Shepherd). This gift has only been used twice, and both times were to declare long-held teachings on Mary as dogmatic.
^^ Esther 4:14
^^ This is a Vatican term for a diocese. CCC 832-835
^^ Matthew 16:18
^^ “Separated Brethren” is the name given to those Christians who have separated themselves from Roman Catholicism. Pope Leo XIII used separated brethren to refer to Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in his encyclical Orientalium Dignitas (Eastern Dignity). Saint John XXIII used the term to include Protestants as well. The Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio (Restoration of Unity) goes into depth on how to bring unity among Christians. Vatican II also addressed our relationship with the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches in the Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Eastern Churches).
^^ Luke 15:11–32
^^ Dr. Ralph Martin did his doctoral dissertation on this article. A version of it is available in the book Will Many Be Saved?
^^ Instructions on applying the teaching of this article are given in Vatican II decree Nostra Aetate.
^^ Lumen Gentium §16 ¶01
^^ Romans 6:15
^^ Matthew 18:12–14: Luke 15:1–7
^^ Matthew 28:19–21
^^ As with any human organization, there must be a structure to the leadership. Jesus established the Church hierarchy in Matthew 16:18, and the Holy Spirit has defined it into the form we have today. King Jesus is our leader. Until He returns, the Bishop of Rome serves as the prime minster of the Kingdom on Earth. All bishops report to him. Cardinal and archbishop are offices that bishops hold, but they are still bishops. Reporting to the bishops are diocesan priests and permanent deacons. Those in consecrated religious orders are not part of the hierarchy; however, the leader of each order reports to the pope.
^^ Pope is a common name of the leader of the Church. It is an Italian word for “papa” because he is in the father role of the Church while we wait for the return of the King. In Lumen Gentium, you will see the pope called the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, Roman Pontiff, the prince of the apostles, and the Successor of Peter. He will also be referred to as the one sitting on Peter’s chair.
^^ Matthew 28:19–21
^^ The English word bishop comes from the Greek word “episcopal.” This is why items relating to bishops are often described as episcopal. The Episcopal denomination came from the Church of England (Anglican), where authority rests with the bishops rather than in a pope. While Catholics and Episcopalians share some common beliefs and practices, there are several differences, along with what they inherited from the Church of England, that divide us.
^^ Acts 2
^^ Collegiality is when colleagues cooperate. Episcopal collegiality is when bishops cooperate among themselves and the Bishop of Rome.
^^ A college is a body of something. The most common usage is a college being a body of similar schools. An apostolic college is a body of bishops. Each country has had an apostolic or episcopal college, called national conferences, of bishops since Vatican II.
^^ John 17:20–23
^^ Acts 1:9–11
^^ Saint Leo the Great, Sermon 63. Paragraph 7
^^ Sometimes diocesan bishops are called the local ordinary.
^^ This does not preclude a bishop from choosing among the options offered within a liturgy. This is why you might see differing practices among dioceses. If you do not believe a liturgical practice in your diocese is correct, talk with the priest. It could be that he has misunderstood something from the bishop. If he is freelancing with the liturgy and is not open to charitable correction, contact the liturgical office in your diocese, and trust in the Holy Spirit that the matter will the handled.
^^ Luke 22:26–27
^^ Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem 1
^^ This is a name given to the period between the close of the Council of Trent in 1565 and the opening of Vatican II in 1962. The name comes from the focus from Trent to put measures in place to counter the actions of the Protestant Reformation.
^^ Presbyterorum Ordinis §06 ¶02
^^ Lumen Gentium §31 ¶01
^^ Lumen Gentium §31 ¶01
^^ Catholic is a Greek word that means “universal.” When it is lowercase as it is here, it should be read as “universal” and not the proper name of the universal Church.
^^ CCC 436
^^ Psalm 50:14, Psalm 95:2, Psalm 107:22, Psalm 116:17, Hebrews 13:15
^^ 1 Peter 2:5
^^ Lumen Gentium §35 ¶02
^^ Luke 15:11–32
^^ 2 Corinthians 5:20
^^ James 1:2–4
^^ A term used in Lumen Gentium §37 and §41 for describing bishops and priests
^^ Lumen Gentium §37 ¶01
^^ Lumen Gentium §37 ¶04
^^ This is from a letter written between 150 and 225 by Diognetus. The letter is one of the earliest non-Biblical explanations of the faith.
^^ To be holy means to be set apart, dedicated, or consecrated to God. This word comes from the Latin root sancio,[_ _]from which we also get sacred. Holiness is a grace, a gift from God alone. To live a holy life, we are to imitate the life and teachings of Jesus. For a condensed version of how to be holy, see 1 Peter 1:13–16.
^^ Novo Millennio Ineunte §30 ¶03
^^ Recall that in article 8, the Fathers called the Church a “complex reality” because it is not bound by time and space as are other human institutions. See that footnote for more information.
^^ 1 Thessalonians 4:3
^^ While often associated with the religious life, the Evangelical Counsels are for anyone wanting to live a life worthy of their calling. The one that might cause confusion is chastity. We are being chaste within our marriages when we are faithful to our spouse. Religious are being chaste when they are being faithful to their spouse, Jesus.
^^ 1 Thessalonians 4:7
^^ Agape is one of the Greek words for love that means to love unconditionally as God does. We are called to have this love for all humans. It is difficult to have agape for others, but that is the standard Jesus gave us.
^^ John 15:13
^^ Lumen Gentium §44 ¶02
^^ 15-20% of the world’s bishops are members of orders. When a pope asks a consecrated man to become a bishop, permission must be given by the order’s leader before he can give an answer to the pope. When Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio, SJ was elected Pope Francis, he needed the permission of the Superior General of the Society of Jesus to accept; permission was quickly given.
^^ Lumen Gentium §44 ¶04
^^ Lumen Gentium §46 ¶02
^^ Parable of the Tenants – Matthew 21:33–46; Parable of the Ten Virgins – Matthew 25:1–13; Parable of the Talents – Matthew 25:14–30; Parable of the Judgment of Nations – Matthew 25:31–45; Parable of the Ten Coins – Luke 19:12–28
^^ Luke 4:8
^^ Lumen Gentium §50 ¶04
^^ Luke 12:13–21
^^ John 19:25–27
^^ The Council of Ephesus in 431 decreed that Mary is the Mother of God because her son Jesus is both God and man. Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters accept the teachings of only the first seven councils of which Ephesus was the third. While several Evangelicals accept the teaching that Jesus was fully God and fully man, they struggle with the title Theotokos when applied to Mary. Theotokos is a Greek word that means God-bearer or one who gave birth to God.
^^ Lumen Gentium §53 ¶01
^^ Pope Paul VI Address to the Council on December 4, 1963 as recorded in Lumen Gentium §54 ¶01.
^^ The Economy of Salvation, or the Divine Economy, is defined in the glossary of the CCC: “From a Greek word oikonomia, literally ‘management of a household’ or ‘stewardship,’ which refers to God’s revelation and communication of himself to the world in time for the sake of the salvation of all humanity; hence, the economy of salvation (CCC 258 and 1066). The economy of salvation refers to God’s activity in creating and governing the world, particularly with regard to his plan for the salvation of the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a plan which is being accomplished through his Body the Church, in its life and sacraments; hence, the ‘sacramental economy’ (CCC 1076 and 1093).”
^^ She accomplished this through her willingness to carry and raise Jesus (see Luke 1). This is why Church Fathers have taught that she is the model of how we need to be open to God even when the request does not make sense or if we do not have all the answers. We celebrate this willingness in the first mystery of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.
^^ This was done via the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus (God Ineffable).
^^ Against Heresies: Book III, Chapter 22, Paragraph 4
^^ Saint George Preca—patron saint of the Becoming a Light to the Nations apostolate—focused his teachings and writings on the mystery of incarnation. When God “became flesh a dwelt among us” (John 1:14), He was incarnate in the man Jesus. Incarnation is Latin means “to become flesh.” John 1:1–18 explains this, but you need to read it slowly knowing that “The Word” is Jesus. Theologians also use the term “hypostatic union” to describe the incarnation. This phrase describes that Jesus was both fully God and fully man.
^^ John 10:10
^^ While we should go directly to Jesus with EVERYTHING, we know the power of asking for others to “put in a good word for us,” particularly someone who is in good with the person. This is why we seek the intercession of the saints and Mary—as queen mother—in particular. Recall that Moses experienced a physical death but was seen at the Transfiguration. We are dead when we are lost to Hell. This is why calling on saints on the intercession of the saint is not a violation of Deuteronomy 18:11.
^^ John 2:1–11
^^ Luke 2:19, 51
^^ John 19:25
^^ John 19:26–27
^^ Acts 1:14
^^ John 19:26–27
^^ This is the second and (so far) last time the papal authority of infallibility was used to declare a teaching dogmatic. On November 1, 1950, (Feast of all Saints) Pope Pius promulgated his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus (the most bountiful God) defining the dogma of the assumption.
^^ Munificentissimus Deus §44
^^ 1 Timothy 2:5–6
^^ Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, Luke 9:28–36, and 2 Peter 1:16–18
^^ 1 Kings 2:19
^^ Lumen Gentium §62 ¶01
^^ Lumen Gentium §62 ¶02
^^ When you see the word “cult,” you might think of something bad. The common definition is “a small religious group that is not part of a larger and more accepted religion.” Considering Christians are less than 2 billion out of over 7 billion on Earth, non-Christians could call us a cult.
^^ Luke 1:48
^^ Lumen Gentium §66 ¶01
^^ See the definition in Lumen Gentium §15 ¶01
^^ Lumen Gentium §67 ¶01
^^ When someone (like me) says to “stay true to the Magisterium of the Church,” we are telling you to study what the Church teaches from the revelation of the Gospel and hold that as your standard.
^^ Lumen Gentium §67 ¶01
^^ John 2:5
^^ Lumen Gentium §68 ¶01
^^ There have been several supernatural appearances of Mary on Earth since her assumption. Only a few are approved worthy of study and veneration, including: Our Lady of Guadalupe (1531), Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (1830), Our Lady of Lourdes (1858), Our Lady of Knock (1879), and Our Lady of the Rosary (1917).
Shedding Light on Lumen Gentium
Have you heard of Vatican but other than changing the Mass, you are not sure what it accomplished? Would you like to learn more but concerned you won't understand what any of the 16 documents of Vatican II are talking about? If so, this book is for you. The goal of this book is to inspire you to read and study the most important document from Vatican II: "The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," better known by its incipit, "Lumen Gentium." We will do this by summarizing the eight chapters and 69 articles in layman’s terms. No degree in theology needed!!
- Author: Gil Michelini
- Published: 2016-03-27 11:20:34
- Words: 15348