22 December 2010
"When all things were in quiet silence and night was in the midst of her swift course, thine Almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne…" and that Word took flesh untainted by sin from the Virgin chosen from the beginning of time. It was done for the healing of that tragic rift between God and Man.
God created all things to be in perfect unity. He made the universe as a reflection of His own divine order. He created Man in His own image, to be in perfect communion with Him. But through the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve, disorder entered into the world, and perfect communion was broken. And ever since that time, there has been a tendency in the natural order of things for there to be disintegration, the breakdown of things, a crumbling. Sadly, what should be unnatural has become all too normal in the world around us, and within us, and even within the Church.
Christ founded the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic – and so it is. But our sin has caused division, and that’s a clear contradiction to the Divine Will of our Lord. While there may well be an invisible spiritual communion deeper than we know, especially through the bonds of baptism, nonetheless there is to be a visible communion, too, because that’s the Will of Christ, and the constant invitation from God is that we work and pray to build up both the spiritual and visible unity of Christ’s Body.
It’s this purpose – the building up of unity – which is outlined at the very beginning of Pope Benedict’s Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus. In fact, this stated purpose is sometimes glossed over in our search for the particulars of the Personal Ordinariates. We tend to look at the details of how they’ll be established, and of who can belong, and of what the liturgy will be like, and of who can be ordained – indeed, any number of other details.
But all that neglects the reason for the Holy Father’s great generosity: and that is, to help bring about the prayer of Christ “that they all may be one.” It’s not accidental that the first three paragraphs of the Apostolic Constitution speak of the Church as “a people gathered into the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” and that the Church was instituted by Christ as “a sacrament…of communion with God and of unity among all people,” and that this Church is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. Then, recognizing that there are “many elements of sanctification and of truth [which] are found outside her visible confines,” he says that these “are forces impelling towards Catholic unity.”
What had been broken, the Holy Father is inviting us to repair. The communion that has been impaired, he asks us to restore. The fellowship which has been strained, he asks us to strengthen.