One faith One Church
Most times, many Catholics recite the creed of the Church without taking time to actually reflect on what they say, for them it is like a memorized kind of prayer to be recited. No, it shouldn’t be. We must know what we are saying and be convinced of it. The creed is an expression of our Christian and Catholic faith in words; I say in words because we are expected to put this faith into action. In our creed as Catholics we say: I believe in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, and that is where I want to focus on in this article. The image of the Church; the Church is one, the Church is holy, the Church is Catholic and the Church is apostolic .
The Catholic Church is one and I am always proud to talk about the oneness of this Church. Many Catholics explain this oneness from the liturgical and administrative angle; yes, they are not wrong. They argue that the Church is one because she is united in her liturgy and administration; this is very true. All over the world the Church is organized in such a way that we are liturgically and administratively connected and united, the Church is one and the same wherever you go. However, we look beyond this argument to look at what the Church says about her oneness. The Catholic Church teaches that her oneness is from her source; the Trinity of persons in one God. The Church is one because her founder is one, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit is one God. The Church also is one because the Son of God who is equally God died to restore the unity of all people and send the Holy Spirit to sanctify her. The same “…Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church’s unity. Unity is of the essence of the Church” CCC 813. You see the beauty of the mother Church in her oneness, in her solidarity with the bishop of Rome (The Pope).
Though we proudly and joyfully celebrates this oneness, there is however a form of diversity in the Church, a healthy diversity that celebrates the oneness of the Church. This is the beauty of the Catholic Church, a reality that reflects the nature of its founder: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Three different persons yet one God, that is the nature of the Church, diversified, yet one Church under one Pope. From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the people of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church’s members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions and ways of life. Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own tradition. The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church’s unity CCC 814. No matter how culturally diversified we are; in rules and regulations, the essence of the mother Church remains the same. The mother Church in her diversity of culture remain loyal to the Pope as her leader and the vicar of Christ. We profess the one faith received from the apostles, we celebrates the same sacraments and hold strongly to the apostolic succession through the sacrament of the Holy Orders. We are proud of this oneness and may the gates of hell not prevail against it.
The mother Church is not only one but also holy, that is why we call her the holy mother Church. In our creed as Catholics, we express our faith in the holiness of the Church. The Church is the people of God, mere mortals and weak in nature, yet as a body she remains holy because her holiness is from the holiness of Christ himself. Jesus loves the Church, takes the Church as a bride and sanctified the Church. The holiness of the Church is not by the power of the Church but by the love of God. >…Christ loves the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish (Eph. 5:25-27). Jesus empowered the Church and sanctified her in the Holy Spirit, he deposited in her the fullness of the means of salvation. The Church is holy even though individual members of the Church are sinners; the life of the Church is a life of grace, the grace of God. Anyone who lives in this grace remains sanctified, but anyone who lives outside this grace cuts himself off from the sanctifying power of God. The holiness of the Church is a gift from God and we are called as individuals to maintain this holiness; be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect (Mt. 5:48) and also as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct (1Peter 1:15).
The holy mother Church is not just one and holy, it is also Catholic. The word “Catholic” means “universal.” The universality of the Church does not translate into division in the ordinary sense of the word but a kind of diversity that is enshrined in a whole. The Catholicity of the Catholic Church is tied to the Omni-presence of Christ, the head of the Church. Christ is everywhere and so the Church is everywhere, so goes the saying: where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church. This Church was given birth to and made universal on Pentecost day; the whole nations gathered and the Holy Spirit unified the diversified people. In their diversity, one language was spoken, one message given and one faith preached. The mother Church is truly Catholic, united with all the particular Churches in oneness of faith and in communion with the bishop of Rome. By particular Churches I do not mean different Churches but the same Church in different parts of the world. Dioceses, Parishes, out-stations and basic Christian communities where it exist as in some parts of Nigeria; all these remain one Church in communion with Rome. The doors of the Church are open to everyone, all are invited into this one body of Christ through the profession of the faith of the holy mother Church, baptism, communion with Rome and the celebration of the other sacraments in the Church.
The holy mother Church is called an apostolic Church because she is built on the apostles. The apostles where the twelve men Jesus chosen to continue his mission, and their ministry is the Church’s mission. The Church continues today without fear to preach the apostolic faith in it’s written and oral form. The apostolic authority continues in the Church through their successors in pastoral office (The bishops), and any one who accepts them accepts Christ.