THE SPIRIT OF CATHOLICISM
Excerpt Karl Adam Spirit of Catholicism pp 19_22
Chapter II: Christ in the Church
Intimate union of the Church with Christ. Manifested in her dogma which centres round Christ, in her moral teaching which aims at making men like to Christ, in her worship which is performed through Christ. The sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Altar, a working of Christ among His people. The same union of the Church with Christ shown in her pastoral and teaching office, in her sacramental doctrine, in her disciplinary authority. The whole structure permeated and bound together by Christ.
(Pages 19-22) There is no two-fold morality in the Church, since there is but one Christ to be formed. But the ways and manners in which men strive towards this goal are infinitely various, as various as the human personalities which have to mature and grow up to the stature of Christ. Very many of the faithful will be able to form the image of Christ in themselves only in very vague and general outline. Yet, just as nature at times sees fit to give of her best and to manifest her superabundant power in some perfect types, even so the fullness of Christ which works in the Church breaks out ever and again in this or that saintly figure into brilliant radiance, in marvels of self- surrender, love, purity, humility and devotion. Professor Merkle's book may provide even outsiders with some insight into the deep earnestness and heroic strength with which the Church in every century of her existence has striven after the realization of the image of Christ, after the translation of His spirit into terms of flesh and blood, after the incarnation of Jesus in the individual man.
And the worship of the Church breathes the same spirit, and is as much interwoven with Christ and full of Christ as is her morality. Just as every particular prayer of the liturgy ends with the ancient Christian formula: "Per Christum Dominum nostrum," so is every single act of worship, from the Mass down to the least prayer, a memorial of Christ, an "anamnesis Christou". Nay, more, the worship of the Church is not merely a filial remembrance of Christ, but a continual participation by visible mysterious signs in Jesus and His redemptive might, a refreshing touching of the hem of His garment, a liberating handling of His sacred Wounds. That is the deepest purpose of the liturgy, namely, to make the redeeming grace of Christ present, visible and fruitful as a sacred and potent reality that fills the whole life of the Christian. In the sacrament of Baptism—so the believer holds—the sacrificial blood of Christ flows into the soul, purifies it from all the infirmity of original sin and permeates it with its own sacred strength, in order that a new man may be born thereof, the re-born man, the man who is an adopted son of God. In the sacrament of Confirmation, Jesus sends His "Comforter," the Spirit of constancy and divine faith, to the awakening religious consciousness, in order to form the child of God into a soldier of God. In the sacrament of Penance Jesus as the merciful Savior consoles the afflicted soul with the word of peace: Go thy way, thy sins are forgiven thee. In the sacrament of the Last Anointing the compassionate Samaritan approaches the sick-bed and pours new courage and resignation into the sore heart. In the sacrament of Marriage He en-grafts the love of man and wife on His own profound love for His people, for the community, for the Church, on His own faithfulness unto death. And in the priestly consecration by the imposition of hands, He transmits His messianic might, the power of His mission, to the disciples whom He calls, in order that He may by their means pursue without interruption His work of raising the new men, the children of God, out of the kingdom of death.
The sacraments are nought else than a visible guarantee, authenticated by the word of Jesus and the usage of the apostles, that Jesus is working in the midst of us. At all the important stages of our little life, in its heights and in its depths, at the marriage-altar and the cradle, at the sick-bed, in all the crises and shocks that may befall us, Jesus stands by us under the veils of the grace-giving sacrament as our Friend and Consoler, as the Physician of soul and body, as our Saviour. St. Thomas Aquinas has described this intimate permeation of the Christian's whole life by faith in the sacraments and in his Savior with luminous power. And Goethe, too, in the seventh book of the second part of his "Dichtung und Wahrheit," speaks warmly of it, and he closes his remarks with the significant words: "How is this truly spiritual whole broken into pieces in Protestantism, a part of these symbols being declared apocryphal and only a few admitted as canonical. How shall we be prepared to value some highly when we are taught to be indifferent to the rest?"
But the sacraments which we have enumerated are not the deepest and holiest fact of all. For so completely does Jesus disclose Himself to His disciples, so profound is the action of His grace, that He gives Himself to them and enters into them as a personal source of grace. Jesus shares with His disciples His most intimate possession, the most precious thing that He has, His own self, His personality as the God-man. We eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. So greatly does Jesus love His community, that He permeates it, not merely with His blessing and His might, but with his real Self, God and Man; He enters into a real union of flesh and blood with it, and binds it to His being even as the branch is bound to the vine. We are not left orphans in this world. Under the forms of bread and wine the Master lives amid His disciples, the Bridegroom with His bride, the Lord in the midst of His community, until that day when He shall return in visible majesty on the clouds of heaven. The Sacrament of the Altar is the strongest, profoundest, most intimate memorial of the Lord, until He come again. And therefore we can never forget Jesus, though centuries and millennia pass, and though nations and civilizations are ever perishing and rising anew. And therefore there is no heart in the world, not even the heart of father or mother, that is so loved by millions and millions, so truly and loyally, so practically and devotedly, as is the Heart of Jesus.
Thus we see that in the sacraments, and especially in the Sacrament of the Altar, the fundamental idea of the Church is most plainly represented, the idea, that is, of the incorporation of the faithful in Christ. And therefore the Catholic can only regard that criticism of the sacraments as superficial, which derives them, not merely in this or that external detail, but in their proper content and dominant meaning, from non-Christian conceptions and cults, as for instance from the pagan mysteries. On the contrary the sacraments breathe the very spirit of primitive Christianity. They, as instituted by Christ Himself, are the truest expression and result of that original and central Christian belief that the Christian should be inseparably united with Christ and should live in Christ. In Catholic sacramental devotion Christ is faithfully affirmed and experienced as the Lord of the community, as its invisible strength and principle of activity. In the sacraments is expressed the fundamental nature of the Church, the fact that Christ lives on in her.
Therefore dogma, morality and worship are primary witnesses to the consciousness of the Church that she is of supernatural stock, that she is the Body of Christ.
Karl Adam has brilliantly succeeded in achieving his purpose and "The Spirit of Catholicism" now stands as one of the finest introductions to the Catholic faith ...
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THE SPIRIT OF CATHOLICISM
Professor Merkle's book