Thursday, January 07, 2010

Shea - Christ and His Church

Mark Shea on finding Christ in the Church:
The Church is (an) human institution, composed as it is of humans. So it is always in danger of the sin, stupidity, weakness, and pride of its members—and its enemies. But the insistence of Christ himself is that that it is not merely a human institution. When he founds it, he declares that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it, that he will be with it always, and that his Spirit shall guide it into all truth. The skeptic can quibble over whether all these claims are “interpolations” (that blessed word trotted out to wave away anything in the New Testament not to one’s liking). But the fact remains that this is what the documents have always recorded and (more significantly) they seem to bear out the actual record of what has occurred. Because the Church has an uncanny habit of remaining what she is, of zigging where the culture demands she must inevitably zag, and of continuing her strange ability to sieve out of the most depraved societies those truths that are essential while avoiding the broad way of destruction proposed to her even by the Best and the Brightest. It’s like she’s guided by God or something.

In short, the great thing about the Creed is that, while you and I may profess it, you and I did not make it. God and humanity made it. It was hammered out on the forge of crisis by human beings in prayerful response to the revelation of God. It has the great virtue of being oblivious to the enthusiasms, scoops and scares of our present media-driven culture, just as it has been equally oblivious to enthusiasm for the eternity of the Holy Roman Empire, the glory of the English Crown, the triumph of the Enlightenment, the superiority of the Soviet Union, the New Order of Aryan Supremacy, the clear and undeniable common sense of the Sexual Revolution, the splendor of gay sex, and whatever other trendinesses wash up from the heaving waves of worldly opinion. It is an authentic summary and crystallization of the thought of the Church.

It manages to be this because the Tradition knows nothing of “progressive” and “conservative”. It knows only Christ Jesus and him crucified. It focuses only on being true to him and to making him known to each generation. That means both conserving and progressing, without worshipping either conservatism or progressivism. And it means, contrary to the common cultural narrative mentioned at the beginning, that the very worst thing you can possibly do is try to find “the real Jesus” by shoving the Church aside and going on some wild goose chase for the “Jesus of history” as though he is somebody other than the “Christ of faith”..

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