The Church is One
One body and one spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling.
One Lord, one faith, one Baptism.—Eph. 4, 4, 5.
St. Paul wrote this Epistle to the Ephesians is from his prison in Rome. Fearing that there might be disagreements and dissensions among them, the Apostle calls to their minds the unity and harmony of the Christian faith they have received and the Baptism by which they have been regenerated. As there is only one Lord, only one true faith and one true Baptism, there is no room for discord or disagreement among the Christian–they should be one in peace and charity as they must be one in faith. This unity of authority, of doctrine, and of worship to which St. Paul refers as characteristic of the Apostolic Church, is found also today in the Catholic Church, and in it alone; it is therefore a clear indication that the Catholic Church is the same as the Church of the Apostles, and as such, is the one true Church of Christ.
I. “One Lord,”—unity in authority. 1. There is but one invisible head of the Church, namely, Christ, whom the Eternal Father “hath made head over all the Church, which is His body” (Eph. i. 22, 23). 2. There is but one visible head over all the Church, namely, the Vicar of Christ, the Pope of Rome, the successor of St. Peter–“thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church–to thee I will give the keys of the Kingdom of heaven” (Matt. xvi. 18, 19); “feed my lambs, feed my sheep” (John xxi. 15-17). 3. The supremacy of Peter, the first Pope, was recognized from the beginning even by the Apostles. Peter presided at the election of Matthias and at the Council of Jerusalem, his name heads all the lists of the Apostles, in the New Testament, etc. 4. The supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, Peter’s successor, has always been acknowledged, as the unanimous consent of the Fathers proves. 5. As it is necessary in the State, and in every society, to have one supreme head, so it is in the Church, the most perfect of all societies.
II. “One faith,”—unity in belief. In all countries, in all times, and by all the members of the true Church one and the same teaching in faith and morals has been accepted.
III. “One baptism,”—unity in worship. Throughout the world we find in the true Church the same sacrifice, the same Sacraments, the same observances of feasts and fasts, the same devotions–all substantially alike, though they may sometimes differ in details.
Conclusion:. Although the members of the Church are from every nationality and may have different interests and positions in life, yet as members of Christ’s mystical body they should all strive to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace, as St. Paul recommends in today’s Epistle, and as our Lord commands in the Gospel, “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part 1,
Article IX of The Creed
THE MARKS OF THE CHURCH
The distinctive marks of the Church are also to be made known to the faithful, that thus they may be enabled to estimate the extent of the blessing conferred by God on those who have had the happiness to be born and educated within her pale.
THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH
The first mark of the true Church is described in the Nicene Creed, and consists in unity: “My dove is one, my beautiful one is one.” So vast a multitude, scattered far and wide, is called one for the reasons mentioned by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians: “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
THE CHURCH HAS BUT ONE HEAD
The Church has but one ruler and one governor, the invisible one, Christ, whom the Eternal Father “hath made head over all the Church, which is his body”; the visible one, the Pope, who, as legitimate successor of Peter, the prince of the Apostles, fills the Apostolic chair.
A VISIBLE HEAD IS NECESSARY TO PRESERVE UNITY
That this visible head is necessary to establish and preserve unity in the Church is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers. This St. Jerome clearly perceived and as clearly expressed, when, in his work against Jovinian, he wrote: “One is elected that, by the appointment of a head, all occasion of schism may be removed.” In his letter to Pope Damasus the same holy Doctor writes: “Away with envy, let the ambition of Roman grandeur cease! I speak to the successor of the fisherman, and to the disciple of the cross. Following no chief but Christ, I am united in communion with your Holiness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that on that rock is built the Church. Whoever will eat the lamb outside this house is profane; whoever is not in the ark of Noah shall perish in the flood.”
The same doctrine was long before established by Saints Irenaeus, and Cyprian. The latter, speaking of the unity of the Church observes: “The Lord said to Peter, ‘I say to thee Peter! thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build my Church.7 He builds His Church on one. And although after His resurrection He gave equal power to all His Apostles, saying, ‘As the Father hath sent me, I also send you; receive ye the Holy Ghost,’ yet to make unity more manifest, He decided by His own authority that it should be derived from one alone,”etc.
Again, Optatus of Milevi says: “You cannot be excused on the score of ignorance, knowing as you do that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was first conferred on Peter, who occupied it as head of the Apostles; in order that in that one chair the unity of the Church might be preserved by all, and that the other Apostles might not claim each a chair for himself; so that now he who erects another in opposition to this single chair is a schismatic and a prevaricator.”
Later on St. Basil wrote: “Peter is made the foundation, because he says: ‘Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,’ and hears in reply that he is a rock. But although a rock, he is not such a rock as Christ; for Christ is truly an immovable rock, but Peter, only by virtue of that rock. For God bestows His dignities on others: He is a priest, and he makes priests; a rock, and he makes a rock: what belongs to himself, he bestows on his servants.”
Lastly, St. Ambrose says: “For great are the gifts of God, who not only restored to us what had been ours, but also granted us what are his own.” Then, after a few words, he proceeds: “But great is the favor of Christ, who bestowed on his disciples almost all his own titles. “I am,’ he says, ‘the light of the world’; and yet with this title in which he himself glories, he favored his disciples, saying, ‘You are the light of the world’; ‘I am the living bread’; and ‘we are all one bread’;” ‘I am the true vine’;16 and to thee he says: ‘I planted thee a fruitful vineyard, all true’;17 ‘Christ is a rock, for they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ’; and yet the favor of this title he denied not to his disciple, that he also should be Peter because deriving from the rock the solidity of constancy and the firmness of faith.”
BESIDES CHRIST THE CHURCH REQUIRES ONE VISIBLE HEAD
Should any one object, that the Church is content with one head and one spouse, Jesus Christ, and requires no other, the answer is obvious. For as we deem Christ not only the author of all the Sacraments, but also their invisible minister (He it is who baptizes, He it is who absolves, although men are appointed by Him the external ministers of the Sacraments), so has He placed over His Church, which He governs by His invisible spirit, a man to be His vicar, and the minister of His power. A visible Church requires a visible head; therefore the Saviour appointed Peter head and pastor of all the faithful, when He committed to his care the feeding of all His sheep, in such ample terms that He willed the very same power of ruling and governing the entire church to descend to Peter’s successors.
ANOTHER REASON WHY THE CHURCH IS CALLED ONE
Moreover, the Apostle, writing to the Corinthians, tells them that there is but one and the same Spirit who imparts grace to the faithful, as the soul communicates life to the members of the body. Exhorting the Ephesians to preserve this unity, he says: “Be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” As the human body consists of many members, animated by one soul, which gives sight to the eyes, hearing to the ears, and to the other senses the power of discharging their respective functions, so the mystical body of Christ, which is the Church, is composed of many faithful. The hope, to which we are called, is also one, as the Apostle tells us in the same place;” for we all hope for the same consummation, eternal life. Finally, the faith which all are bound to believe and to profess is one: “Let there be no schisms amongst you” and Baptism, which is the seal of our solemn initiation into the Christian faith, is also one.
Sermon: On The Unity of The Church —By The Rev. Thomas F. Burke, C.S.P., 1921
OUR LORD WISHED HIS CHURCH TO BE ONE
When our Lord saw approaching near unto Him the cross upon which He was to die; when He was giving His final message to His Apostles, and leaving to them, at the Last Supper, the supreme legacy of His love, then did He pray “that all may be one.” It was a solemn occasion, and His words expressed a most solemn desire. True to the teaching that had been imparted to them, the Apostles always sought to preserve unity of belief, and did not hesitate to expel from the Church any who attempted to introduce doctrines other than those preached by them. Unity of mind is an essential property of the true Faith, and, as a consequence, its possession is a sign or mark of the presence of truth.
NECESSITY OF UNITY
First, in the true religion unity is necessary. This we derive from the very nature of truth itself, whether that truth be in regard to secular or in regard to religious things. Strange as it may seem, there are many who can see this when their attention is drawn to any other branch of knowledge or field of investigation, but are blinded when they concern themselves with the study of the divine knowledge of revelation. Essentially, truth must be one. Whether we confine our attention to the exact science of mathematics, or to the study of the physical sciences, or to the realm of history, or to any other sphere of learning, we must be aware that two opposite, contradictory statements cannot both be true. And when we rise into the region of faith, with the preliminary understanding of what faith is, the principle is even more apparent. For, in the intellectual sense, faith is the acceptance of a truth upon the authority of God revealing it. We can, therefore, no more suppose that there should be contradictions in the matters of Christian belief than we could suppose that God could contradict Himself.
If one man says that, by a calculation of mathematics, he has found that a comet is coming to destroy the earth, and another says that by a similar calculation he has found that the comet is continually moving away from the earth, we must see that both statements cannot be true. If one tells us that under certain conditions a man has control of his will, and another says that, under the same conditions, the same man loses his will power, reason will rebel against the acceptance of both as true. If one man tells me that Homer lived and wrote, and another says there was no such man, we know that both of these statements cannot be true.
So, too, must it be in the matters of religion. If one teaches that Christ laid down as a condition of salvation, the entrance into His kingdom through the Sacrament of Baptism, and another calls this mere superstition, we must see that both cannot be true. If one says there is a hell and another says there is no hell; if one says that Christ established a living, organized Church, and another says that this is mere folly; if one says Christ is really present in the Blessed Sacrament, and another claims He is not, our reason will cry out against these contradictory statements and will protest that both sides of the questions cannot be true. It is but reasonable, therefore, that men should admit in religion that principle which they admit in every other sphere of knowledge, that unity is necessary where there is to be truth.
Not to mention the many Scriptural testimonies that could be cited from the gospels, it is plain, from many passages, that St.Paul insisted strongly upon the necessity of unity in faith. In addressing the Church at Ephesus, he beseeches them to be “careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace;” and immediately declares that as there is one Lord, one Spirit, one Father of all, so there is one faith (Eph. iv. 3-6). In the same chapter, a little later, his language indicates beyond all reasonable question that our Lord appointed the rulers of His Church with the express purpose of preserving unity. In addressing the Corinthians, he gives expression to the very same thought, and, if it were possible, in even clearer language. In this instance he had to face the actual existence of divisions and contentions, and, filled with the sense of Christ’s teachings and the sacredness of truth, he brooks not the slightest opposition to what had been taught by himself. He prays that there be no schisms, no divisions: but that all may be “Perfect in the same mind and in the same judgment” (l Cor. i. 10). To the Galatians he speaks a similar language, and in the most solemn formula declares: “If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema” (Gal. i. 9). In the logical demands of human reason; in the requirements of intelligence; in the very nature of truth itself; in the divine plan, and teaching, and mission, and desire of Christ; in the expressed convictions of the first appointed teachers of Christianity, we have the undeniable ground for the assertion that where there is not unity there is not truth.
IMPORTANCE OF THE NOTE OF UNITY
For the soul today, nineteen centuries removed from the days of Christ, there is no question that can be asked of greater import, when that soul is reaching for Christian truth, than: “Where is unity to be found?” Whatever other requisites there are for the proof of the authenticity of Christ’s teachings, this one, at least, is absolutely required. Its absence indicates, beyond all argument, the lack of truth; its presence is the first thing necessary to prove the possession of truth.
The demand of reason and religion for oneness in teaching must meet with the supply. Either it exists to-day or there is, in its complete sense, no Christianity to be found. The remnants of Christian influence in the moral and ethical atmosphere created by Christ and His followers might still be discerned; but without this first evidence of truth, it cannot be said that the Christian religion in its integrity and in its purity is still an existent fact. The increased respect for the rights of others; the recognition of the claims of suffering and sorrow; the reverence for goodness and high morality; the dictates of fraternal love even for the unfortunate and degraded; the help accorded others from merely philanthropic motives, these things that would be unknown in a world in which Christianity had never been received, might still exist in a partial way, but that which promised their continued existence, the religion of Christ, would be gone. It is but reasonable, then, to say that there is no more important question for the soul than: Where is religious unity to be found?
That Christ, our Saviour, desired His Church to exist through alt time, and that He determined it should so exist, are things plain to the eye that reads the page of Scripture aright. If He had not so determined He would not have solemnly promised: “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world;” nor would He, in choosing the leader of His Apostles and the head of His Church, so plainly have said: “The gates of hell shall not prevail” against that Church; nor again would He have made His promises doubly secure of their fulfilment by proclaiming that He would send to the teachers of His word the Spirit of Truth, who would abide with them forever. If there be one truth of Christ plainly indicated, perhaps in a way clearer than many others, it is that He was determined to have His teachings handed down to succeeding generations secure and intact. Being endowed with power from on high, being Himself God, with the omnipotence of God, no sane man can question His right to so determine and His power to so execute.
Not only was that Church, containing the body of living truth, to exist through all time, but it was also to exist after the manner and according to the plan designed by its Founder. His truths were not to be subjected to the wavering judgment and varying criticism of the human mind. His word was not to be torn into shreds under the examination of puny intellects guided only by the erring powers of human thought. It was spoken with divine authority, and, from that very fact, must ever remain one and the same. Since Christ spoke only the truth, and since truth is one, so His true Church must ever bear the mark of unity.
Amid all the opposing tenets of Christian sects that can be found in the world today, it is morally impossible for any body to preserve unity in its teaching unless it have within it the spirit that is divine. Amid all the centuries that have elapsed since the days of Christ, with their changing human sentiments, and their vast progress and advancement in ideas on almost all subjects, it is morally impossible that any body should have preserved unity in its teachings unless there were within it the living spirit of the One who first gave it life. If, therefore, there is any body that meets these requirements and fulfils these conditions, that in itself is sufficient proof for its claim to be the Church of our Divine Saviour.
THE NOTE OF UNITY FOUND ONLY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Where is that “one mind,” of which the Apostle speaks, to be found? In many Christian sects the idea of unity has been so far lost that even the claim for its necessity is not made. Amid those which still admit that it is essential, a vague distinction is drawn between what is fundamental and what is not, with the assertion that unity in fundamentals alone is required. If, however, this should be sifted down, it would be found that there was absolutely no unity among them all with the exception of their oneness in the belief of the existence of God. There is, however, one Church that makes the claim to unity and substantiates it. Even those outside that Church admit and marvel at the unity of teaching preserved, even while they question the justice of the claim. The Catholic Church has remained steadfast in its position, and, despite the changing of the years and the variations in the teachings of supposed Christianity, has always and every- where spoken the same word. Contrasted with herself as she exists in all parts of the world to-day, and with herself in the past, there can be found in her no infidelity to the trust that was committed unto her by her Divine Founder. Visit the Catholic churches in the United States, or England, or Germany, or France, or Italy; stand by the banks of the Yukon, in Alaska, or beneath the scorching sun beside the Ganges in India; or follow the American soldier to the Philippines; or dive into the deepest wilds of Africa; or journey along the shores of China and Japan, and you will find one and the same set of truths proclaimed everywhere by this wonderful institution of Christ. Or, again, enter with St. Stephen into the synagogues of Jerusalem; or stand with St. Paul upon the hill of Mars and with the Greeks hearken to the words of the Apostle; go with St. Boniface amid the Teutons, or with St. Patrick into Ireland, and St. Augustine into England; stand with Marquette beside the wigwam of the American Indian; listen to their messages, and you will find that “with one mind and with one mouth” they glorify God; that they proclaim the one message and speak in the one voice of truth.
The Catholic Church is the only Church that teaches a uniform doctrine throughout the world today. She is the only Church that has taught the same throughout the ages; therefore, she is the Church of Jesus Christ.
Conclusion: Should we not, then, appreciate the great privilege God, our Heavenly Father, has accorded us in allowing us to be members in this great body ? And should we not seek to make this unity not only a unity of faith, but also a unity of charity; a unity that binds us one to the other by bonds of steel. In the effects of faith, that is, in our actions and conduct, we should seek to be one also, that, seeing these things, gazing upon the evidences of unity, others may be led to see and to accept the faith that we love, until all shall be of one mind, “according to Jesus Christ.”
Sermon: The Unity of The Church —By The Rev. Thomas P. Phelan, Ll.D., 1921
In the pages of Holy Writ, the Church has been designated by many titles. She is a kingdom, embracing many provinces, united under one king. She is a city, numbering many souls, ruled by one chief magistrate. She is a house containing many children and dependents, guided by one father. She is a temple, with numerous worshippers, served by one priest. She is a body, with many members, enlivened by one vital principle. This unity of the Church was to be the proof of Christ’s divine mission. “That they all may be one, as thou. Father in me, and I in thee: that they also many be one in me: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John xvii. 21). It was to be the mark by which His followers should be known. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13. 35).
UNITY OF FAITH
Christ’s doctrines form a body of truths which cannot be contradictory, since truth is unity. Without this property. His teachings would be ambiguous and vain, man would be free to choose or reject His revelations, the world would be convinced in darkness and ignorance. Christ was not an impostor but the Son of God. His doctrines. His miracles. His Heavenly Father bear witness to His divinity. “This is My beloved Son: hear ye Him” (Mark ix. 6). He came to guide all men to Heaven, to reveal the faith which they must profess. “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No man cometh to the Father but by me” (John xiv. 6). He sent His Apostles to teach all nations, promising to send to them and to their successors the Holy Ghost, to abide with them, and to recall to their minds His sacred words. “But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you” (John xiv. 26). His followers were not to be received by ignorance or fear, nor harassed by doubt or dissensions. “And He gave some Apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors, . . . that henceforth we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. iv. 11-14). The Apostles constantly taught the necessity of this unity of faith. “Though we or an angel from Heaven preach a Gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Gal. i. 8). Those who held doctrines contrary to divine teaching were excommunicated and branded as heretics, those who spurned spiritual authority were classed as schismatics. In all ages and in all climes, the Spouse of Christ has taught the doctrines and maintained the principles of her Divine Founder. No new dogmas may be added to the primitive revelation, although the Church may define or explain doctrines revealed to the Apostles and transmitted through Scripture or tradition. The same message of peace which Christ announced to the world, and promulgated through Peter and his successors, is preached to-day by the Catholic Church. “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to-day: and the same forever” (Heb. 13. 8).
UNITY OF SACRAMENTS
Unity of faith presupposes and requires unity in Sacraments. These channels of grace were founded by Christ to bring strength to His followers. He alone could invest these outward signs with the interior grace necessary for the remission of sin and the increase of supernatural virtue. It would be blasphemy to assert that He instituted many and varied Sacraments differing from each other in such essential points as those conferred by the warring sects. The adorable Eucharist has been divested of its sacred character and made a sign or a symbol and the words of institution misrepresented or falsely interpreted. Other Sacraments have been rejected or nullified at the hands of so-called reformers. Yet in the Gospels, the Epistles, the Acts of the Apostles, in the teachings and traditions of the Spouse of Christ, in the writings of the fathers and doctors, in the consent of the millions who have lived and died in the faith, we have ample proofs that the Lord bequeathed these seven Sacraments to His children. Man’s frailty or ignorance could not change the designs of God or obscure His revelations, for Christ is with His Church all days. “Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt. 18. 20).
UNITY OF GOVERNMENT
Unity of government is also a distinguishing and essential mark of the Church. Its Founder and Invisible Head was Christ, the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. “Built upon the foundations of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. xi. 20). Although containing an invisible element the Church is a visible society. She is “a city seated on a mountain,” “the light of the world” (Matt. v. 14), and a “Kingdom” (Matt. iii. 2). She is a divinely appointed teacher, preaching God’s word and administering His Sacraments. All men must hear and heed her voice under pain of condemnation. “And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Matt. xviii. 17). To rule and govern this visible body, to guard and preserve the deposit of faith, to infallibly determine the true doctrine, a visible head is required. Christ built His Church on Peter, conferred on him the keys of the kingdom, and commanded him to feed the flock. “And I say to thee, that thou art Peter: and upon this rock I will build My Church.–And I will give to thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. xvi. 18-19). “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep” (John xxi. 15, 17). Peter founded his see at Rome and ruled the universal Church. His successors have guided her destinies through the centuries, inspired and strength- ened by the Holy Spirit. The same admirable unity has been maintained in the government of the Church. The faithful are subject to the pastor; the priests to the Bishop; the Bishops to the successors of Peter, the supreme head of the Church. The Pontiff who sits in the papal chair to-day, traces his authority and derives his doctrines back through the ages to the Fisherman of Galilee, who received from the Son of God the gift of infallibility. The same truths are taught, the same Sacraments administered, the same dogmas believed. “One God, one faith, one baptism” (Eph.4. 5).
THE MARK OF UNITY
FOUND ONLY IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Some modern sects maintain that the bond of charity is sufficient for unity. This great virtue is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the true Church, yet it does not constitute unity. Diversity of opinion precludes conformity of will. Christ did not authorize men to frame their own religious beliefs. He formulated certain positive truths which all must accept under pain of condemnation. His Apostles and their successors were the messengers selected to proclaim those doctrines to the nations. “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me” (Luke x. 16). Other false teachers assert that agreement in the fundamental articles of faith is sufficient for unity. Christ commanded men to believe all the truths He had revealed. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. xxviii. 20). From apostolic days, denial of an article of faith was the mark of heresy and sin. Selecting the fundamental articles has brought strife into every sect, until today their number is legion, and their doctrines contradictory and vague. The Catholic Church alone maintains unity of faith, unity of Sacraments, unity of government. “For I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail thee not; and thou being once converted, confirm thy brethren” (Luke 22. 32).
1 Cant. vi. 8.
2 Eph. iv. 5,
3 Eph, i. 22, 23,
4 Lib. r, contr. Jovin. in med. et epist. 57.
5 Lib. 3, contr. hares, cap. 3.
6 De simp. praeel., after the beginning.
7 Matt. xvi. 18.
8 John xx. 21, 22.
9 Lib. 2 ad Parmen.
10 Hom. 29, de paenit.
11 Lib. 9, Coin. in Luc. c. 9. The words of St. Ambrose are wanting
in some of the best editions of the Roman Catechism.
12 John viii. 12.
13 Cor. x. 17
14 Cor. x. 4.
15 Matt. v. 15.
16 John xv. i.
17 Matt. xvi. 18.
18 John vi. 41
19 Jer. ii. 31.
20 John xxi. 15.
21 1 Cor. xii. 11, 12.
22 Eph. iv. 3, 4.
23 Eph. iv. 4.
24 Cor. i. 10.
25 Eph. iv. S.