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THE SOCIAL ASPECT OF THE INCARNATION
“Sail on!" it says, “sail on, ye stately ships,
And with your floating bridge the ocean spar;
Be yours to bring man nearer unto man."-LONGFellow.
The Ideal Man must have a double aspect, individual and social—The social
Christ is the Church-a necessary consequence of the Incarnation-The characteristics the individual Christ must also characterize the social Christ–The marks of the Church—the marks also of its members—The Communion of Saints a consequence-- The organization of the ChurchThe object to be secured by organization is the preservation of all rights - The Church contains the ideally best organization - The election of bishops-essential to the welfare of the Church—the assembly of councils also essential— The State interferes and assumes the right of nominating bishops—The history of the struggle in France-Had not the rights of the Church been invaded there would have been no Papacy, no ecclesiastical tyranny, no Reformation-Summary of argument and conclusion.
AN is individual and social. The perfect man is he
whose individuality is most completely developed, and whose solidarity is also most completely developed.
Christ, according to the Christian hypothesis, is the ideal man.
Therefore He is the ideal of individuality and solidarity. Therefore Christ must exist as a man individually, and as a society universally.
There must be the personal Christ, the ideal man, and there must be the social Christ, the ideal society.
The Incarnation necessitated the Church. Destroy the idea of the Church and you lop the dogma of the Incarnation of half its reality, you make it inconsequent.
If we have an ideal of a perfect man, we have an ideal of a perfect society; and if Christ be the satisfaction of our wants, we must find in Him the ideal society as well as the ideal personality.
That we have such an ideal, none can deny; every one has a theory of government, and a theory is the development of a preconceived ideal. The sentiment of liberty and the desire for order are the principle of every government, and we must find this satisfaction in Christ.
Every form of government the world has seen has been an idol of the ideal which shall harmonize and balance authority and liberty. Men have tried patriarchal government, theocracies, monarchies, aristocracies, democracies, intelligent despotisms, constitutional royalties, and none have proved completely satisfactory. In a lifetime men will sway from one extreme to another; we have seen it in France, one day a republic, next day imperialism.
Through all the aberrations of the human mind and the Utopias of socialism, the pursuit of the ideal is conspicuous.
“Ordo ducit ad Deum," said one of the greatest geniuses of the Church and of Humanity. Order is necessary for man, for without it his liberty is not assured to him, and without his liberty he cannot accomplish his destiny.
If there be a society of Christ, a prolongation of His personality, it must be organized, so as not to be a house divided against itself, but in unity.
As God is immanent in the world, keeping all the varieties of being in it bound into an indissoluble whole, so Christ is immanent in the Church, gathering all differences into one entirety and operating continually the renovation of the spiritual creation.
Religion, as its name implies, is a tie uniting man with man and all men with God. That tie is charity, which is represented as double, love towards our fellows and love towards God.
The assertion that “outside the Church is no safety," means that outside of truth is no truth. Truth is, in itself, eternal, immutable, and infinite, like life. This infinite verity is therefore in God, it is God Himself manifested, or the Word incarnate. What is the Church? It is Jesus Christ, the social Man, existing wherever there is a sparkle of truth. Wherever there is truth there is Christ, wherever Christ is there is the Church, the circle moves with its centre. Consequently, “outside the Church is no safety," means nothing more nor less than that apart from truth is nought but error.
I said that Christ was the centre and the circumference of all truth. He is the centre in His personality, He is the circumference in His Church.
Wherever truth is, there is the Church, I have said. Let us now see what are the characteristics of the Church, which is the body of Christ, inasmuch as it is the body of all who are members of Christ, and all are members of Christ who hold a truth and do not break or ignore the link that attaches them to the Absolute.
The Church has the marks of unity, sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity, and infallibility. Such, at least, are the marks attributed to her by all Catholic theologians.
If these be the characteristics of the Incarnate Word,
they must also be the marks of the Church, which is Himself in a social aspect, and what is more, they will also be the ideal of perfection for every man who is a member of the Church. These are consequences rigidly following one another. Christ is not here and the Church there, but the Church is the exterior manifestation of Christ in all ages, and everywhere. In whatever world there are intelligent, pure, and lovely beings, the assembly of these beings, or their Church, can be the manifestation of the Word alone. “The Church triumphant, militant, and suffering, wherever it may be and whenever it may be, is but the triple face and action of the Word, always indivisible. One can see, therefore, that the characteristics of the Church must be the characteristics of the Incarnate Word, immanent in her.”1
The Divine Word having taken possession of humanity by all its phases of being, by body and spirit, by reason and feeling, by its justice and its love, they are united by Him into one, as the world is an unity though filled with multiplicities of operation, mineral, vegetable, and animal existences, modes of force and forms of matter.
Everything in Christ is, as we have shewn, brought into an indissoluble unity through the union of the finite with the infinite, the divine with the human. Therefore Unity is the essential and constitutive characteristic of the Church.
This unity embraces all men, all ages, all lands, it extends beyond time into eternity, it is at once reposing in heaven and militant on earth. This unity, embracing all, is called Catholicity or universality.
But this catholic unity is only the manifestation of the holiness of God, either in Himself or in His creatures. The Word is the expression of that absolute perfection.
i Gabriel: Le Christ et le monde, p. 28.
He manifests it not only in His terrestrial life as an historical personage, at Bethlehem and on Calvary, but also in all the saints of the old law, in all those leading good lives among the heathen, in the saints of the new law, in all Christians who perpetuate it. He manifests it by His perfect justice and perfect love, held by Him in equilibrium. Every sanctity, every perfection is in Him who is the ideal of perfect relations.
The imitation of Him and the realization of that ideal which destroys all sin, that is all conflict and opposition, constitute the Holiness of the Church.
Unity, universality, and sanctity, are only the characteristics of the Word, manifested in the Church, in which they are perpetuated, because He received a divine mission, and He is thus marked with the ministry of apostleship, which, though transmitted from generation to generation from His hands, does not cease to be the sole priesthood of Christ, continued through His Apostles. Whatever there was in Him is and must be perpetuated. If there was holiness in Him, that mass of gold must be drawn out into eternity. If in Him there was justice, that must remain stamped for ever on the brow of humanity; for Christ is not the person only, but the universal Man as well. So also, if Christ was a priest, the priesthood must be for ever, not merely in Himself in heaven, but among men. It is this prolongation of His sacerdotal office which constitutes the Apostolicity of the Church.
One holy, catholic and apostolic, the Church is always the exteriorization of the Word, in whom are contained all the treasures of the wisdom and knowledge of God. As the Word is God, He is the Divine Truth, the immutable and eternal Word of God, the indefectible Verity. Infallibility is, therefore, His characteristic, whether He be in