So, let me just get right down to it. What is the Church?
Well, on a very simple level it’s easy to start out with, it’s those who have been called. The actual word in Greek for church, ecclesia, means the ones called out. The ones called. It’s the word they used, by the way, that word that we use for the Church in the New Testament, is the word that we used translated in the Old Testament, in the Septuagint version, for the Great Assembly.
It’s much more that it’s a spiritual reality. When Paul was asked, how do you describe the Church, he said this mystery is profound, I’m saying it refers to Christ in the Church. He’s referring to marriage. His idea was that Christ is … that the Church is Christ’s bride and because it’s His Bride, it’s his body. And not as a metaphor, saying it’s a reality.
We have, for example, that he’s telling a husband, why do you love your wife? When you love your wife, since you’re one body you’re loving yourself. Everyone loves his own body. This is how Christ feels about the Church.
So, the understanding is the Church is Christ’s Bride and body. And it’s also the sacramental reality. How do we become part of His actual body? We’re baptized into HIs body. Something that God does. We don’t join the Church. God brings us into His body. It says “for in one spirit we’re all baptized into one body.” It’s something the Spirit joins us to.
And then Eucharist, we’re told, that that bond is strengthened. It’s because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. So, the Church itself … Christ is the manifestation of God, the sacrament of God, the visible … something we can see of an invisible reality. The visible sign of an invisible reality.
The Church is the sacrament of Christ. Christ is the sacrament of the Father, and where do we see Christ? The Church is the sacrament of Christ. And it’s an effective sign because it not only is made holy, you know, it says “by the washing of water and the word,” but it makes holy through the sacraments.
Finally, I think an important thing to say is some people look upon the Church as, I love Jesus, it’s just the Church I have no use for. And actually what Paul says, he says of the Church, he describes the Church as the “fullness of Him who fills all in all.” It’s the place we find Jesus at work with all of His power, all of His authority, where Christ is at work in His Spirit.
After all, where do you look for … the Spirit means “breath.” In Hebrew and Greek it means breath or wind. So, where do you find the breath? You find it in the body. Where do we find God’s Spirit powerfully at work? We find it in His Church.