Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is the Church's "Catholicity"? - a view from the East

The following is an important lecture delivered by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I of the Holy See of Cilicia (Armenian Orthodox Church) at a symposium organized in honour of Dr. Bishop Wolfgang Huber, the former president of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), 2007. 

Catholicity: Its Implications and Imperatives

Although it is one of the constitutive elements of the church, catholicity has not been given a focal attention in bilateral theological dialogues and ecumenical discussion.1 Catholicity deserves serious consideration for three main reasons: first, it touches christological, pneumatological, ecclesiolo­gical and eschatological dimensions of Christian faith; second, being at the heart of the church’s ecclesiological and missiological self-understanding, it has clear implications for inter-religious dialogue; third, with its strong emphasis on universalism and interdependence, globalization challenges the church to address catholicity in the perspective of a new world context.

a) Catholicity: the esse of the church

Catholicity is not a mere mark of the church; it is the very esse of the church. As Christ’s mystical body, the church is catholic by its nature, scope and purpose. Catholicity refers neither to geography nor to institution, neither to quantity nor to universality. It points to the wholeness, fullness and uniqueness of truth revealed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the church is catholic not because of its worldwide presence, but for the very truth it holds. Catholicity goes beyond the boundaries of the church to embrace the whole humanity and creation, time and space. Catholicity takes the church beyond itself. Hence, catholicity is much larger than the church in its historical expression, geographical extension and institutional form. Catholicity pertains to God’s universal plan of salvation in Christ. It is God’s continuous creation and re-creation, perfection and renewal of “all things” in Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17).

Catholicity is a gift of God, not a human achieve­ment. It is rooted in the mystery of the Triune God.

Go HERE to read the rest of the lecture.


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