28 February 2013
Director of The Catholic Institute Anne Tuohy described Lumen Gentium (The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) as an exciting document because there is such a clear trace of the Holy Spirit throughout.
The documents from the Second Vatican Council have two common and quite discernible threads running through them.
‘The first is the recognition that in order to renew its understanding of its nature and its mission, the Church needed to critically re-evaluate its relationships – both internally and externally. Consequently Vatican II is referred to as a Pastoral rather than a Dogmatic Council because its prime focus was Church relationships rather than Church dogma.’
The second common thread running through the Vatican II documents is the wealth of biblical language and images that are used.
‘At the time, these images provided new and exciting ways Catholics could re-imagine the role and the mission of their Church in the world.’
Dr Tuohy looked at Lumen Gentium through the perspective of three scriptural images: those of ‘The People of God’; ‘The Call to Holiness’ and the ‘Eschatological nature of the Church’ – which refers to our final destiny.
‘These images are deeply rooted in our sacred scriptures. They give us the opportunity to participate in the experience of Vatican II by inviting us again to re-imagine the ongoing nature and mission of the Church for our times – which as the opening sentence of Lumen Gentium clearly tells us is be a “Light to the Nations”.’
As mystery, the Church has been called into mission by God. It is a pilgrim Church made up of the whole people of God who share in the ‘priestly, prophetic and kingly roles of Christ.’
Lumen Gentium speaks of the history and structure of the Church within which people may live out their baptismal call.
‘The overarching insight of Lumen Gentium is the acknowledgment that all the baptised are, in ways appropriated to their life path, ‘called to Holiness’ for the sake of the Reign of God – which of course is our final destiny.’
The document finishes with an exploration of Mary as a model and an example of discipleship for the whole Church.
Dr Tuohy said because of the call to holiness – to proclaim, embody, and serve the coming of the Reign of God, Lumen Gentium calls on the Church to ‘Always look beyond itself and remember that the Kingdom or Reign we are moving towards is God’s – it is the gift of grace and not the result of human endeavour.
‘The final destiny of the Church is the fullness of the Reign of God – which was begun in Christ but is not yet complete. And the Reign of God is that time and place where we encounter or experience the complete fullness of God’s desire for us – unfettered and unmediated.
‘This is when our relationships with God, with creation and with each other are perfectly harmonious – when the Covenantal framework of Holiness, Justice and Mercy are present.
‘The Church is not a perfect or finished society but is always coming to be what it is called to be. In other words the Church lives between the promised reign and the full realisation of the reign of God.’