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The eschatological nature of the church

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Eschatological nature of church - the Catholic weekly

The eschatological nature of the church can be explained through understanding the idea of the “pilgrim church” that set out on her journey after the ascension of Christ. The pilgrim church will be visibly united with the heavenly church at the end of time, when humanity and all creation will be re-established in Christ.

This restoration is the perfected fulfilment of the Kingdom that the church awaits and has already begun in Christ. This is carried through the mission of the Holy Spirit, and through the Holy Spirit, this mission continues in the church.

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The pilgrim church, through her sacraments and institutions, obeying the commission of Christ her founder given at his ascension, eternally strives to fulfil her mission to proclaim the Good News to all men and to baptise. This is to ensure that the Word of God be glorified, and through this glorification, the Kingdom of God be proclaimed and simultaneously established throughout the world.

As such, the pilgrim church is missionary by her very nature, since it is from the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit that she draws her origin. This flows from the love of the Father, from whom the Son has been begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds. It is through this love that man was created, and by the Father’s boundless merciful kindness, he calls humanity to share and participate in his life.

It is through this that God truly becomes “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), where all things are recapitulated in Christ and are returned to the Father, bringing about his own glory and joy for humanity in the Kingdom.

To ensure this, the missionary activity of the church derives its purpose from God, “who wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:45). This knowledge is found in the Word, Christ Incarnate, in whom man finds salvation.

Therefore, it is the mission of the church (Mt 28: 19-20) that all must be converted to Christ through preaching, and all must be incorporated into him by baptism and into the church which is his body.

eschatological nature of church - The catholic weekly

The church continues Christ’s saving mission in the world. Like the seven liturgical sacraments, the church is both a sign and an instrument of God’s grace. As sign, the church leads the faithful towards communion with God in this life and eternal union in the next (eschatological fulfilment of the Kingdom).

As an instrument, the church makes communion with God possible by means of the gifts given to her by Christ: her doctrine, laws, and sacraments. The church, then, is the sacrament of Christ, making his work of salvation visible and accessible to humanity.

The church, as such, is the universal sacrament of salvation, the image of Christ’s redemptive work on Earth continued after his ascension, the image of the eschatological Kingdom lived today. Through this missionary activity, the Mystical Body of Christ unceasingly gathers and directs all towards Christ.

The members of the Mystical Body are called to continue this missionary activity through love directed to God and their desire to share with all men salvation found in the church and the spiritual goods of both its life and the life to come (the beginning of the Kingdom and the eschatological fulfilment of the Kingdom).

This is the fulfilment of the plan of salvation, that in Christ, all humanity can form one people of God, being built up into a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Through manifesting Christ in her preaching and through the sacraments, the church reveals this truth to humanity, for the Gospel must be preached to all nations before the coming of the Lord.

This missionary mandate extends between the first coming and the second, in which the church will be finally gathered into the Kingdom of God. This activity ultimately is a manifestation of the will of God and its fulfilment in the world.

The missionary mandate and activity of the church ultimately tends toward eschatological fullness. Through this work, the people of God spread and are strengthened, increasing to the measure and extent that the Father wills.

Through this work, the Mystical Body grows to reach maturity being led by the Holy Spirit to life in Christ. In this, eschatology will be fulfilled, for all will be returned to the Father, ultimately sharing in the Trinitarian communion of love.

Fr Abboud is a monk of the Lebanese Maronite Order who serves at St Charbel’s monastery and parish in Punchbowl (NSW).

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