Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Church’s origin, foundation, and mission. Supporting material comes from the Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium”.

II. THE CHURCH'S ORIGIN, FOUNDATION AND MISSION

758 We begin our investigation of the Church's mystery by meditating on her origin in the Holy Trinity's plan and her progressive realization in history.

A plan born in the Father's heart

759 "The eternal Father, in accordance with the utterly gratuitous and mysterious design of his wisdom and goodness, created the whole universe and chose to raise up men to share in his own divine life,"150 to which he calls all men in his Son. "The Father . . . determined to call together in a holy Church those who should believe in Christ."151 This "family of God" is gradually formed and takes shape during the stages of human history, in keeping with the Father's plan. In fact, "already present in figure at the beginning of the world, this Church was prepared in marvellous fashion in the history of the people of Israel and the old Advance. Established in this last age of the world and made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit, it will be brought to glorious completion at the end of time."152

The Church - foreshadowed from the world's beginning

760 Christians of the first centuries said, "The world was created for the sake of the Church."153 God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the "convocation" of men in Christ, and this "convocation" is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things,154 and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels' fall and man's sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world:

Just as God's will is creation and is called "the world," so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called "the Church."155

The Church - prepared for in the Old Covenant

761 The gathering together of the People of God began at the moment when sin destroyed the communion of men with God, and that of men among themselves. The gathering together of the Church is, as it were, God's reaction to the chaos provoked by sin. This reunification is achieved secretly in the heart of all peoples: "In every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable" to God.156

762 The remote preparation for this gathering together of the People of God begins when he calls Abraham and promises that he will become the father of a great people.157 Its immediate preparation begins with Israel's election as the People of God. By this election, Israel is to be the sign of the future gathering of All nations.158 But the prophets accuse Israel of breaking the covenant and behaving like a prostitute. They announce a new and eternal covenant. "Christ instituted this New Covenant."159

The Church - instituted by Christ Jesus

763 It was the Son's task to accomplish the Father's plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent.160 "The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures."161 To fulfill the Father's will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The Church "is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery."162

764 "This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ."163 To welcome Jesus' word is to welcome "the Kingdom itself."164 The seed and beginning of the Kingdom are the "little flock" of those whom Jesus came to gather around him, the flock whose shepherd he is.165 They form Jesus' true family.166 To those whom he thus gathered around him, he taught a new "way of acting" and a prayer of their own.167

765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.168 Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.169 The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ's mission and his power, but also in his lot.170 By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.

766 The Church is born primarily of Christ's total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. "The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus."171 "For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the 'wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.'"172 As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam's side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.173

IN BRIEF

778 The Church is both the means and the goal of God's plan: prefigured in creation, prepared for in the Old Covenant, founded by the words and actions of Jesus Christ, fulfilled by his redeeming cross and his Resurrection, the Church has been manifested as the mystery of salvation by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She will be perfected in the glory of heaven as the assembly of all the redeemed of the earth (cf ⇒ Rev 14:4).

The Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium” (2) discusses the mystery of the Church.

2. The eternal Father, by a free and hidden plan of His own wisdom and goodness, created the whole world. His plan was to raise men to a participation of the divine life. Fallen in Adam, God the Father did not leave men to themselves, but ceaselessly offered helps to salvation, in view of Christ, the Redeemer "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature".(2) All the elect, before time began, the Father "foreknew and pre- destined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that he should be the firstborn among many brethren".(3) He planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ. Already from the beginning of the world the foreshadowing of the Church took place. It was prepared in a remarkable way throughout the history of the people of Israel and by means of the Old Covenant.(1*) In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and "from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,"(2*) will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church.

Footnotes

150 LG 2.
151 LG 2.
152 LG 2.
153 Pastor Hermae, Vision 2, 4, 1: PG 2,899; cf. Aristides, Apol. 16, 6; St. Justin, Apol. 2,7: PG 6, 456; Tertullian, Apol. 31, 3; 32, 1: PL 1, 508-509.
154 Cf. St. Epiphanius, Panarion 1, 1, 5: PG 41, 181C.
155 Clement of Alex., Paed. 1, 6, 27: PG 8, 281.
156 ⇒ Acts 10:35; cf. LG 9; 13; 16.
157 Cf. ⇒ Gen 12:2; ⇒ 15:5-6.
158 Cf. ⇒ Ex 19:5-6; ⇒ Deut 7:6; ⇒ Isa 2:2-5; ⇒ Mic 4:1-4.
159 LG 9; cf. ⇒ Hos 1; ⇒ Isa 1:2-4; ⇒ Jer 2; ⇒ 31:31-34; ⇒ Isa 55:3.
160 Cf. LG 3; AG 3.
161 LG 5.
162 LG 3.
163 LG 5.
164 LG 5.
165 ⇒ Lk 12:32; cf. ⇒ Mt 10:16; ⇒ 26:31; In 10:1-21.
166 Cf. ⇒ Mt 12:49.
167 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5- 6.
168 Cf. ⇒ Mk 3:14-15.
169 Cf. ⇒ Mt 19:28; ⇒ Lk 22:30; ⇒ Rev 21:12-14.
170 Cf. ⇒ Mk 6:7; ⇒ Lk 10:1-2; ⇒ Mt 10:25; ⇒ Jn 15:20.
171 LG 3; cf. ⇒ Jn 19:34.
172 SC 5.
173 Cf. St. Ambrose, In Luc. 2, 85-89 PL 15,1666-1668.