Today’s Catechism sections discuss the Church as a sacrament. Supporting material comes from the Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium”.

The universal Sacrament of Salvation

774 The Greek word mysterion was translated into Latin by two terms: mystenum and sacramentum. In later usage the term sacramentum emphasizes the visible sign of the hidden reality of salvation which was indicated by the term mystenum. In this sense, Christ himself is the mystery of salvation: "For there is no other mystery of God, except Christ."196 The saving work of his holy and sanctifying humanity is the sacrament of salvation, which is revealed and active in the Church's sacraments (which the Eastern Churches also call "the holy mysteries"). The seven sacraments are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body. The Church, then, both contains and communicates the invisible grace she signifies. It is in this analogical sense, that the Church is called a "sacrament."

775 "The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men."197 The Church's first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men's communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men "from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues";198 at the same time, the Church is the "sign and instrument" of the full realization of the unity yet to come.

776 As sacrament, the Church is Christ's instrument. "She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all," "the universal sacrament of salvation," by which Christ is "at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God's love for men."199 The Church "is the visible plan of God's love for humanity," because God desires "that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit."200

IN BRIEF

780 The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men.

The Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium”, (1) expresses the analogy of the Church as a Sacrament:

1. Christ is the Light of nations. Because this is so, this Sacred Synod gathered together in the Holy Spirit eagerly desires, by proclaiming the Gospel to every creature,(1) to bring the light of Christ to all men, a light brightly visible on the countenance of the Church. Since the Church is in Christ like a sacrament or as a sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race, it desires now to unfold more fully to the faithful of the Church and to the whole world its own inner nature and universal mission. This it intends to do following faithfully the teaching of previous councils. The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.

Footnotes

196 St. Augustine, Ep. 187,11,34: PL 33, 846.
197 LG 1.
198 ⇒ Rev 7:9.
199 LG 9 # 2, 48 # 2; GS 45 # 1.
200 Paul VI, June 22, 1973; AG 7 # 2; cf. LG 17.