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Classics

'One in All and the Whole in One'

The Church of Christ is kept together by such a close union of charity that in mystery it is one in the plurality of subjects and a whole in individuals. For this reason, the whole of the universal Church rightly sees herself as the sole and unique spouse of Christ and every holy soul, through the mystery of the sacrament, sees himself as the whole Church.

 

 

If we engage in careful research in the terrain of Holy Scripture we often find that the Church is referred to in the person of a single man or a single woman. Indeed, although the Church presents herself as many because of the great number of peoples that she welcomes, she is, however, unique and simple, closely ordered by the mystery of a single faith and divine regeneration.

 

 

If the whole Church is referred to in a single person, she is in everyone and a whole in individuals: thus in many she is simple because of the unity of faith and she is many in individuals because of the bond of charity and the various charisms: since all come from one [Heb 2:11], we are all one.

 

 

The Holy Church, although she is diversified by the multiplicity of individuals, is fused in unity by the fire of the Holy Spirit; thus even though at the level of concrete places she appears to be divided into parts, nonetheless the sacrament of intimate unity cannot be in any way broken in its integrity: 'because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us' [Rom 5:5]. Thus this Spirit which without doubt is one and many, one in divine essence, many because of the various charisms fills the Holy Church with his gifts so that she is one in all and the whole in her parts.

 

 

It was precisely this mystery of indivisible unity that Christ commended when he said to the Father speaking of his disciples: 'I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one' [Jn 17:20-22].

 

 

If, therefore, believers in Christ are one, wherever one member is present there, through the mystery of sacrament, is also the whole body. And as regards the totality, it seems to converge after a fashion also in a part. Because it is not absurd for one person to say individually what an ecclesial assembly sings together; just as what is expressed by custom by one person can be said in an irreprehensible way by many.

 

 

Thus when we are together we say completely rightly: 'Incline they ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Preserve my life, for I am godly' [Ps 85:1]. And when we are alone it is not out of place to sing: 'Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob' [Ps 80,2]. Nor is it unreal for many to say together: 'I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth' [Ps 33:1]; whereas often, although we are alone, we speak in the plural saying 'O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!' [Ps 33:3].

 

 

It is clear that in this case the solitude of the individual does not remove truth from phrases in the plural; in the other the multitude of faithful is not out of key in expressing themselves in the singular because, by the grace of the spirit, who is present in individuals and fills all solitude is understood in the plural and multitude in the singular.

 

 

Where there is unity of the faith, there is certainly neither solitude for the individual nor laceration of diversity for the many. The whole Church is without doubt a single body. And if, although being many, we are one thing in Christ, in him each one of us possesses everything as ours (cf. 1 Cor 3:23); separated in our physical solitude it may appear that we are distant from the Church, but, instead, we are very present in her thanks to the mystery of indivisible unity.

 

 

Our holy Fathers laid down that the relationship and the communion of the faithful of Christ was so certain that they inserted it into the Symbol of the Catholic faith and they also established that we should repeat it amongst the first elements of the Christian faith. Now, in fact, when we say 'I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Church', we immediately add 'the communion of saints', and where we give to God the witness of our faith, there we also add, consequently, the communion of the Church which is one with Him. This is the communion of Saints in the unity of faith: believing in one God, they were reborn in one baptism, they were confirmed in one Holy Spirit, and, through the grace of adoption, they were received into the only eternal life.

 

 

[Passage taken from San Pier Damiani, Il Libro chiamato Dominus vobiscum indirizzato all'eremita Leone, "L'anima del mondo 41", Piemme, Casale Monferrato, 2001, pp. 63-79.

 

© Edizioni Piemme, Casale Moferrato, 2001]

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