Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Church for Sinners or Saints?

I get a bit fed up, from time to time, when people respond to any reaffirmation of basic Christian teaching with a comment to the effect that we are meant to be a Church for sinners; and if we insist on such standards we will become a very small Church indeed, and one exclusively of people who think themselves better than everyone else.

I detect Screwtape's whispering behind such nonsense.

Of course the Church is a Church for sinners - apart from Our Lord and Our Lady, who else is there? Sinners are the raw material for the Church, and the substance of the Church Militant (the wot?). 

But when we look at the Church Triumphant (wot's 'e say?) what do we see? Saints, nothing but saints.

And the clue is in that intermediary stage, the Church Suffering (eh?). The Holy Souls are those who are near the end of the journey, that journey to sanctity, which is the only state in which we can inhabit Heaven.

The very fact that we rarely hear about the Church as Militant, Suffering or Triumphant is a clue to the problem. People seem to have forgotten what the Church is. It is a saint-making body. Or rather, it is a saint-making Body. It is the Person to whom we mystically unite ourselves so that we may come to share in His Divinity, Who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.

So of course it is a collection of sinners; but it is a collection of sinners who aspire to be saints.

That is, sinners seeking to be changed to conform to Christ and His Church, not seeking to change His Church to conform to us.

That is why we are called to repent, so that we may be born again in Christ, from Whom we separate ourselves each time we sin. That is why sacramental confession is so essential to the spiritual life; and the fact that it is largely ignored and forgotten is another indicator that people have lost sight of what (or more importantly, Who) the Church is.

Another of Screwtape's great deceptions is to dull our sense of sin, a  topic on which I have blogged before. Whilst I have never bugged a confessional, I would wager a substantial amount that those who confess rarely confess the kinds of 'social sin' beloved of the soi-disant reformers.

Bless me, Father, for it is twenty years since my last confession, and since then I have left the landing light on several times, failed to share my bath water on four occasions, missed numerous demos in favour of Charlie Hebdo, and bought Israeli produce. Somehow I think not...


Sub tuum praesidium confugimus, Sancta Dei Genetrix.
Nostras deprecationes ne despicias in necessitatibus nostris,
sed a periculis cunctis libera nos semper,
Virgo gloriosa et benedicta.

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