Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lumen Gentium (Part 4)

Okay, time to finish my discussion of Lumen Gentium.

The Catholic Church has an eschatological nature, which means it is geared towards the final things: heaven, hell, death and judgment.  Life on Earth is not the end-all and be-all; our lives on Earth must be directed towards eternal life.   Until then, we are like pilgrims, travelling in a foreign land, hoping to return to our proper home (namely, heaven).  "The Church...will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven, when there will come the time of the restoration of all things."

Earlier, Lumen Gentium discussed how all members of the church are connected to each other. This naturally includes the Church in Heaven, whose members are more closely united to Christ than the members of the Church on Earth.  They "establish the whole Church more firmly in holiness, lend nobility to the worship which the Church offers to God here on earth and in many ways contribute to its greater edification".

Of particular note are the saints and angels, who have been honored since the beginning of the church.  The lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ serve as an inspiration and guide to all.  Our fellowship with the dead in general, and devotion to the saints in particular, is well and good, but it must not be abused.  Abuses would include worshipping someone in place of God, or, as is seen far too often in funerals, making unwarranted claims about whether or not someone is in heaven.

The document moves from the saints in general to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is known as the Queen of All Saints.  She is, undeniably, the mother of our God and Lord Jesus Christ, and she is therefore united to him in a unique way.  Her union with God, in the work of salvation, is made manifest in a myriad of ways and places, such as her immaculate conception and relation to Eve, the annunciation, the death of Jesus, and her glorious assumption.

Mary's salvific influence does not impede or detract from the fact that Jesus Christ is the one and only true mediator between God and humans.  Nonetheless, by God's pleasure, she has been placed as our mother in the order of grace.  She offers intercession and guidance for us, by leading us closer to Christ; "By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and cultics, until they are led into the happiness of their true home."

The church honors Mary as exalted above all the angels and saints.  Devotion to her is unique, compared to devotion to the saints, but just like devotion to the saints, it does not detract from adoration offered to God; rather, it purifies and intensifies divine worship.  When the Mother of God is honored, the Son is rightly known, loved and glorified and all His commands are observed.

Lastly, Mary is the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God.

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