DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH: LUMEN GENTIUM.
“Thus, the Church has been seen as ‘a people made one with the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.'(4*).”
Many scholars believe this document, Lumen Gentium (Light for the Nations) is likely one of the most important. Christ is light for all the nations, ‘light,’ is a theme that links the Old and New Testaments.
The opening paragraph of Lumen Gentium reads:
“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.”
The statement above is what we are meant to do as Christians. ‘Do’ being the operative word.
How do we as people who sit in the pews bring about the mission of God? The Patristic Fathers understood this as did all of the early followers of Jesus. The early church as a time a full commitment and participation. The document on the church was not written for a priest, bishops or cardinals; the document was written for us. The document illustrates the whole human race is ‘the light of Christ.’
The essence of the document is begging the question: “How is God speaking to me here and now? What is my mission in the church as a lay person? If we believe that Christ is the light of the world, what can we do to make His light shine throughout the world?”
The document on The Church opens the door for all people, not just religious or clergy to be part of the church as active participants. Key word being ‘active‘. It is the new ecclesiology, which means the study of the church in the Third Millennium. The document signified the closing of one door on passive participation in the church (Council of Trent (1545-1563)) and opened the door of active participation. The active participation gets even more pronounced in the document on the “Church in the Modern World.” Do we believe we are transformed by our “communion” with Christ, and we share in Christ’s mission to the world around us? This is not an act we can delegate!
Lumen Gentium declared that charisms, or gifts of the Holy Spirit, are available to all the faithful, “of every rank” (n. 12).
- So ask yourself what are we doing as people of God to be the light of the world?
- Are we sitting quietly in the pews expecting the hierarchy, the clergy, and members of religious communities, to shine the light?
- Are we a community of believers with a diversity of gender, class, education, social status, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, and culture? Remember the Church includes all saints and sinners alike, there is no distinction.
- We have entered the ‘Third Christian Millennium’ do we see a church and its members, laywomen and laymen alike, are ministerially involved?
Do we experience alienation of women from the ‘official’ church and what are the most severe pastoral challenges?
- Do you believe the People of God should be served in the coming decades especially in the Latin Rite by ordaining married men to the priesthood, welcoming back resigned priests to active ministry, and ordaining women, married or single?
When we say the church is the ‘People of God’, as the council did, we need to fully realize that we all have responsibility for its life and mission, especially at a time when its leadership sometimes functions as an obstacle rather than a facilitator of the mission of God.