The Fall, 2011 issue of Communio inaugurates a new four-year-long series devoted to the mystery of the Church as one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. “These four characteristics, inseparably linked with each other, indicate essential features of the Church and her mission. The Church does not possess them of herself; it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities.”
The present issue is devoted to the apostolicity of the Church. The Letter to the Ephesians describes the household of God as “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (2:20). Guided by the Spirit and awaiting the return of Christ, the Church continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles through their successors—the college of bishops, of which the successor of Peter is the head. Receiving what has been handed on by the apostles, the entire Church is apostolic; she is sent into the world as a “servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 4:1).
Roch Kereszty, in “The Infallibility of the Church: A Marian Mystery,” situates the charism of infallibility in the context of the Church’s virginal and, ultimately, Marian nature. Kereszty shows how “the apostolic ministry including the Petrine office has been established for the sake of guarding and guiding the virginal Bride Church to full eschatological union with her Divine Bridegroom.”
Michelle K. Borras, in “The Desert of Solitude: Reflections on Apostleship in the Work of Madeleine Delbrêl,” shows how the French Catholic lay woman was apostolic in the double sense of the word: “a Christian who, in receiving the Word, allowed herself to be sent forth by and with it into the world, and who recognized that her ‘apostolate’ (a term she seldom used) could bear fruit only if it retained its organic connection to the hierarchical Church of the apostles and thereby remained a living cell of the ‘whole Christ,’ the ‘Christ-Church.’” In a word, Madeleine Delbrêl loved the world with a boundless love because she loved God above all.
Stratford and Léonie Caldecott, in “Divine Touch: A Meditation on the Laying on of Hands in the Church,” reflect on the sacramental depth of communicating life and commissioning through the laying on of hands. The hands have a particular function, “they are the organs with which we touch, receive, take, and make. . . . As such, they are made to express the love for which we ourselves are made, and which we so often fail to manifest. Christ’s hands, however, do not fail. He touches his apostles, he consecrates them and washes their feet, and this human-divine touch is passed on, without interruption, until it reaches the very priest who, right here, right now, is placing the eucharistic Lord gently in our hands and in our mouths so that we may be saved from death.”
Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, in “‘Are You Afraid of the Thief?’ A Cordial Approach to Lectio Divina,” introduces and exemplifies the practice of lectio divina through a meditation on Mark 3:13-15, the passage in Mark’s Gospel that describes the formal calling of the Twelve. The essay begins and ends with a reflection on St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who shows us that the content and goal of a contemplative reading of the Scriptures is an encounter with the living Christ Jesus who communicates the mysteries of his life and gradually transforms us into his very image.
John Behr, in “The Spirit and the Bride Say ‘Come’: The Eschatological Dimensions of the Liturgy,” weaves together the letters of Paul, the disciples’ encounter with the Risen Christ on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13–33), and an early Christian text by Melito of Sardis to shed light on the eschatological dimension of the liturgy. The liturgy is nothing less than the intersection of time and eternity—a transitus or passage that simultaneously brings us into the eternal Kingdom of God and incarnates the presence of God in the body of Christ, the temple of the Spirit.
Retrieving the Tradition returns to the theme of ecclesiam apostolicam with Hans Urs von Balthasar’s introductory essay, “Madeleine Delbrêl: The Joy of Believing.” Balthasar suggests that the innermost secret of Delbrêl’s missionary existence is unceasing prayer and a heart that never turned its gaze from God. “God is for her the miracle that is new every day, that she experiences as an incomprehensible gift, bequest, surrender, that she can only answer with the indivisible, twofold surrender of herself: to God in prayer, and to her fellow men inside or outside the Church.”
Balthasar’s essay is complemented by a selection of texts from Madeleine Delbrêl’s posthumous La joie de croire (1968): “The Promises of Christ to the Extremities of the Earth.”
Finally, Reinhold Schneider in “Pope Gregory the Great,” reflects on the grace of apostolic office and the renunciation required to bear witness to an eternal gift unfolding in time. “Like the apostle, Gregory knew that the end of all things was very near, but through the storm, through the crashing down of the last pillars of the old world, he perceived the one, quiet, unalterable command: to baptize and teach all peoples; to bind and to loose; to bear responsibility for the sheepfold unto eternity; to build up Jerusalem among the rain of earthly arrows.”