Theology of the Church

Theology of the Church

Over the course of several decades, Charles Cardinal Journet (1891–1975) wrote a three- or four-volume treatise on the Catholic Church as a fundamental mystery and revelation in the Christian faith (Church of the Word Incarnate).

Three or four volumes: this was long.

But it was the work of a contemplative theologian who loved the Church and wanted others to love her, too.

Cardinal Journet summarized the first two volumes of his treatise. This became Theology of the Church. In fact, it’s not only summarized, it’s made easier to read. It was designed “for popular readership” according to the English-language publisher. Actually, the book is dedicated to the Little Brothers of Jesus, a contemplative-in-the-world religious ordered inspired by Blessed Charles de Foucauld. In short, it’s a book written by a contemplative for contemplatives, thrown into the mud and muck of the world and sometimes lacking time to study and read.

That is the target audience: contemplatives tossed about the waves of the world, wanting an anchor in the Church, what the Church is, and who the Church is. One of the most startling themes of Cardinal Journet was taken up both by the Council and by the Credo of the People of God (1968):

The city of God, the Church, is without sin but not without sinners.

This is not the only way to view the Church, though. The opening pages of Theology of the Church talk about three ways that people saw Jesus when he was on earth: (1) just any other man walking down the road (Jn 6:42); (2) a more penetrating vision that sees in him something unique and surprising (Mt 6:13); (3) finally, the eyes of faith see him, with Thomas, as he really is (Jn 20:28). Charles Journet then says that there are three similar ways of viewing the Church: as any religious organization, as a kind of unique surprise, and with the eyes of faith. It is the eyes of faith that Cardinal Journet helps illuminate.

Georges Cardinal Cottier describes the book thus:

In the present work the brevity of the text hints at a catechetical style, so that the essentials can be easily understood and committed to memory and provide food for meditation; for the theology of Charles Journet naturally flowers into spirituality and prayer.

I don’t know where I’d be without this book. I really don’t know. If one wants to maintain a contemplative view of the Church while being tossed about by the world, in both its madness and its goodness, I can’t see any better way than digesting Charles Journet’s theology.

(Concluding thoughts: There are a couple of substantial developments that Journet later came to: first, through his friend Jacques Maritain, Charles Journet realized that this “catechesis” on the Church can be summarized by saying that the Church is a person of the order of grace; second, the later volumes of the larger Church of the Word Incarnate deal with questions of history that are not treated in Theology of the Church.)

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3 thoughts on “Theology of the Church

  1. Pingback: Dogma and Contemplation | Contemplative in the Mud

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