October 1, 2000
volume 11, no. 187
The Second Installment of the Document on "No Salvation Outside the Church" from the Holy See released September 5, 2000 in THE VICAR OF CHRIST SPEAKS for the October 1, 2000 issue
II. THE INCARNATE LOGOS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE WORK OF SALVATION
Furthermore, to justify the universality of Christian salvation as well as the fact of religious pluralism, it has been proposed that there is an economy of the eternal Word that is valid also outside the Church and is unrelated to her, in addition to an economy of the incarnate Word. The first would have a greater universal value than the second, which is limited to Christians, though God's presence would be more full in the second.
10. These theses are in profound conflict with the Christian faith. The doctrine of faith must be firmly believed which proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, and He alone, is the Son and the Word of the Father. The Word, which “was in the beginning with God” (Jn 1:2) is the same as he who “became flesh” (Jn 1:14). In Jesus, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), “the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9). He is the “only begotten Son of the Father, who is in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18), His “beloved Son, in Whom we have redemption... In Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him, God was pleased to reconcile all things to Himself, on earth and in the Heavens, making peace by the blood of His Cross” (Col 1:13-14; 19-20).
Faithful to Sacred Scripture and refuting erroneous and reductive interpretations, the First Council of Nicaea solemnly defined its faith in: “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten generated from the Father, that is, from the being of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father, through Whom all things were made, those in Heaven and those on earth. For us men and for our salvation, he came down and became incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose again on the third day. He ascended to the heavens and shall come again to judge the living and the dead”.28 Following the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, the Council of Chalcedon also professed: “the one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man..., one in being with the Father according to the divinity and one in being with us according to the humanity..., begotten of the Father before the ages according to the divinity and, in these last days, for us and our salvation, of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, according to the humanity”.29
For this reason, the Second Vatican Council states that Christ “the new Adam...‘image of the invisible God' (Col 1:15) is Himself the perfect man Who has restored that likeness to God in the children of Adam which had been disfigured since the first sin... As an innocent lamb He merited life for us by His blood which He freely shed. In Him God reconciled us to Himself and to one another, freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin, so that each one of us could say with the apostle: the Son of God ‘loved me and gave Himself up for me' (Gal 2:20)”.30
In this regard, John Paul II has explicitly declared: “To introduce any sort of separation between the Word and Jesus Christ is contrary to the Christian faith... Jesus is the Incarnate Word — a single and indivisible person... Christ is none other than Jesus of Nazareth; He is the Word of God made man for the salvation of all... In the process of discovering and appreciating the manifold gifts — especially the spiritual treasures — that God has bestowed on every people, we cannot separate those gifts from Jesus Christ, Who is at the center of God's plan of salvation”.31
It is likewise contrary to the Catholic faith to introduce a separation between the salvific action of the Word as such and that of the Word made man. With the incarnation, all the salvific actions of the Word of God are always done in unity with the human nature that he has assumed for the salvation of all people. The one subject which operates in the two natures, human and divine, is the single person of the Word.32
Therefore, the theory which would attribute, after the incarnation as well, a salvific activity to the Logos as such in His divinity, exercised “in addition to” or “beyond” the humanity of Christ, is not compatible with the Catholic faith.33
11. Similarly, the doctrine of faith regarding the unicity of the salvific economy willed by the One and Triune God must be firmly believed, at the source and center of which is the mystery of the incarnation of the Word, mediator of divine grace on the level of creation and redemption (cf. Col 1:15-20), He Who recapitulates all things (cf. Eph 1:10), He “Whom God has made our wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). In fact, the mystery of Christ has its own intrinsic unity, which extends from the eternal choice in God to the parousia: “He [the Father] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before Him in love” (Eph 1:4); “In Christ we are heirs, having been destined according to the purpose of Him Who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and will” (Eph 1:11); “For those whom Je foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers; those whom He predestined He also called; and those whom He called He also justified; and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30).
The Church's Magisterium, faithful to divine revelation, reasserts that Jesus Christ is the mediator and the universal redeemer: “The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord...is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead”.34 This salvific mediation implies also the unicity of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, eternal high priest (cf. Heb 6:20; 9:11; 10:12-14).
12. There are also those who propose the hypothesis of an economy of the Holy Spirit with a more universal breadth than that of the Incarnate Word, crucified and risen. This position also is contrary to the Catholic faith, which, on the contrary, considers the salvific incarnation of the Word as a trinitarian event. In the New Testament, the mystery of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, constitutes the place of the Holy Spirit's presence as well as the principle of the Spirit's effusion on humanity, not only in messianic times (cf. Acts 2:32-36; Jn 7:39, 20:22; 1 Cor 15:45), but also prior to His coming in history (cf. 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 1:10-12).
The Second Vatican Council has recalled to the consciousness of the Church's faith this fundamental truth. In presenting the Father's salvific plan for all humanity, the Council closely links the mystery of Christ from its very beginnings with that of the Spirit.35 The entire work of building the Church by Jesus Christ the Head, in the course of the centuries, is seen as an action which He does in communion with His Spirit.36
Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through His Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity. Speaking of the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the Council states: “All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”.37
Hence, the connection is clear between the salvific mystery of the Incarnate Word and that of the Spirit, Who actualizes the salvific efficacy of the Son made man in the lives of all people, called by God to a single goal, both those who historically preceded the Word made man, and those who live after Jis coming in history: the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the animator of all (cf. Jn 3:34).
Thus, the recent Magisterium of the Church has firmly and clearly recalled the truth of a single divine economy: “The Spirit's presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions... The Risen Christ ‘is now at work in human hearts through the strength of His Spirit'... Again, it is the Spirit who sows the ‘seeds of the word' present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity in Christ”.38 While recognizing the historical-salvific function of the Spirit in the whole universe and in the entire history of humanity,39 the Magisterium states: “This is the same Spirit who was at work in the incarnation and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and Who is at work in the Church. He is therefore not an alternative to Christ nor does he fill a sort of void which is sometimes suggested as existing between Christ and the Logos. Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood in reference to Christ, the Word Who took flesh by the power of the Spirit ‘so that as perfectly human He would save all human beings and sum up all things'”.40
In conclusion, the action of the Spirit is not outside or parallel to the action of Christ. There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: “No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit”.41
NEXT WEEK: PART THREE
FOOTNOTES for this installment:
October 1, 2000
Return to Front Page of Current Issue