The Church is One

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Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess that the Church is “one”. When we consider the rich diversity of languages, cultures and peoples present in the Church throughout the world, we realize that this unity is a God-given gift, grounded in our common Baptism and our sharing in the Church’s one faith and sacramental life. Like a great family, we are united to all our brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever they may be. We might ask ourselves how much we appreciate and express in our daily lives, and particularly in our prayer, this reality of our unity and solidarity in the communion of the Church. The world needs our witness to God’s plan for the unity, reconciliation and peace of the whole human family. Let us ask the Lord to enable us, and Christians everywhere, to work to overcome our tensions and divisions, to strive, as Saint Paul bids us, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (cf. Eph 4:3), and to cherish the harmony which the same Spirit creates from the richness of our diversity. – Pope Francis (General Audience of Sep 25, 2013)

One of the marks of Christ’s Church is that it is one. The Catholic Church throughout time and space has maintained that unity. It is of great comfort to me to know that no matter where in the world I am I can go to a local Catholic Church and experience the same Mass, the same faith as anywhere else in the world. It also works in time. If I was to travel back in time 100, 300, 1000, 1500 years or all the way back to apostles. I would find the same church, the same faith the same Mass. It will be the same in the future.

As the Pope said we must always work towards strengthening that unity. Through prayer and knowing our faith. So we can witness to Christ and his Church wherever we are.

Church Fathers on the Church and Apostolic Succession

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The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and Jesus Christ was sent from God. Christ, therefore, is from God, and the apostles are from Christ. Both of these orderly arrangements, then, are by God’s will. Receiving their instructions and being full of confidence on account of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and confirmed in faith by the Word of God, they went forth in the complete assurance of the Holy Spirit, preaching the good news that the Kingdom of God is coming. Through countryside and city they preached; and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the spirit, to be bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty: for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. Indeed, Scripture somewhere says: “I will set up their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith” [cf. 2 Sam. 7:13]. — Clement of Rome, Epistle to the Corinthians, c. A.D. 95.

Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest. . . . Be subject to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father, so that there may be unity in both body and in spirit. — Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, c. A.D. 107.

As I said before, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although she is disseminated throughout the whole world, yet guarded it, as if she occupied but one house. She likewise believes these things just as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart; and harmoniously she proclaims them and teaches them and hands them down, as if she possessed but one mouth. For, while the languages of the world are diverse, nevertheless, the authority of the tradition is one and the same . . . nor will any of the rulers in the Churches, whatever his power of eloquence, teach otherwise, for no one is above the teacher. . . . It is necessary to obey those who are presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion. . . . But since it would be too long to enumerate in a volume such as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who . . . assemble other than where is proper, by pointing out here the succession of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition. — Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, c. A.D. 180.

[The apostles] founded Churches in cities one after another, from which other Churches borrow the sprout of faith and the seeds of doctrine, and are daily borrowing them, so that they may become Churches. And it is in this way that they may regard themselves as apostolic; for they are the offspring of apostolic churches. Any group of things must be classified according to its origin. Therefore, although the Churches are so many and great, there is but one primitive Church of the apostles, from which all the others are derived. Thus, all are primitive, all are apostolic, because all are one. . . . From this, then, we draw up our demurrer: if the Lord Jesus Christ sent the apostles to preach, no others ought to be received except those appointed by Christ. For no one knows the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son gives a revelation [cf. Matt. 11:27]. Nor does it seem that the Son has given revelation to any others than the apostles, whom he sent forth to preach what he had revealed to them. But what they preached, that is, what Christ revealed to them—and here again, I must enter a demurrer—can be proved in no other way except through the same Churches which the apostles founded, preaching in them themselves viva voce as they say, and afterwards by their epistles. If these things are so, then it follows that all doctrine which agrees with the apostolic Churches, those nurseries and original depositories of the faith, must be regarded as truth, and as undoubtedly constituting what the Churches received from the apostles. And, indeed, every doctrine must be prejudged as false, if it smells of anything contrary to the truth of the Churches and of the apostles of Christ and God. — Tertullian of Carthage, Demurrer against the Heretics, c. A.D. 200.

Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles, and who have lived in perfect righteousness according to the Gospel. — Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, c. A.D. 202.

From that time the ordination of bishops and the plan of the Church flows on through the changes of time and successions; for the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers. Since this has indeed been established by divine law, I marvel at the rash boldness of certain persons who have desired to write to me as if they were writing letters in the name of the Church, “since the Church is established upon the bishop and upon the clergy and upon all who stand firm in the faith.” — Cyprian of Carthage, Letter to the Lapsed, A.D. 250.

Christ breathed upon the apostles alone, saying to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit: if you forgive any man his sins, they shall be forgiven; and if you retain any man’s sins, they shall be retained” [John 20:22–23]. Therefore, the power of forgiving sins was given to the apostles and to the Churches which these men, sent by Christ, established; and to the bishops who succeeded them by being ordained in their place. — Firmilian of Caesarea, Letter to Cyprian, c. A.D. 255.

Review: The Apostasy That Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church

The Apostasy That Wasn't: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church
The Apostasy That Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church by Rod Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have read many books about the early church and especially about the time of the emperor Constantine. I have read many accounts of the council of Nicea and the subsequent council of Constantinople. I knew about Athanasius, Anthony, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great. I knew about the Arian controversy and the upheaval it caused in the Church. I knew all of this so when I picked up this book I just thought it will be a similar treatment of the historical data, not much to be excited about if you already know the story.

This book is excellent. It reads like a novel. It places you right in the middle of this great drama. You meet the characters on both sides of the debate. Even though you know how it ends the way this book is written, the reader is held in constant suspense.

For those who don’t know the story of our Church, and don’t know how close it came to dying out in the fourth century this is a must read. It will forever change the way you look at these great Church Fathers. How much debt we own them. St Athanasius is forever my hero now.

Rob Bennet has done a great job putting the myth of apostasy from true Christianity to death. There was no apostasy. The Church of the Apostles is the same as the Church of the Early Fathers which is the same as the Church of St. Athanasius which is the same as the Catholic Church, to say anything else is to completely ignore the entire history of Christianity.

Do yourself a favour and pick up this book. You will not be disappointed.

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