Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The next three weeks we will look at the Church today and whether it is still founded in the teachings of Christ. We sometimes wonder if the Church we worship in today is the same Church established by Jesus Christ. There are four marks of the true Church in the world. Kenneth Whitehead writes the following “We can show how the Church of the apostles resembles in all essentials the Church of today by showing how the early Church already bore the marks, or “notes,” of the true Church of Christ which are still professed today in the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed declares the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.
Thus, the Church of the apostles was definitely one: “There is one body and one spirit,” Paul wrote, “just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all” (Eph. 4:4-5). Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church’s common Eucharistic bread: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised at the outset that “there would be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16).
Similarly, the Church of the apostles was holy. When we say that, we mean among other things that it had the all-holy God himself as author. We do not mean that all of its members have ceased to be sinners and have themselves become all-holy. On the contrary, the Church from the beginning, on her human side, has been composed of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). The Church was founded for no other reason than to continue Christ’s redemptive and sanctifying work with them in the world.
One of the things implicit in the appellation “holy” as applied to the Church, then, is that the Church from the beginning has been endowed with the sacramental means to help make holy the sinners who are found in her ranks. The Church has been given the sacraments along with the word precisely in order to be able to help make sinners holy.
It was in this sense that Paul was able to write, “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the Church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:25-27). The holiness of the Church, of which the creed properly speaks, has always had reference to her divine Founder and to what the Church was founded by him with the power and authority to do, not with the condition of her members.”
And so we learn that two of the marks of the Church is that it is one and holy. Next week we will look at two additional marks of the Church.