One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. These words are known as the Four Marks of the Church. This post will examine each of the marks in detail. These marks are stated in the Nicene Creed and are the characteristics of the Church.
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God. The Lord is one!" -Deuteronomy 6:4
St. Cyprian once said, "God is one and Christ is one: there is one Church and one chair founded, by the Lord's authority, on Peter." The Church MUST be one, for its whole purpose is to unite the world around the one God.
Another way to examine the mark of "one" is to examine the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity is three persons united in one God. God is one in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Recall St. Patrick's method for teaching the Holy Trinity using a shamrock. There are three leaves, but only one stem. Therefore, God is one.
Jesus' great, high priestly prayer was thus: "...that they may all be one; even as You, Father are in Me, and I in You, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." -John 17:21-23
"We believe in the Holy Church because the Church is in Christ and Christ is in the Church." -St. Peter Chrysologus
The Church is holy because Jesus Christ, the head of the Church is holy. The Church reveals and brings the holiness of Christ to the world through liturgy and sacraments, the witness of saints and martyrs, the proclamation of Scripture, adherence to Sacred Tradition and more. God reveals Himself to us through Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. From this revelation flows the foundation of our Church. Because this revelation is sacred, the Church is also sacred and thus is holy.
"Christ came into the world to save sinners." -1 Timothy 1:15
"because of the hope laid up for you in Heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth." -1 Cor. 5-6
The word "Catholic" stems from the Greek word, "kata holos" which means "according to the whole." The Catholic Church is universal- that means that the Church is meant for everyone and is predestined to reach everyone throughout the world. One of my favorite things about the Catholic Church is that she is universal. This means that the Church is united and the same, no matter what part of the world you are in. When I was stationed overseas in the Air Force, I would attend Mass in different countries; I heard the Mass proclaimed in German, French, Italian, etc. My homesick heart found comfort knowing that I was hearing the same liturgy as my family back in Colorado. Additionally, even though I barely understood the foreign languages, I could easily follow along with the Mass because it was the same format as the Mass back home. The Church is universal- it is united and it is one all across the world.
When Pilate put the sign on the Cross that read, "Jesus, King of the Jews," he put it in the three major languages of the day. It's ironic that the man who condemned Jesus was an evangelizer by proclaiming Jesus Christ as King in multiple languages so that it could be understood by as many people as possible. Pilate confirmed the Catholic Church's universality when he did this.
"Jesus answered them, 'Did I not choose you, the twelve?'" -John 6:70
The following passage is known as The Great Commission and is my favorite passage in the Bible. "And Jesus came up to them and spoke to them, saying 'All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of age." -Matthew 28:18-20
Apostolic Succession means that the Church stems from the teachings of the Apostles who taught the world what Christ taught them. It is important because it is the basis for the Bishops of the Church today who derive their office and authority from the Apostles themselves. The Apostles handed on what they had been told by Christ by preaching, personal example and observances of Christ. This is what is known as Sacred Tradition.
"He who hears you, hears me." -Luke 10:16
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