Saturday, February 25, 2006

On Christian Love

Love in the New Testament

Check out this thorough analysis on the references and uses of "love" in the New Testament, including a lexical analysis of the Greek terms for "love", courtesy of the Novum Testamentum blog.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Ecclesia Domestica

Oops - I meant to blog about this earlier, but the week got away from me!

Engaged Encounter

We had a really good experience at our engaged encounter weekend... There were around 37 other couples making the weekend with us. The most valuable part of the weekend was the time spent talking and growing with my fiancee. We left feeling much more close and much more ready to make this sacramental commitment to each other. The weekend consisted of several presentations by two married couples and one of the Franciscan priests. The couples were deeply honest in their love for each other, against many odds, and in their love for the church. They were very candid about their experience of living out the Catholic faith in their marriage and family life. It was also really encouraging to see their zeal and enthusiasm for the Church's teachings on human sexuality and fertility, and their practice of natural family planning -- some of which had to be learned the hard way.

Ecclesia Domestica

I have long been attracted to the notion that every Christian family constitutes an ecclesia domestica, that is, a little, domestic church. In a way, it is a reflection of the larger, institutional church -- a small church in which the parents are the primary catechists of the Catholic faith and life for their children, and where an understanding of the love and mercy of God, His grace, and salvation are preached with the whole heart, in word and in life, through the human relationships that make the family what it is. The family is where each individual family member is first exposed to these graces from childhood, and it is families that make up the wider community of faith.

Considering many of our real experiences of family life, this all sounds very lofty, doesn't it? Well, that's where I think it really reveals the larger, institutional church. Families are made up of sinful people through whom God communicates grace. In reality, many families are divided and separated, and there is great need for reconciliation. But I think that when families reflect upon the divine commission to which they are called, and they strive to cooperate with God's grace, then His will is made manifest.

The Second Vatican Council refers to the notion of the domestic church (ecclesia domestica) in Lumen Gentium 11:
The family is, so to speak, the domestic church. In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.
Our late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, refers to the ecclesia domestica in several places in his writings, building on the words expressed in Lumen Gentium -- particularly with regard to the fact it is the members of the family, and more specifically the parents, who are charged with the primary responsibility for catechesis of the Christian faith and life. In his apostolic exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae 68, he says:
The family's catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable... Education in the faith by parents, which should begin from the children's tenderest age, is already being given when the members of a family help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words but which perseveres throughout a day-to-day life lived in accordance with the Gospel... Christian parents must strive to follow and repeat, within the setting of family life, the more methodical teaching received elsewhere... Family catechesis therefore precedes, accompanies and enriches all other forms of catechesis. "The church of the home" (the "ecclesia domestica") remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis.
This is a divine commission, which as it flowers, reveals and reflects the larger Catholic Church and its own commission. The Catechism of the Catholic Church builds on this notion with great depth. Paragraph 2204-2007:
The Christian family constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason it can and should be called a domestic church (ecclesia domestica)... The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father's work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ... The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.
The family is the basic block, the original cell of social life. What happens when the family as a whole, and in particular the parents, fails to recognize its primary role? If the larger Church, by way of the ecclesia domestica, is unable to introduce young people to the teachings of Christ, and if, through no fault of their own, young people are unable to participate in the virtues of family life, what happens to society as a whole?


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