Florosvsky on the “Catholicity of the Church”

The catholicity of the Church has two sides. Objectively, the catholicity of the Church denotes a unity of the Spirit. “In one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13). And the Holy Spirit which is a Spirit of love and peace, not only unites isolated individuals, but also becomes in every separate soul the source of inner peace and wholeness. Subjectively, the catholicity of the Church means that the Church is a certain unity of life, a brotherhood or communion, a union of love, “a life in common.” The image of the Body is the commandment of love. “St. Paul demands such love of us, a love which should bind us one to the other, so that we no more should be separated one from the other … St. Paul demands that our union should be as perfect as is that of the members of one body” (St. John Chrysostom, In Eph. Hom. 11.1, Migne, P.G. lxii, c. 79). The novelty of the Christian commandment of love consists in the fact that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. This is more than putting him on the same level with ourselves, of identifying him with ourselves; it means seeing our own self in another, in the beloved one, not in our own self …. Therein lies the limit of love; the beloved is our “alter ego,” an “ego” which is dearer to us than ourself. In love we are merged into one. “The quality of love is such that the loving and the beloved are no more two but one man” (In 1 Cor. Hom. 33, 3, Migne, P.G. lxi. c. 280). Even more: true Christian love sees in every one of our brethren “Christ Himself.” Such love demands self-surrender, self-mastery. Such love is possible only in a catholic expansion and transfiguration of the soul. The commandment to be catholic is given to every Christian. The measure of his spiritual manhood is the measure of his catholicity. The Church is catholic in every one of its members, because a catholic whole cannot be built up or composed otherwise than through the catholicity of its members. No multitude, every member of which is isolated and impenetrable, can become a brotherhood. Union can become possible only through the mutual brotherly love of all the separate brethren. This thought is expressed very vividly in the well known vision of the Church as of a tower that is being built. (Compare the Shepherd of Hermas). This tower is being built out of separate stones-the faithful. These faithful are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). In the process of building they fit one into the other, because they are smooth and are well adapted to one another; they join so closely to one another, that their edges are no longer visible, and the tower appears to be built of one stone. This is a symbol of unity and wholeness. But notice, only smooth square stones could be used for this building. There were other stones, bright stones, but round ones, and they were of no use for the building; they did not fit one into the other, were not suitable for the building and they had to be placed near the walls. (Hermas, Vis. 3:2:6,8). In ancient symbolism “roundness” was a sign of isolation, of self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction — teres atque rotundus. And it is just this spirit of self-satisfaction which hinders our entering the Church. The stone must first be made smooth, so that it can fit into the Church wall. We must “reject ourselves” to be able to enter the catholicity of the Church. We must master our self-love in a catholic spirit before we can enter the Church. And in the fulness of the communion of the Church the catholic transfiguration of personality is accomplished.

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