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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
1985 06 02
IntraText CT - Text
V. CATHOLIC SENSE OF THE CHURCH
16. It is not only the evangelical content of the doctrine proclaimed by Saints Cyril and Methodius that merits particular emphasis. Also very expressive and instructive for the Church today is the catcehetic and pastoral method that they applied in their apostolic activity among the peoples who had not yet heard the Sacred Mysteries celebrated in their native language, nor heard the word of God proclaimed in a way that completely fitted their own mentality and respected the actual conditions of their own life.
We know that the Second Vatican Council, twenty years ago, had as one of its principal tasks that of reawakening the self-awareness of the Church and, through her interior renewal, of impressing upon her a fresh missionary impulse for the proclamation of the eternal message of salvation, peace and mutual concord among peoples and nations, beyond all the frontiers that yet divide our planet, which is intended by the will of God the Creator and Redeemer to be the common dwelling for all humanity. The dangers that in our times are accumulating over our world cannot make us forget the prophetic insight of Pope John XXIII, who convoked the Council with the intent and the conviction that it would be capable of preparing and initiating a period of springtime and rebirth in the life of the Church.
And, among its statements on the subject of universality, the same Council included the following: "All men are called to belong to the new People of God. Wherefore this People, while remaining one and unique, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the purpose of God's will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one. After his children were scattered, he decreed that they should at length be unified again (cf. Jn 11:52)... The Church or People of God takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people by establishing that kingdom. Rather does she foster and take to herself, insofar as they are good, the abilities, resources, and customs of each people. Taking them to herself she purifies, strengthens, and enobles them... This characteristic of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself... In virtue of this catholicity each individual part of the Church contributes through its special gifts to the good of the other parts and of the whole Church. Thus through the common sharing of gifts and through the common effort to attain fullness in unity, the whole and each of its parts receive increase".28
17. We can say without fear of contradiction that such a traditional and at the same time extremely up-to-date vision of the catholicity of the Church-like a symphony of the various liturgies in all the world's languages united in one single liturgy, or a melodious chorus sustained by the voices of unnumbered multitudes, rising in countless modulations, tones and harmonies for the praise of God from every part of the globe, at every moment of history-this vision corresponds in a particular way to the theological and pastoral vision which inspired the apostolic and missionary work of Constantine the Philosopher and of Methodius, and which sustained their mission among the Slav nations.
In Venice, before the representatives of the ecclesiastical world, who held a rather narrow idea of the Church and were opposed to this vision, Saint Cyril defended it with courage. He showed that many peoples had already in the past introduced and now possessed a liturgy written and celebrated in their own language, such as " the Armenians, the Persians, the Abasgians, the Georgians, the Sogdians, the Goths, the Avars, the Tirsians, the Khazars, the Arabs, the Copts, the Syrians and many others".29
Reminding them that God causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on all people without exception,30 he said: "Do not all breathe the air in the same way? And you are not ashamed to decree only three languages (Hebrew, Greek and Latin), deciding that all other peoples and races should remain blind and deaf! Tell me: do you hold this because you consider God is so weak that he cannot grant it, or so envious that he does not wish it?".31 To the historical and logical arguments which they brought against him Cyril replied by referring to the inspired basis of Sacred Scripture: "Let every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father";32 "All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name";33 "Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!".34
18. The Church is catholic also because she is able to present in every human context the revealed truth, preserved by her intact in its divine content, in such a way as to bring it into contact with the lofty thoughts and just expectations of every individual and every people. Moreover, the entire patrimony of good which every generation transmits to posterity, together with the priceless gift of life, forms as it were an immense and many-coloured collection of tesserae that together make up the living mosaic of the Pantocrator, who will manifest himself in his total splendour only at the moment of the Parousia.
The Gospel does not lead to the impoverishment or extinction of those things which every individual, people and nation and every culture throughout history recognizes and brings into being as goodness, truth and beauty. On the contrary, it strives to assimilate and to develop all these values: to live them with magnanimity and joy and to perfect them by the mysterious and ennobling light of Revelation.
The concrete dimension of catholicity, inscribed by Christ the Lord in the very make-up of the Church, is not something static, outside history and flatly uniform. In a certain sense it wells up and develops every day as something new from the unanimous faith of all those who believe in God, One and Three, revealed by Jesus Christ and preached by the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. This dimension issues quite spontaneously from mutual respect proper to fraternal love-for every person and every nation, great or small, and from the honest acknowledgment of the qualities and rights of brethren in the faith.
19. The catholicity of the Church is manifested in the active joint responsibility and generous cooperation of all for the sake of the common good. The Church everywhere effects her universality by accepting, uniting and exalting in the way that is properly hers, with motherly care, every real human value. At the same time, she strives in every clime and every historical situation to win for God each and every human person, in order to unite them with one another and with him in his truth and his love.
All individuals, all nations, cultures and civilizations have their own part to play and their own place in God's mysterious plan and in the universal history of salvation. This was the thought of the two holy Brothers: God "merciful and kind",35 "waiting for all people to repent,) that all may be saved and come to the knowledge of the Truth,36 ... does not allow the human race to succumb to weakness and perish, and to fall into the temptation of the enemy. But year by year and at every time he does not cease to lavish on us a manifold grace, from the beginning until today in the same way: first, through the Patriarchs and Fathers, and after them through the Prophets; and again through the Apostles and Martyrs, the just men and the Doctors whom he chooses in the midst of this stormy life".37
20. The message of the Gospel which Saints Cyril and Methodius translated for the Slav peoples, drawing with wisdom from the treasury of the Church "things old and new",38 was transmitted through preaching and instruction in accordance with the eternal truths, at the same time being adapted to the concrete historical situation. Thanks to the missionary efforts of both Saints, the Slav peoples were able for the first time to realize their own vocation to share in the eternal design of the Most Holy Trinity, in the universal plan for the salvation of the world. At the same time, they can recognized their role at the service of the whole history of the humanity created by God the Father, redeemed by the Son our Savior and enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Thanks to this preaching, duly approved by the authorities of the Church-the Bishops of Rome and the Patriarchs of Constantinople-the Slavs were able to feel that they too, together with the other nations of the earth, were descendants and heirs of the promise made by God to Abraham.39 In this way, thanks to the ecclesiastical organization created by Saint Methodius and thanks to their awareness of their own Christian identity, the Slavs took their destined place in the Church which had now arisen also in that part of Europe. For this reason, their modern descendants keep in grateful and everlasting remembrance the one who became the link that binds them to the chain of the great heralds of the divine Revelation of the Old and New Testaments: "After all of these, the merciful God, in our own time, raised up for the good work, for the sake of our own people, for whom nobody had ever cared, our Teacher, the holy Methodius, whose virtues and struggles we unblushingly compare, one by one, to those of these men pleasing to God".40