holiness as a mark of the Church
One of the four marks by which the true Church of Jesus Christ can be recognized and distinguished from false Churches.
There is no doubt that Christ intended holiness to be a note of His Church.
Saint Paul writes to the Ephesians:
Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: that He might sanctify it; cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy, and without blemish. (Ephesians 5)
The question at once arises as to what constitutes this holiness, as a visible note of the Church.
We say the Church is holy for many reasons.
- It is essentially holy, i.e., all its intrinsic constitutive elements are holy: its final cause, the sanctity of men; its ministry, because endowed with a multiple power of sanctifying; its doctrine, both theoretic and practical, because it regulates and develops a holy life; its material cause, viz., those regenerated into the Sonship of God by baptism.
- The Church is holy because it very evidently cultivates the Christian virtues, not only in the common sense of that term, but even in the more perfect sense.
The Church cultivates the highest possible virtue in many ways.
The Holiness of the Church consists not merely in its abundant means of holiness but also in the manner in which its members avail themselves of these, in its hosts of saints canonized and in the far greater number uncanonized; in the zeal of its missionaries, priests, and religious communities which are veritable schools of holiness; in the response of the faithful in general to the exhortations of their pastors, in their fine sense of obligation to observe not only the commandments, but to perform even acts of heroism for their faith and for the welfare of their neighbors.
- By its doctrIne, concerning faith and morals, including the integral doctrine of Scripture and tradition; a complete code of morality, certain and clear in content, with sufficient and efficacious sanctions; the ceaseless proposition of the perfection hunlanly attainable with God's help through the practise of the Evangelical Counsels.
- By its cult.
It worships God through the offering of the Sacrifice of Calvary again in the Mass.
It administers the seven sacraments, which sanctify the whole life of a Christian, and supply a special grace for every necessity.
Prayer is constantly commended and urged upon men.
- (c) By its laws.
These move men to a more perfect and complete fulfilment of the Law of God.
- Finally the Church is holy because of the miracles which have always attended its existence.
Christ promised these charismata to the Church:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he also shall do; and greater than these shall he do" ( John 14).
The historical truth of miraculous powers in the Church is a certain fact.
This power, promised by Christ to His Church, and actually exercised by the Church throughout the ages, is a sure proof of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the Church, and consequently of the sanctity of the Church.
New Catholic Dictionary