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Quote of the Week

January 4, 2007

We live in a time of imbalance and of searching, in which it is easy to succumb to the temptation of assuming an exclusive position either for the past as it was, or for a future without roots in the past. But we cannot accept such a dilemma. The church is not itself if it is not at one and the same time past, present and future. In the church, the past is always operative, and the future is already present. In it, tradition is a perpetual renewal, and growth, at its deepest level, is a real continuity.

The church’s reality is like that of the eucharist. These two mysteries are deeply related; for if the church makes the eucharist it is also true that the eucharist makes the church. But the eucharist is at one and the same time a memorial of the past, a present actualization of that unique sacrifice offered once for all, and an anticipation of the future resurrection: memorial, actuality and prophecy.

The eucharist remains the same throughout the ages. Since Holy Thursday evening, it gives unchangeable expression to itself, in the same sacred words which it repeats in memory of the Master until he comes.

And yet what variety there has been in the accidentals over the centuries! The eucharist has been celebrated in the most diverse liturgies. It has expressed itself in Aramaic, in Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Coptic and Chaldean, and at the present time it speaks all languages. It has sung Gregorian chant and polyphony, and now it sings the music of all the people it meets, making itself all things to all men.

Something analogous takes place within the heart of the church in regard to the theological and pastoral development. To those Christians who are upset and distracted by questioning and new research, we would say that faith is both certitude and continual quest. It is normal, and in itself quite healthy, that theologians periodically revise the formulas in which our dogma and beliefs are expressed.

We tend to think of faith as a body of truths fixed in their expression which are to be handed on like ingots of gold in a treasure coffer. But faith is life and the source of life; whatever is alive is bound to grow, and to grwow continually: there lies the heart of the problem.

It rarely happens that a truth is defined in itself and for itself. Generally, in the course of history, a truth is expressed because of some denial, some exclusive concentration, some heresy which arises. And thus, succeeding generations must exercise constant care that this defined truth receive the proper complementarity and harmony it needs in order to remain fully faithful to itself.

The reason why new concepts and new formulations must always be sought is that revealed reality is a mystery, and will remain such eternally. The closer we come to the heart of a mystery the less equipped we are to express its content, and the more legitimate becomes the search for more adequate formulations.

Léon-Joseph Suenens, Coresponsibility in the Church
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