Monastic Lectionary of the Divine Office,
Night Office 2 November 2015
(edition 1938 Sheed & Ward, Guest Guest House 1960s).
Chapter IX: The Catholicity of the Church
I became all things to all men, that I might save all (1 Cor. ix, 22).
The Church Suffering and the Church Militant constitute in their relations a second circle of most vital activities.
(pages 140-142) Having entered into the night "wherein no man can work," the Suffering Church cannot ripen to its final blessedness by any efforts of its own, but only through the help of others—through the intercessory prayers and sacrifices (suffragia) of those living members of the Body of Christ who being still in this world are able in the grace of Christ to perform expiatory works. The Church has from the earliest times faithfully guarded the words of Scripture (2 Macch. xii, 43 ff.) that "it is a holy and a wholesome thing to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins." The suppliant cry of her liturgy: "Eternal rest give to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them," can be heard already in the Acts of the martyrdom of SS Perpetua and Felicitas (A.D. 203) and is represented in numerous sepulchral inscriptions of the most ancient period, while theologians and Fathers of the Church, beginning with Tertullian, have supplied its substantial proof. The theology of the schismatical Greek Church agrees with Latin theology in its belief in the efficacy of prayers for the dead. So fundamental indeed and so natural to man's hope and desire and love is this belief, that historians of religion have discovered it among almost all non-Christian civilized peoples: a striking illustration of Tertullian's saying that the human soul is naturally Christian.
The Catholic, therefore, is jealous to expiate and suffer for the "poor souls," especially by offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice, wherein Christ's infinite expiation on the Cross is sacramentally re-presented, and stimulating and joining itself with the expiatory works of the faithful, passes to the Church Suffering according to the measure determined by God's wisdom and mercy. So the saying of St. Paul that the members of the Body of Christ "are mutually careful one for another" (1 Cor. xii, 25) is nowhere more comprehensively and luminously fulfilled than in the Church's suffrages for her dead children. When, in the Memento of the Mass, in the presence of the sacred Oblation and under the gaze so to speak of the Church Triumphant, she cries to heaven: "Be mindful also, O Lord, of thy servants and handmaids .... who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace," then truly heaven and earth greet each other, the Church Triumphant, Suffering and Militant meet in a "holy kiss," and the "whole" Christ with all His members celebrates a blessed love-feast (agape), a memorial of their communion in love and joy and pain.
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The relations between the Church of this world and the Church of the next are many and various; scarcely less rich and fruitful is the loving and vital fellowship that exists between the earthly members themselves of the Body of Christ. When the Fathers, beginning with Nicetas, bishop of Remesiana at the commencement of the fifth century, speak of the Communion of Saints, they are thinking especially of this earthly fellowship, and it was this that St. Paul also had specially in mind. It is the mysterious inner life of the Church, the mysterious exchange and commerce in functions and graces between its members, the mysterious process whereby the fellowship of Christ grows up organically into a "holy temple in the Lord," into the habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. ii, 21-22)