Saint John tells us about this reality in his Revelation: the Angel shows him “the New Jerusalem” coming down out of Heaven, which is an image that represents the Glory of the Church.
“Come here. I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb. He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God” (Revelation 21, 9-11).
It is important to notice the details in Saint John’s description of the Church:
“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal: having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: on the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21, 10-14).
The “great and high wall” represents the majesty and fortification of the Church, in conformity with the way important cities of the past were surrounded and fortified by great walls. The “twelve gates” bearing the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, open to the four cardinal points, represent the universal catholic character of the Church: She embraces the whole of mankind. The “twelve foundations” bearing the name of the twelve Apostles represent the successors of the twelve tribes of Israel: they spread the Church up to all nations of the earth.
It is worth noticing that the Apostles elected one more Apostle to replace Judas Iscariots (Acts 1, 15-26), which completes the number of the Twelve Apostles. These Twelve went to many countries and spread the Good News all around: they chose successors and imposed their hands on their heads to transmit them the power Jesus Christ had bestowed on the Church. At present, they are our Bishops, more than 4,200 all around the world. God’s People spread all over the world among the whole of mankind. Through the Church, the Father accomplishes His plan: “to sum up all things in Christ” (The Letter to the Ephesians 1, 10).
The Catechism of the Church clearly defines this reality: “The Church, in Christ, is like a sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men.” The Church’s first purpose is to be the sacrament of the inner union of men with God. Because men’s communion with one another is rooted in that union with God, the Church is also the sacrament of the unity of the human race. In her, this unity is already begun, since she gathers men “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues”; at the same time, the Church is the “sign and instrument” of the full realization of the unity yet to come (CCC # 775).
“As sacrament, the Church is Christ’s instrument. “She is taken up by him also as the instrument for the salvation of all,” “the universal sacrament of salvation,” by which Christ is “at once manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love for men.” The Church “is the visible plan of God’s love for humanity,” because God desires “that the whole human race may become one People of God, form one Body of Christ, and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit” (CCC # 776).
Prof Felipe Aquino
Professor Felipe Aquino is a widower, father of five children. On TV Canção Nova he presents the program “Escola da Fé” [School of faith] and “Pergunte e Responderemos” [Ask and respond], on Radio he presents the program “in the heart of the Church”. On weekends he preaches deepening meetings throughout Brazil and abroad. He wrote 73 books of Catholic background by publishers, Loyola and Cleopas and Canção Nova. His teacher’s page:www.cleofas.com.br Twitter: @pfelipeaquino