The Assignment: In less than six hundred words, what is the secular character of the lay faithful and how is it related to the universal call to Christian holiness?
The most direct answer, in need of unpacking, is found in Lumen Gentium 31, cited in both CL (repeatedly) and in Aumann’s On the Front Lines (for ex, p. 65).
These faithful are by baptism made one body with Christ and are constituted among the People of God; they are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ; and they carry out for their own part the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.
What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature… by their very vocation, seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions and occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven.Lumen Gentium ¶31
The Church has, herself, an “authentic secular dimension” (Pope St Paul VI, cited in CL ¶15) because the whole Church is “in the world but not of it” (John 15:19, John 17:14-16 cited in CL). The lay faithful manifest this dimension in a particular way since they must live and move in the world in their daily lives. This is their “secular character” mentioned in Lumen Gentium.
The Lay Faithful may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. Therefore, since they are tightly bound up in all types of temporal affairs it is their special task to order and to throw light upon these affairs in such a way that they may come into being and then continually increase according to Christ to the praise of the Creator and the Redeemer. (LG 31)
There is, within the Church, a particular way in which we are called to holiness, rooted in our baptism, this call is universal – directed to all people who are called to this communion in Christ. It is an act of evangelism to call those outside the Church to holiness. Pope St John Paul spends much of CL expanding on the idea of making the world reflect the kingdom of God in our homes, in the works of mercy, and in our professions.
St Paul urges us, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men…you are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24 RSVCE) The mystic, Gabriel Bossis, says to Our Lord “I’m weeding so that you may come and walk on the terrace.” (He and I, p 131)
In the Byzantine Liturgy, the Deacon moves back and forth from the altar, behind the icon screen, to the nave of the church, in front of the screen. From there he directs and gives voice to the prayers of the people, drawing their attention towards the Holy Place where God is sacramentally enthroned. The Lay Faithful are called to perform the same function in a larger liturgy, moving between the Church and the World, stitching them together, calling the world’s attention to the Gospel. The lay faithful are invited to make all situations within society direct towards this call to holiness. This illumination and ordering of all things and growing “according to Christ” is the universal call to holiness in action: it does not stop at the “edge” of the Church for this call is truly universal, both inside and outside of the Church.
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