You know I have no illusions that mine are the only words that can instruct or illuminate; on the contrary, I am eager to share with you what illumination is to be found in the writings of others, especially in the treasury of the early Church. I hope you will enjoy this reflection on the Church from one of the great catechists of the late fourth century.
The Church is the bride of Christ.
The Catholic Church is the distinctive name of this holy Church which is the mother of us all. She is the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God (for Scripture says: Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her). She is the type and she bears the image of the Jerusalem above that is free and is the mother of us all, that Jerusalem which once was barren but now has many children.
The first assembly, that is, the assembly of Israel, was rejected, and now in the second, that is, in the Catholic Church, God has appointed first, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators and speakers in various tongues, as Paul says; and together with these is found every sort of virtue -- wisdom and understanding, self-control and justice, mercy and kindness, and invincible patience in persecution. This Church in earlier days, when persecution and afflictions abounded, crowned her holy martyrs with the varied and many-flowered wreaths of endurance. But now when God has favored us with times of peace, she receives her due honor from kings and men of high station, and from every condition and race of mankind. And while the rulers of the different nations have limits to their sovereignty, the holy Catholic Church alone has a power without boundaries throughout the entire world. For Scripture says: God has made peace her border.
Instructed in this holy Catholic Church and bearing ourselves honorably, we shall gain the kingdom of heaven and inherit eternal life. For the sake of enjoying this at the Lord’s hands, we endure all things. The goal set before us is no trifling one; we are striving for eternal life. In the Creed, therefore, after professing our faith “in the resurrection of the body,” that is, of the dead, which I have already discussed, we are taught to believe “in life everlasting,” and for this as Christians we are struggling.
Now real and true life is none other than the Father, who is the fountain of life and who pours forth his heavenly gifts on all creatures through the Son in the Holy Spirit, and the good things of eternal life are faithfully promised to us men also, because of his love for us.
Cyril Bishop of Jerusalem (+386)