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March 24, 2012

Image of Church according to Vatican II in Canon 604


This morning I found an interesting  article “ The Ecclesiology Of The Constitution On The Church, Vatican II, 'Lumen Gentium'"  here  written by Pope Benedict XVI / Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The ancient vocation of Ordo Virginum had almost lost its charism for several centuries of history.  It was used limitedly by some monastic orders, as a Rite  that was integrated with monastic profession and the charisms of their founders-[not as the original charism of Ordo Virginum in the Early Church].  It was revised and revived  by the Second Vatican Council and expressed  through Canon 604 #1 and 604#2  with the intention of restoring the original charism and not merely the Rite itself. 

The New Code of Canon Law is said to be the Final document of the Second Vatican Council,   reflecting what was expressed  during its discussions and through its documents  see here. Thus to understand the  intended Image of the Church  that the OrdoVirginum should express in today’s world, it would be desirable to refer to the Counciliar documents  especially  Lumen Gentium   which describes the ecclesiology of the constitution of the Church. Perhaps there was an effort to bring it up to date according to the signs of the times – with regard to the Image of the Church  in relation to God, the relationship between various components  within the Church, its relationship with other churches and  religions. Thus the Second Vatican Council was ecumenical and pastoral  in its approach.

Canon law on the Order of virgins.
Can. 604 §1 The order of virgins is also to be added to these forms of consecrated life. Through their pledge to follow Christ more closely, virgins are consecrated to God,    mystically espoused to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church, when the diocesan Bishop consecrates them according to the approved liturgical rite.
§2 Virgins can be associated together to fulfil their pledge more faithfully, and to assist each other to serve the Church in a way that befits their state.

In Can.604  I find  reference to the image of Church as ‘People of God.’ Hence  virgins are ‘consecrated to God.’ In the revised Rite of consecration to a life of virginity, the candidate renews her resolution (the propositum): "Father, receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God's help, I here profess before you and God's people." This  Image is supposed to be actualised  through the diocesan bishop  representing  God as Father  and is expressed throughout the Rite. The consecrated virgin because of her link with the Church [ref to Vita Consecrata, 7]  is linked to God’s representative in the local church. This link is to the ministry of the diocesan bishop-not to the person. Hence it is not altered  by  change of  minister /successor  who fulfils the same  role in the local community of  People of God. As the virgin is legally consecrated to God,  she is legally entrusted to the  pastoral care of the diocesan bishop.

 [ref. to  Apostolorum Successores as follows:

104. Consecrated Women.

People of God
An inestimable service is given to the Church in countless ways by consecrated women in religious institutes (295), in societies of apostolic life, in secular institutes (296) and in the order of virgins, (297) and it is hoped that in the future this service will expand even further. For this reason, the Bishop takes special care to provide suitable and, if possible, abundant resources for their spiritual growth, their Christian instruction, and their cultural enrichment.

The Bishop should show particular concern for the order of virgins, who are dedicated to the service of the Church, entrusted to the Bishop’s pastoral care and consecrated to God at his hands. Bearing in mind the formation needs of consecrated women today, not dissimilar to those of consecrated men, the Bishop should assign chaplains and confessors to them from among the best at his disposal, distinguished by a good understanding of consecrated life and by their piety, sound doctrine, ecumenical and missionary spirit (298).

The Bishop should also be vigilant that consecrated women are given sufficient opportunities for participation in different diocesan structures, such as diocesan and parish pastoral councils, where these exist, in the various diocesan commissions and delegations, and in the direction of apostolic and educational initiatives in the diocese. They should also be involved in decisionmaking processes, especially in matters directly affecting them. In this way they can bring to the service of God’s people their particular sensitivities and their missionary fervour, their unique gifts and the fruits of their experience (299).”
In the Canon there is reference also to the image  as ‘bride of Christ’ expressed  through the term ‘mystically espoused to Christ.’  Before the renewal of  the propositum during the Rite, the virgin is asked, “ Are you resolved to accept solemn consecration as a 'bride of our Lord Jesus Christ,' the Son of God?  There are references to  terms like ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in the Rite which can be meditated upon according to the Counciliar documents:

Are you resolved to follow Christ in the spirit of the Gospel that your whole life may be a faithful witness to God's love and a convincing sign of the Kingdom of Heaven?

Similarly there are several terms in  Canon 604 and in the revised Rite of Consecration  which if studied  in detail according to the documents of the  Second Vatican Council –can enrich the understanding of Canon 604 #1 and #2 and  the vocation  for today’s church and world.

Time is restricting me from writing  more on this topic today. The discussion can be endless. You are invited to share your own reflections. Thanks!

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