Lumen gentium is a principal document of the Second Vatican Council. It is about the Catholic church. It was published in 1964.
Lumen gentium is a principal document of the Second Vatican Council.
It is also referred to as the “Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.”
Following the approval by the assembled bishops by a vote of 2,151 to 5, it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on November 21, 1964.
As is customary with significant Roman Catholic Church documents, it is known by its first few words: “Lumen gentium.” They are Latin for “Light of the Nations.”
Paragraph 1. The council gathered together to to bring the light of Jesus Christ to all people, and to reveal more of the inner nature and universal mission of the Church.
Paragraph 2. God the Father created the world. He raises us to participation in divine life, by means of Jesus Christ. The people of the Old Covenant prepared the way. It is manifest in the Church era. It will be completed when all people are gathered up.
Paragraph 3. God the Father sent God the Son. In him we are chosen.
Paragraph 4. When the work of Jesus Christ was completed, God the Holy Spirit was sent.
Paragraph 5. In the person of Jesus Christ, in his works, and in his miracles, the kingdom is clearly manifested. Jesus is our Lord, our Messiah, and our eternal Priest. He commands us to proclaim the Kingdom of Christ to all people.
Paragraph 6. The Church is often described with metaphors: sheepfold, flock, land, branches, building, house of God, holy temple, New Jerusalem, bride of the Lamb, exile.
Paragraph 7. Jesus Christ redeemed us. He made us into a new creation. We were baptized into his one body. We partake of it in the Eucharist. We are part of his one body. The Head of this Body is Jesus Christ. We ought to be like him.
Paragraph 8. The spiritual Body of Christ and the earthly church are not separate realities. They form one complex reality. This Church “subsists in” the Catholic Church, although many elements of holiness and of truth are found outside of it. All these disparate elements are forces moving us toward unity.
The Church embraces all people who are afflicted with human suffering. In the poor and afflicted, the Church sees the image of Jesus Christ.
Paragraph 9. The People of God are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people set apart.
Jesus Christ is their head. He bought them with his own blood. He sends them to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Paragraph 10. They are a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
Laypeople are given the universal priesthood of all believers. The ordained are given the ministerial priesthood. These priesthoods are different but related. Both participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Paragraph 11. Laypeople exercise their universal prieshood by taking part in the sacraments. The ordained exercise their ministerial priesthood by ministering the sacraments.
Paragraph 12. All Christians are to act as prophets.
When the bishops and Faithful show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals, they cannot err.
The Holy Spirit distributes gifts to everyone, equipping us to help build up the Church.
Paragraph 13. All people are called to belong to the new people of God. There are many nations but one people of God.
Paragraph 14. The Catholic Church is necessary for salvation.
Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.
Paragraph 15. Protestants are honored with the name of Christian.
Paragraph 16. The Jewish people remain most dear to God. As are the Muslims. And Hindus.
Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.
Paragraph 17. Jesus Christ gives the Church a solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth to the very ends of the earth.
Paragraph 18. Ministers are endowed with sacred power to serve their fellow believers. Bishops are successors to the Apostles. Peter is over the other apostles.
Paragraph 19. The Lord Jesus Christ appointed twelve to be a stable group. They made disciples first in Israel and then in all nations.
Paragraph 20. Their apostolic mission will last until the end of the world. That is why the Apostles appointed successors. Their office of nurturing the Church is permanent.
Paragraph 21. The Lord Jesus Christ is present in the bishops. They shepherd the elect. By episcopal consecration, they receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as well as the fullness of the sacrament of Orders.
Paragraph 22. Peter and the other apostles constitute one apostolic college, with Peter as the head. Similarly, the Roman Pontiff and the bishops are joined together, with the Roman Pontiff as the head.
There are three ways the bishops exercise their supreme power:
- In an ecumenical council.
- When the Roman Pontiff calls them to collegial action throughout the world.
- When the Roman Pontiff approves of, or freely accepts, the united action of the scattered bishops.
Paragraph 23. The Roman Pontiff is the unifier of the bishops and of the faithful. Individual bishops are the unifier of their particular churches. Individual bishops are to govern locally but be a global partner with the Roman Pontiff and other dioceses.
Paragraph 24. Bishops are given the Holy Spirit to help them achieve their ministry.
Paragraph 25. The ministry of a bishop is to preach. Individual bishops are not infallible.
Paragraph 26. In every Mass which is in union with the local bishop, Jesus Christ is present. The local bishop preaches, presides over the sacraments, and is to be an influence for good.
Paragraph 27. The local bishop governs his diocese. For that, their power is ordinary and immediate. Their authority is full. They are not vicars of the Roman Pontiff. However, they are not to be authoritarians.
Paragraph 28. Priests are consecrated to preach the Gospel and to shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship. They are prophets and priests and kings.
They cooperate with their local bishop. And with their fellow priests. They are ambassadors of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paragraph 29. Deacons are ordained to a ministry of service. They serve in the liturgy, in the word, and in charity to the people of God.
In the future, the diaconate can be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy.
Paragraph 30. Bishops are to recognize the ministries and charisms of laypeople.
Paragraph 31. The term “laity” means people who are not ordained and not religious.
By baptism they share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly functions of Christ.
They carry out their part of the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the world.
They engage in temporal affairs and order them according to the plan of God. They work for the sanctification of the world.
they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity.
Paragraph 32. The church has wonderful diversity. Yet it is unified by faith. All share a true equality and dignity.
in their diversity all bear witness to the wonderful unity in the Body of Christ.
Paragraph 33. The lay apostolate is a participation in the salvific mission of the church. All are commissioned to that apostolate by the Lord Jesus Christ. All are to be witnesses, extending the divine plan of salvation to all people.
Paragraph 34. Laypeople exercise the priestly function of offering spiritual worship for the glory of God and the salvation of people.
They are called to ever-more abundant fruits of the Spirit in them. They consecrate the world itself to God.
Paragraph 35. Jesus Christ prophesies through both the hierarchy and the laity. They must not hide this in the depths of their hearts.
They must go forth as powerful proclaimers of the faith, both by the testimony of their lives as well as by the spoken word.
One outlet for that lay ministry is in the family. Yet all must cooperate in the external spread and the dynamic growth of the Kingdom of Christ in the world.
Therefore, let the laity devotedly strive to acquire a more profound grasp of revealed truth
Paragraph 36. Jesus Christ communicates his royal power to his disciples. He wishes laypeople to spread his kingdom.
Paragraph 37. The laity have the right to the spiritual goods of the Church. They are to respectfully express their needs to their bishops. Bishops are to recognize and promote the dignity of the laity.
Lay people may undertake tasks on their own initiative.
Paragraph 38. Each layperson is a witness to the Lord Jesus Christ. They are to be to the world what the soul is to the body.
Paragraph 39. The Church is believed to be indefectibly holy. All people are called to holiness.
Holiness is manifested in the fruits of grace, in charity, in the edifying of other people, and in the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, obedience).
Paragraph 40. The Lord Jesus Christ calls all believers to be holy. That means to live the Christian life fully and be perfectly charitable.
Believers are made holy at their baptism. They are to live as saints. They are to put on the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Paragraph 41. All believers are called to holiness:
- Bishops must carry out their ministry in a holy way, with pastoral charity.
- Priests should grow daily in their love of God and their neighbor by the exercise of their office.
- Deacons should keep themselves free from every vice and stand before men as personifications of goodness and friends of God.
- All clerics are to be rich in prayer and love.
- Laypeople in apostolic labors
- Married couples and Christian parents are called to faithful love.
- Widows and single people are able to make great contributions toward holiness and apostolic endeavor in the Church.
- Laborers should help other people.
- People who suffer are united with the suffering Christ in a special way for the salvation of the world.
All believers are to manifest the love with which God loves the world.
Paragraph 42. The first and most necessary gift is love. For it to grow within us, we must feed on the Word of God. The greatest love is to die for other people.
Holiness is also manifested through virginity or the celibate state. This is a precious gift of divine grace.
Another manifestation of holiness is the state of poverty. And the state of obedience.
Paragraph 43. The “evangelical counsels” are vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
They were commanded by the apostles and Fathers of the Church.
OUR NOTE. We cannot find any place in the Bible where an apostle commands people to take vows of poverty, or chastity, or obedience.
In fact, it is the reverse. The Lord Jesus Christ forbids us, his followers, from taking a vow:
Matthew 5:33. Again you have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall perform to the Lord your vows,’
Matthew 5:34. but I tell you, don’t swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God;
The evangelical counsels are historic.
All forms of vowed life answer to church authority.
The religious life is not an intermediate state between cleric and layperson.
OUR NOTE. This was greatly confused during the Medieval era, when church authorities commonly referred to religious as “clerics.”
Paragraph 44. The evangelical counsels are a total dedication to God, and a more intimate consecration to divine service.
The spiritual life of religious should be devoted to the welfare of the whole Church.
Paragraph 45. The hierarchy can “adjust” the rules of religious. A local bishop can kick religious out of his diocese. Religious must respect their local bishop.
Paragraph 46. Religious are a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ to all people.
The evangelical counsels contribute to the purification of heart and spiritual liberty.
Paragraph 47. Religious must persevere and grow in their vocation.
Paragraph 48. The Church will attain its full perfection only in the glory of heaven. There, all will be perfectly reestablished in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the meantime, that restoration is being done by the Holy Spirit.
The church has a sanctity which is real, although imperfect. It has the appearance of this passing world.
We are exiles from the Lord Jesus Christ. But we have the Holy Spirit, and we groan with the desire to be with the Lord Jesus Christ.
We are urged to live more for him who died for us and rose again. We must be constantly vigilant. We await the glorious return of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Paragraph 49. Some of Christ’s disciples are exiles on earth. Others have died and are being purified in Purgatory. Still others are in heavenly glory, beholding God as he is.
Paragraph 50. The church has cultivated with great piety the memory of the dead. It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for them.
The Church venerates our disceased heroes of the faith with special devotion. They inspire us to run the race. We ask them to pray for us.
When we celebrate the Eucharistic sacrifice, we are most closely united to the Church in heaven.
Paragraph 51. Authentic veneration of the saints consists in the great intensity of our love.
(to be added)
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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.