Ever heard someone toss around the old term Church Militant? Well, I think I’ve discovered video evidence of just what that means in this clip from 1989s Girlfriend From Hell…
Okay, so maybe not.
Perhaps its best if we just stick with the old Catholic Encyclopedia’s explanation. It tells us how the word Ecclesia, meaning body of believers, “may signify the whole body of the faithful, including not merely the members of the Church who are alive on earth but those, too, whether in heaven or in purgatory, who form part of the one communion of saints. Considered thus, the Church is divided into the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant.”
Taking a closer look at this division, it goes like this.
- The Church Militant refers to members of the Church on Earth, the ones actively living a Christian life and working together to try and make things on Earth as they are in Heaven.
- The Church Suffering refers to the members of the Church who didn’t quite attain their full perfection in life and are now in Purgatory getting cleaned up a bit.
- The Church Triumphant describes the members of the Church who have already made the cut and are in Heaven praying for the rest of us.
The Catechism doesn’t actually use the old terminology anymore (maybe the word militant is just too scary these days), but it does recognize this threefold state of the Church, proclaiming…
“When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is. All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.”
So, whether we use the old terminology or not, pondering the three divisions of the Church can be an uplifting exercise as it reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles here on Earth, that those who went before us are still an active part of the Church, interceding and adding their prayers to ours in the battle against evil. Thus, while I imagine a rocket launcher could come in handy for those times when you absolutely need to blow up a devil-possessed road-raging girlfriend from hell, I’m pretty sure having the kind of spiritual firepower the ENTIRE Church provides is going to turn out to be a lot more useful to us in the end.
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