When we go to Mass and recite the Apostles Creed and come to that part, "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church," have we ever wondered if we were indeed inside her? The priest saying Mass at the Altar and we, the congregation surrounding the priest, are we the Catholic Church? Those four signs mentioned are visible signs, the Catechism says, so we should know the answer.
The visible signs are outward manifestations of the internal mechanism of the Church. Let us go into her interior mechanism and see what is it in her that produces the so-called four visible signs. This interior mechanism is a more reliable way of knowing if we are the Catholic Church, as "Lumen Gentium" confirms.
God the Father created the angels and man to share with Him His happiness in Heaven, but some angels fell and man also fell.
God foreknew that man would fall. So He devised a plan for his salvation. The scenario in Paradise was one which showed that that plan was in place: God created a man and a woman. The woman was the type of the Church, and the man would be the type of Jesus Christ. There we see how the Church will be: like a woman united to her husband.
The Preparation. God set a race aside, completely apart from all other races - - the Chosen people. First, He would teach them His commands so that they can worthily offer a sacrifice pleasing to God. But this was not yet the Church. She was still undergoing preparation for birth.
Building the Church. At the fullness of time, Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. Christ, Himself, was a type of the Church in that He had a human nature (a type of the Church) united hypostatically to His Divine Nature (the Son of God). The union between the two natures is so intense it cannot be duplicated but merely imitated. The Blessed Virgin Mary would come close to it. So she becomes a type of the Church : a human being, in a manner hypostatically united to her Son. Her union with Christ would be an exemplar for other humans. But since this was only possible because she was full of grace, other humans, too, must have grace. Mary becomes the perfect type of the Church.
Herein we begin to see the two elements intertwined describing the internal mechanism of the Church. First, it is evident that GRACE is the most important element in the interior mechanism and secondly, the INSTRUCTIONS which the Chosen people had in the desert from Moses (which in Mary's case was infused).
Now that we have the models, namely Adam and Eve, the Chosen People, Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are ready to see the Church (the Mystical Body of Christ) established.
We begin with the setting aside of a people similar to what Joshua did when he asked for volunteers to fight in a battle, and from them chose a few based on a test he had given them by the river. (Then we understand the words of Christ "Many are called but few are chosen." ) We see also in the Israelites that many were called by John the Baptist, and Christ sets aside a few from among many who were to be his first disciples. These had to undergo training for three years, by instruction (like Moses teaching the Israelites); and by infused knowledge. Sacramental graces and character were then given to them as they progressed. These then are the two elements of the interior mechanism of the Church: the power of jurisdiction, which is referred to during the time of instruction; and the power of orders, from which will come the graces. These are called "powers" because by them the Church is empowered to call souls into the Mystical Body.
After the Resurrection and before the Ascension the instructions would be complete and by Pentecost the graces would be complete. The Church then exists, made up of that small community in Jerusalem with Mary in their midst. Endowed with the two powers, they are ready to bring other souls into the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Church now exists. But its members eventually die. So how does the Church continue to exist? Christ, before the Ascension, instructed His apostles to do to others exactly what He did to them. This is found in the Apostolic Commission (Matt. 28:19) The same instruction must be carried out by all the successors of the apostles. Here we see again the two elements of the internal mechanism of the Church: the instruction; and the succession of orders to be vested in the Hierarchy.
Picture the Vatican. There is the Basilica in front with two arms (Pillars of Bernini) extending like an embrace towards the world. Imagine St. Peter's Basilica as the Mystical Body of Christ (the Church), and the two embracing arms of Bernini's pillars: one, as the power of jurisdiction; and the other as the power of orders. That is how the Church invites and embraces souls and brings them into the Mystical Body of Christ.
The apostolic commission reads "Go therefore and teach all nations ..." how to enter the Catholic Church. First (by the power of jurisdiction) teach them "all My commands" and teach them "how to observe these commands". And secondly, "baptize them" so they can receive the Sacramental grace that will unite them to Me; and the Sacramental character that will unite them to My priesthood enabling them to offer the Mass with Me.
The apostles, with these two powers, went to all nations and invited those who would continue the Church through the centuries. They used their power of jurisdiction by going about teaching all the commands of Christ and how to observe them (this is the same as saying to teach Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church). They used their power of orders by administering the Sacraments with emphasis on Baptism, Confirmation and Holy orders because of the Sacramental character.
So more souls entered the Church. After the Apostles, their successors were to do exactly what Christ did to His apostles and what the apostles did to their successors. They would go on, this time not around the world, but to their more limited jurisdiction. Clothed with this dual powers they can teach all of Christ's commands and how to observe them (the power of jurisdiction) and administer the sacraments (the power of order).
Ecclesiology has been the concern of both Vatican I and II. Vatican I and Vatican II Council Fathers were asking two questions. First, how does the Church look interiorly and exteriorly? Secondly, where is she? The Church being two thousand years old and replete with Saints, the answer should have been easy. But almost all the documents of both Vat. I and II were trying to find answers. Documents are still coming out for clarification. Today each Catholic layman, each Parish and Diocese should ask these same two questions. Are both the interior and exterior workings of the Church present in our parish or diocese. If not, where is the Church?
The Saints, especially some Fathers and Doctors of the Church, (like St. Cyprian, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Thomas of Aquinas and St. Robert Bellarmine) have written a lot on both the interior and exterior workings of the Church. Being members of the Mystical Body of Christ, they should know. But the Council Fathers, too. were supposedly members of the Mystical Body. So how come the workings of that Body were not familiar to some? Was this perhaps the problem Pope John XXIII saw already existing then that made him hastily, but wisely, call for Vatican Council II?