This is actually a repost of something I wrote over a year ago. In light of recent conversations we’ve been having here, I thought it might be useful. I’ve modified it a bit from the original version to express things better.
By virtue of the church’s union with Christ (the totus Christus), the base-practices of the church—Baptism, Eucharist, the preached Word—which were instituted by Christ in his incarnation bear witness to and proleptically share in the apocalyptic promise of the final communio of the Triune God and the created world. The sacramental practices of the church participate in the christic and pneumatic dynamism of the immanent triune life which is the promised transfiguration of the world in Christ. The sacramental base-practices of the church, rightly understood, bear witness to, and by God’s grace manifest the form and splendor of the inter-trinitarian love translated into the life of humanity through the missional action of the Son and Spirit. In baptism a person is drawn into the circle of triune love, which embraces, heals, and captivates the brokenness of sinful humanity. Through baptism the Spirit unites the believer with Christ, drawing her into the communion of the Trinity, of which the church is a sign and sacrament. Likewise, through the Eucharist, the members of the body of Christ are gathered together by the Spirit in the peace that has been wrought by word of the cross which makes all things one. In the Eucharist the one loaf is consumed by the one body thereby assuming the members together into a truly united, truly catholic ekklesia.
The Word and sacraments are at once a witness to the divine verbum externum (vera visibli) and the sign of the gratuitous unio mystica. They testify to and participate in the sovereign work of God extra nos and simultaneously the divine condescension en nobis. Thus, the church bears witness to and corresponds to Christ because as his body she is united with him by the Spirit, thus being given to participate in the triune life of God. The church and Christ exist as one body in the communion of the Spirit, intimately connected, yet utterly distinct. Therefore, through the sacramental base-practices of the church, the Spirit continually actualizes the reality of divine-human communion in the church which is constantly being transfigured–indeed revolutionized–through the depths of the triune love poured out therein. The sacramental mediation of the church is in a sense an extension of the soteriological mediation of the Son, but the church is only that extension in the mode of pathos, of receptivity, humility, and poverty before the sheer gratuity of God’s action pro nobis in the cross and resurrection of Chist. Thus, the expansive and ubiquitous outpouring of the pneumatic love of God draws the entire creation into the communio, of which the church is a sign, such that in the eschaton all things are found within the infinite agape that is the Trinity.
The church then, in its practice of the Word and sacraments, participates in and recieves the movement of the Trinity into the world. Not in any way because of what she is in herself, for in herself she is nothing. Rather the church’s particiaption in the trinitarian work is wholly due to the gracious outpouring of the love of God by the Holy Spirit which enflames, enlivens, dissolves, and makes new, thus drawing the church into the apocalyptic movement of God into the world. God’s saving action in the world is not static, but gratuitous and infinitely expansive, intruding upon, interrupting, and transfiguring the world of sin and alienation. Thus, through Christ and the Spirit the triune Lord “makes room” for the church within God’s action for the salvation of the world, precisely as humble recipients who praise and witness to Jesus. God’s outpouring of love allows us at once participation in God’s trinitarian mission (which is God’s own eternal life) to drawn all persons into sacramental, spousal communion with God. The ecclesial communion is a sign, anticipation, and sacrament of this divine promise and base-practices of the church are our fundamental modes of giving ourselves over to God in prayerful anticipation and joy.