The Perfect Community

From “Holy Trinity, Perfect Community” by Leonardo Boff

The monarchical conception of power has been the one that has most deeply marked the church and how it arranges the distribution of power among its members. Pre-trinitarian or non-trinitarian monotheism has weighed more heavily here than trinitarian thinking. Even today it is said that, just as there is one God, just as there is one Christ, so there ought to exist on earth one sole official representative of Christ: the pope for the whole church, the bishop for the diocese, the pastor for the parish and the coordinator for the base community. A great deal of power is thereby being concentrated in a single figure. In relating to others such persons inevitably assume a paternalistic attitude and a handout mindset. Those wielding power feel invested with huge responsibilities, for they must represent God before others, wielding this power for the sake of others and for their eternal salvation. They will do everything for the people and, as only they are God’s official representatives, they are unlikely to act with the people or out of the people. Thus, they cease to recognise and value the intelligence of the people, their experience of faith, their ability to evangelise and their character as also representing God and Christ. This monarchical practice is likely to give rise to authoritarianism matched by subservience. There is a shift from a church-as-communion-of-believers, all equal and sharing responsibility, to a church-as- society, with unequal distribution of functions and tasks.

If, however, we take as our starting point that the Blessed Trinity is the perfect community and that the communion of the divine three makes them one God, then we will see another type of church emerge. It is fundamentally community. Each one has his or her own characteristics and gifts, but all live for the good of all. There arises a community with diversities that are respected and valued as an expression of the wealth of community of the Trinity itself. Each one, insofar as he or she creates community and becomes part of that communion, represents the Blessed Trinity. In the Trinity what unites the divine three is the communion among them and the complete self-giving of one person to the others. The same thing ought. to happen in the church. It. is by overcoming the centralisation of power and distributing it among all that dynamic unity emerges, reflecting trinitarian union.

When the church forgets the source that gives it birth, the communion of the three divine persons, it allows its unity to become uniformity; it lets one group of believers by itself assume all responsibilities, keeping others from participating; it allows its confessional interests to prevail over the interests of the reign; in short, the river of bright waters is in danger of becoming a stagnant pond. We must be converted to the Trinity to recover diversity and communion, which create the dynamic unity that is ever open to new enrichment.

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