Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Church Unfinished: Ecclesiology through the Centuries

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Church Unfinished: Ecclesiology through the Centuries

Article excerpt

The Church Unfinished: Ecclesiology through the Centuries. By Bernard P. Prusak. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press. 2004. Pp. x, 404. $22.95 paperback.)

Understanding the complex nature of the Christian Church has been a continual challenge for theologians throughout the ages. Bernard P. Prusak of Villanova University has joined their ranks with his history of ecclesiology which emphasizes an eschatological openness to the future. His is a formidable task, dealing with two millennia of history, a vast amount of primary and secondary literature, and a plethora of interpretations. He devotes nearly one hundred pages to the biblical sources and then, in a tour d'horizon, addresses some of the principal ecclesiological topics.

Prusak often refers to the patristic idea that the Church can become young again. That image was mentioned in Lumen Gentium 4: "the Spirit by the power of the Gospel rejuvenates the Church." The Council's view reflects the second-century apocalyptic work, The Shepherd of Hernias, which portrayed the Church as a haggard old woman who gradually becomes younger and more beautiful. St. Bede had a similar idea about the continuous growth of the Church when he wrote that "every day the Church gives birth to the Church" (PL 93: 166). Leonardo Boff in our own day speaks often of "ecclesiogenesis."

We do not find, however, an exhaustive survey of ecclesiological history in Prusak's work. Of necessity, he is selective in his choice of topics. Yet one regrets that he did not give more attention to such important questions as ecumenism, Mary and the Church, social justice, the laity, religious life, and the priesthood. …

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