VATICAN CITY, FEB. 7, 2007 (Zenit.org).- In order for the Church to grow, it needs the commitment of married couples and laity, Benedict XVI says.
The Pope made that comment today in his address at the general audience in Paul VI Hall, in which he focused on the figures of an early Christian married couple — Aquila and Priscilla.
The Holy Father thus continued with the series of catecheses he is giving on distinguished figures from the early Church.
Priscilla and Aquila arrived in Corinth around the year 50, Benedict XVI explained, where they met St. Paul, whom they welcomed into their home.
The Pontiff continued: “The reason for their coming to Corinth was the decision of Emperor Claudius to expel from Rome the Jews living in the city. The Roman historian Suetonius tells us that he expelled the Jews because ‘they were rioting on account of someone named Chrestus.’
“One can see that he did not know the name well — instead of Christ he writes ‘Chrestus’ — and that he only had a very confused idea about what had happened.”
Thereafter, Benedict XVI explained, the couple moved to Ephesus and, as the Apostle himself tells us, the Christians of that city used to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the Eucharist together in their home.
The Holy Father noted: “In this way we come to know the hugely important role this couple played in the sphere of the primitive Church: that of welcoming in their own home the group of local Christians when they got together to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist.
“It is precisely that type of gathering that in Greek is called ‘ekklesìa’ — the Latin word is ‘ecclesia’ — the Italian ‘chiesa’ — that means assembly, gathering.
“So, in the house of Aquila and Priscilla, the Church gets together, the Church summoned by Christ, which celebrates here the Sacred Mysteries.”
Only in the second century were the “authentic buildings of Christian worship” born, the Pope added. In the first two centuries, however, “the homes of Christians became true and authentic ‘church.'”
Benedict XVI continued: “Having subsequently returned to Rome, Aquila and Priscilla continue to develop that most precious function in the capital of the empire as well” as St. Paul witnesses in his Letter to the Romans.
The Apostle expresses to Priscilla and Aquila not only his gratitude, but also that of all the churches of the Gentiles.
“One thing is certain” the Holy Father said, “together with the gratitude of those first churches, of which Paul speaks, our own must be added, since due to the faith and apostolic commitment of lay people, of families, of married couples such as Priscilla and Aquila, Christianity has reached our generation.”
The Church “was able to grow not only owing to the Apostles who announced it,” the Pope continued, but also to “the commitment of these families, of these couples, of these Christian communities, of faithful lay people who offered ‘humus’ for the growth of faith.”
Benedict XVI said: “And it is always in this way that the Church grows. In particular, this couple proves the true importance of actions carried out by Christian spouses. When couples are supported by faith and a strong spirituality, their courageous commitment to and in the Church becomes natural.
“Their daily community of life is prolonged and somehow sublimated in taking on public responsibility for the good of the Body of Christ, even if in small ways. This is how it was in the first generation and this is how it will be now.”
The Pontiff drew another lesson from the example of Priscilla and Aquila: “Every home can be transformed into a small church.”
“Not only in the sense that, therein, Christian love, made of altruism and mutual care, should reign,” Benedict XVI explained, “but even more in the sense that the whole of family life, founded on faith, is called to revolve around the sole Lordship of Jesus Christ.”