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The Role and Function of Charism in the Theology of Yves Congar

Johnson Mudavassery

This book reveals the ecclesiological values of charisms in the context of the growing values of personalism in the Church. Yves Congar understands charisms in the light of pneumatological christology. The study discovers that Congar’s concept of charisms mirrors the values of the arrangement of the first three chapters in Lumen Gentium. The role of charism is most intensive when Congar combines it with the concept of the people of God. His ecclesial diagrams bring out the complementary roles of hierarchy and laity. Thanks to charisms, the Church is neither a pyramid nor is she ready-made. She is always on the process of being built-up by God. Congar exalts the priesthood of the faithful and advocates prophecy of the whole Church without departing from the apostolicity of the Church.
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Chapter 3. The Concept of Charism in the Pneumatological Ecclesiology of Congar



Having done the groundwork in the first two chapters, we are now in a position to analyze Congar’s concept of charism. Charisms are experiential. Congar’s concept of charism can be uncovered from the perspective of experience of the Spirit. He does it, however, not by tracing it out of the spiritual writings and lives of the saints, but theologically by shaping a theology of the Spirit and the Spirit’s role in the Church.1 This may be further substantiated through Congar’s critical exposition of the work of Henry Edward Manning (1808–1892), The Internal Mission of the Holy Ghost (1875), in the context of analyzing the Catholic perspectives on the relationship between the Spirit and the Church since the Counter Reformation. Congar lists the topics of the book such as grace, the theological virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the beatitudes and devotion to the Holy Spirit. He, then observes, that although the term Mystical Body is mentioned frequently, charisms are not treated in the sense of pneumatology («charismes dans le sens d’une ‹pneumatologie›»).2 Through this comment, Congar underlines the intrinsic unity between Mystical Body and charisms. What does then Congar mean by saying that the charisms need to be treated in the sense of a pneumatology? A few paragraphs later he answers it thus:

By pneumatology, I mean something other than a simple dogmatic theology of the third Person. I also mean something more than,...

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