Foundations: The Holy Remnant
The heart of God is for the broken and lost things on this earth. His mercy seeks to mend what has been shattered and to find and restore what has been lost to its rightful dignity. This is most true for his lost and broken sons and daughters on the earth. Grace restores every remnant soul and joins him or her to the Mystical Body of Christ to become a leavening agent in a fallen world. We become vessels of grace and mercy to rescue other shipwrecked souls on the dark, tumultuous seas of the world. The Holy Spirit living in us shines forth a brilliant light into the darkness of the earth.
The holy remnant is a thread woven through the whole tapestry of scripture. It is an anchoring theme that is returned to and built upon through each generation. Adam and Eve were the first remnant souls when they were cast from the Garden of Eden into the wilderness. Noah and his family were remnant souls that God preserved as he reset the course of history by the Great Flood. God grew his remnant through His servant Abraham and his son Isaac and grandson Jacob. Centuries later God brought to a crescendo the possibility of an earthly kingdom by anointing David king. David’s adulterous fall with Bathsheba and murder of her husband Uriah was the blow that fractured the unity of Israel.
Sin begets sin, and David’s sin, like Adam and Eve’s first sin, was passed from generation to generation. Evil and idolatry multiplied in God’s chosen people. A culture and nation is conquered first from within before being defeated from an opposing force. This was true for Israel as they were sent into exile for seventy years in Babylon. Only a small remnant of poor, broken, and seemingly useless people were left to occupy the land.
But God never forgets, and His wisdom is perfect. As only a loving Father would, he began to use the chastisement inflicted on his people to teach them the true character of His heart:
“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
“Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me.I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:37–41).
This promise was fulfilled in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Through the free consent of a young virgin named Mary in a backwater corner of the world called Nazareth, God assumed the fulness of human nature. The preservation and growth of His holy remnant on the earth merely foreshadowed the plan God had in store for fallen humanity. The victory over sin and death at the cross and Resurrection was the beginning of a new creation. Through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God now dwells within the human heart in spirit and truth. God is no longer apart from humanity, but resides within each human heart that receives His mercy and grace.
The Church has lived this reality from its earliest days. One significant difference between the Church and her elder brother Israel is that the Church is not constrained to a geographical region. Rather, the Church is called to be in the world – in the midst of a fallen humanity – in order to sanctify it through the preaching of the Gospel. In some sense, the Church militant on earth is perpetually a remnant of God’s grace, always in the midst of a world where she does not completely belong, battling against forces that oppose her. It feels very much like being embedded behind enemy lines being assaulted from every side.
The history of the Church is a cyclical story of missionary expansion, conversion of persons, and shaping of culture to orient it to the worship of God. The resistance to this process is found in the on-going spiritual war between the angelic and saintly realm of heaven and the demonic forces of Satan and his demons. The final victory is won in Jesus Christ, but the battle continues in time until its conclusion at Jesus’ Second Coming in Glory.
Our particular cultural moment in history looks and feels like the Church is on the defensive against hostile secular forces at work in the world. Moral relativism, non-judgementalism, sexual and gender ideologies, and the deconstruction of the family and of marriage are the hallmarks of our age. This is all perpetuated by a culture of the lie that avoids objective truth in favor of a subjective construction of a multitude of personal, contradictory, and incoherent realities that are opposed to Natural Law and the truth of God. From this perspective, the symbol of the holy remnant is both timely and necessary to provide insights into our relationship to the culture that we live in and the necessary form of our evangelical and apostolic activity.
Simply stated, as the Mystical Body of Christ, we are the holy remnant in the world. By living in a state of grace, wherever we go, God goes. Our docility and obedience to His will through our true worship and adoration of Him will be what determines the course of history. No power of Hell can defeat what God has already won. Confidence in this reality must be our banner and battle cry as we wield the weapons of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. Our ability to live the Beatitudes (cf. Matthew 5:3-12, Luke 6:20-26) will be the measure by which we will restore and resurrect true culture on this earth. Prayer, the Sacraments, and devotion to the Holy Rosary are the surest ways for the Church to achieve the restoration of culture.
May Mary, Our Mother and Immaculate Hope, along with all the angels and saints in heaven, intercede and join with us in this holy and necessary task!