Examining the Marks
The Four Marks of the Church are characteristics that distinguish the true Church of Christ from all other religions and even other Christian faith traditions. As stated previously, these Four Marks are:
- One (Unity)
- Holy (Sanctity)
- Catholic (Universality)
- Apostolic (Continuity)
These Marks are stated in the Nicene Creed and recited at every Mass at which this creed is used. The historicity of these Marks, as defined above, reach as far back as the AD 381 Council of Constantinople. However, Saint Ignatius of Antioch refers to the same concepts in his patristic writings of the 2nd Century AD.
The Unity or Oneness of the Church as a Mark refers to the “internal and spiritual union, but this union must also be external and visible, consisting in and growing out of a unity of faith, worship, and government (New Advent: Catholic Encyclopedia – Unity (as a Mark of the Church)).”
The Holiness of the Church exists not because of her members but because of her founder. Jesus, who is both True Man and True God, founded the Church and thus setting her apart for Himself and for His purposes.
Many in Biblical circles already know that the word “catholic” is Greek for “universal.” This not only speaks to the nature of Christ’s Church as a “little c” catholic but also speaks to the role of the “big C” Catholic Church. Many wonder how this is but one need not look far to find a Catholic parish near their home not what country or language. Simply put, there is almost no place on this earth where I cannot find a place to worship in unity with the entire Church. Again, the use of catholic in reference to the Catholic Church is found as early as the 2nd century AD, in the writings of Saint Ignatius Antioch.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, found at New Advent, refers to this Mark as “Apostolicity.” If goes on to say, “Apostolicity is the mark by which the Church of today is recognized as identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles (Apostolicity).” Every bishop in the Catholic Church, including the Pope, can trace their ordination heritage all the back to through the Twelve to Jesus Himself.