Church militant and church triumphant
- the Church Militant (Ecclesia Militans), comprising Christians on earth who are living; Christian militia, who struggle against sin, the devil and "..the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12).
- the Church Triumphant (Ecclesia Triumphans), comprising those who are in Heaven, and
- the Church Penitent (Ecclesia Penitens), a.k.a. Church Suffering or Church Padecent or Church Expectant (Ecclesia Expectans), which in Catholic theology comprises those Christians presently in Purgatory.
These terms are often used in the context of the doctrine of the Communion of Saints; although Christians may be physically separated from each other by the barrier of death, they nonetheless remain united to each other in one Church, and support each other in prayer.
Origin of the Term
The Latin word militans has a primary meaning of "serving as a soldier, military", but it acquired a secondary meaning of "to struggle, to make an effort", which is the intended sense here. Christians on earth (the Church Militant) are still struggling against sin in order that, when they die, they might go to heaven and be members of the Church Triumphant, those who have triumphed over sin. However, if this struggle is successful, but not completely so, then after death they temporarily become members of the Church Suffering before ultimately joining the Church Triumphant.
Usage in Different Christian Denominations
The Catholic Church commemorates the Church Triumphant and the Church Penitent on two consecutive days: All Saints Day on November 1 (the Church Triumphant), and All Souls Day on November 2 (the Church Suffering).
These terms are not used in the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church, the authoritative collection of the teaching of Catholicism, first published in 1994. However, the teaching these terms represent is precisely restated in paragraph 954 of the Catechism, which quote Lumen Gentium, the Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council:
The three states of the Church. "When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating 'in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is"' (CCC 954)
The concept of the church militant is also used in Anglicanism. One of the better known references is in the opening words of the Intercession in the Communion service of the Book of Common Prayer,which begins, "Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church militant here in earth."
Methodists define the Church Militant as "engaged in constant warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil, and in that respect is distinguished from the Church Triumphant." The Church Militant includes all Christian denominations, such as Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians, among many others. In the same fashion, it defines the Church Triumphant as "in heaven, and consists of those who have washed their robes and made them immaculate and pure in the blood of the Lamb."
- Bishop H.M. Turner, D.D., LL.D. (1885). The Genius and Theory of Methodist Polity, or the Machinery of Methodism. African Methodist Episcopal Church. Retrieved 7 July 2011. "13 Q. What do the visible and invisible church constitute? A. The church militant, or military church, which is engaged in constant warfare against the world, the flesh and the devil, and in that respect is distinguished from the "church triumphant." 14 Q. What do you mean by "Church Triumphant?" A. The church triumphant is in heaven, and consists of those who have washed their robes and made them immaculate and pure "in the blood of the Lamb." 15 Q. The church militant then is upon earth? A. Yes; and comprehends all Christian denominations; viz., Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and many others. 16 Q. Do you mean to say that it takes all the church denominations of the world to constitute the "church militant?" A. I do. For all these so-called churches are only so many religious societies forming the "Church militant," which are recognized by Christ in the aggregate."
- The Spirit of Catholicism, ch. 7-8 ("The Communion of Saints") by Karl Adam
- Communion of Saints - article from the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), n. 49
- The Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ by Fr. William G. Most
- "The Church Militant and Triumphant". 1365-68. Fresco by Andrea da Firenze. Cappella Spagnuolo, Santa Maria Novella, Florence.
- "Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (La Disputa)". 1510-11. Fresco by Raffaello Sanzio. Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican.
- Image from The Desert of Religion, and other poems and religious pieces, depicting the Church Suffering (bottom) being lifted up to heaven and the Church Triumphant (top) through the prayer of the Church Militant (middle)
- The Church Triumphant (top) and the Church Militant (middle) praying for the Church Suffering (bottom)
- The Church Triumphant (top) and the Church Militant (bottom) praying for the Church Suffering (bottom left and right) by René de Cramer