So why do we say the Church is a visible society?
It seems that it is only common sense that the Church Jesus instituted would be visible. He selected twelve men to lead His Church into the “last days.” These men were obviously ‘visible.’ When one wanted to know what Jesus taught, they only had to search out one of these ‘visible’ men. In our day and age, when a group of people of like mind get together, they organize into a ‘visible’ unit, so too with the Apostle’s. When they passed away, they ordained other men to take their place.
Pope Clement I
"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry." (Letter to the Corinthians42:4-5, 44:1-3 [A.D. 80]).
"When I had come to Rome, I [visited] Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And after Anicetus [died], Soter succeeded, and after him Eleutherus. In each succession and in each city there is a continuance of that which is proclaimed by the Law, the Prophets, and the Lord" (Memoirs 4:22:1 [ A.D. 180]).
Irenaeus of Lyons
"It is possible, then, for everyone in every church, who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the Tradition of the Apostles which has been made known to us throughout the whole world. And we are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the apostles and their successors down to our own times, men who neither knew nor taught anything like what these heretics rave about" (Against Heresies 3:3:1 [A.D. 189]).
As the Church grew in size and prominence, it would only make sense that they establish buildings for their meetings and discussions, and of course, the sacrifice of the Mass. While it is true that there is an invisible side to the Church (all those united to her through Baptism), it would not negate the visible essence of her. Jesus was visibly man, but invisibly God. So too, the Church has visible and invisible realities. St Paul says “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” ( 1 Cor 12:27) “Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” ( Eph 5:23) While everyone can see the Church visibly, they cannot see its’ ‘head’.
But some would have us believe that Christ took His head off one body and transplanted it onto a different body. In other words, the head could not possibly control the body. This could be possible if the head was merely human. However, we are speaking of God here, the Sovereign ruler of the universe. You think He cannot do as He promised?
The Scriptures teach that the Church itself is a mystery of Faith. In his marvelous Epistle to the Ephesians, St. Paul says
“To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” Eph 3:8-10 (RSV)
The Church would teach angels??!! Wow, that is a mystery.
St. Paul (like the rest of Scriptures) show the Church as the Bride of Christ.
“I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband.” 2 Cor 11:2 (RSV)
The Church has but one husband, Christ, and Christ has but one bride, the Church! To say that Christ has since divorced His Bride and married another is to accuse Christ of adultery, which is unthinkable.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Eph 5:32 (RSV)
As a bride joined to her husband are one flesh, so too the Church and Jesus are one flesh, never to be separated.