"Stone by stone, the City of God is thus built up within world history, from below and from above. All its constituent stone comes to it from below, but no single block can take its place in the fabric of the building except it be brought there and placed in position by a power which emanates from God and from his holy Servant Jesus Christ. . . .
The history of the Church considered as the City of God would thus be in effect the history of holiness. It would rather resemble chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews. But whilst this chapter only retains from sacred history a few outstanding examples concerning this history at the level of the progressive establishment of the covenant relationship, the history of the Church is rather that of the achievement or consolidation of this relationship, already perfectly established, but not yet fully consummated. This history could be formulated, for instance, as in Hebrews 11: "It was by faith, fulfilling the Gospel and by a 'mission' of the Holy Spirit, that the Council of Nicaea ...; it was by faith ... that St. Augustine ...; by faith ... that Francis Xavier ...; by faith ... that Thérèse Martin, and so on. . . . If we could chart these, the result might read, for example: "23 November 1654, Paris, Blaise Pascal ...; 25 December 1886, Lisieux, at Midnight Mass, Thérèse Martin makes her first communion and experiences a complete interior conversion, Paris, at Vespers, Paul Claudel receives the faith." We mention only two or three known facts but there are a myriad known to God and featuring in his Book of Life. What a vast extent, what deep riches there are in this history, where nevertheless only one overmastering end is in view: the covenant relationship established in Jesus Christ, which is the Gospel.
"The time of the Church is thus the time of those responses that are stirred up in us, in the order of truth and love, by the "divine missions" or visitations of the God who is, who was and who is to come, by which he brings this relationship, revealed and definitively established in Christ, to its final fulfilment. Each moment of this time is thus the present reality of the relationship, the active presence of what brought it about once and for all, and at the same time the beginning of its final consummation."
- Yves M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical Essay and A Theological Essay, The MacMillan Company, 1967, pp. 262-264; sold now as a Basilica Press Reprint Edition.