I took this post’s picture earlier this year while in Rome. It’s a statue of the Roman emperor Nerva. You can see the copper in the statue has been tarnished with time; in addition, Nerva’s head serves as a convenient perch for the local pigeons.
Nerva ruled the Roman empire from 96 to 98 AD. He ascended the throne after the assassination of Domitian, who had proved unpopular due to his autocratic rule (he also instituted intense persecutions of Christians). Nerva, however, had a difficult time exercising his authority over the Roman armies and was forced to name a successor. He named Trajan, who then succeeded Nerva following his death (amazingly, by natural causes) in 98 AD.
For a brief time Nerva had been at the pinnacle of earthly power. Now, however, his likeness serves as a platform for the defiling actions of pigeons.
The other Roman emperors all had similar fates. Despite the enormity of their power, this power proved transient. Eventually, they all faded into history.
The Roman empire is no more, the emperors are no more; time washes over all earthly power and subsumes it into the pages of history.
What does remain, though, is the Church.
Not the church as an earthly institution, and not the church as a congregation.
Rather, the Church as the “one holy catholic apostolic Church” which we confess we believe in through the words of the Nicene Creed. The Church, defined as such, remains, and will remain, until Christ returns to bring the Church into the promised land which is the restored creation.
This is the Church who is holy, because Christ makes her so and sets her apart as his own body. This is the Church which is “catholic,” because it is universal in extent through geography and time; that is, the Church spans the Old and New Testaments and is found throughout the Earth. And this is the Church which is apostolic, because it proclaims the faith promulgated by the Apostles, which they received from Christ himself.
The “one holy catholic apostolic Church” endures until the Last Day when Christ returns. Earthly power, such as that of the Roman emperors, is transient, but the Church lives forever.
This is a good thing to remember on the day after US election day. Whether your candidate won or lost, their time in office will eventually be over, as will the appointed time for all earthly powers.
The Church, though, lives on into eternity.