The Mystical Body of Christ

(aka Communion of Saints;
Holy Catholic Church;
Bride of Christ)

The Mystical Press and Christ in Glory - by Marco dal Pino (Marco da Siena) - from the Vatican Museum . . . . . .
Symbolic of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Depicts the Infinite Supply of Merits and Grace accumulated by the Sufferings of Jesus in order to:

Pay the Debt of Men's Sins;
Reconcile Men to God and Reopen the Gates of Heaven to Mankind;
Vivify the Seven Sacraments of the Church, Instituted by Christ;
Deliver Men from the Power of the Devil; and
Restore the Divine Life and Vision of God to Men.

The Mystical Body of Christ includes the Church Militant, Church Suffering, the Church Triumphant, and even God's Angels. Christ, along with all Members of His Mystical Body, Participate in each and every Sacrifice of the Mass.

 

Mysticism, according to its Etymology, implies a Relation to Mystery. As a Philosophical System, Mysticism considers as the End of Philosophy the Direct Union of the Human Soul with the Divinity through Contemplation and Love, and Attempts to Determine the Processes and the Means-of Realizing this End. This Contemplation, according to Mysticism, is not based on a merely Analogical Knowledge of the Infinite (∞), but as a Direct and Immediate Intuition of the Infinite (∞).

From the Catholic Encyclopedia

 

The Mystical Body of Christ


Birth of the Church

from various sources

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Definitions

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Church, the Mystical Body, partly Exists on this Earth, and is called the Church Militant, because its Members Struggle against the World, the Flesh and the Devil.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Church Suffering means the Souls in Purgatory.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Church Triumphant is the Church in Heaven (Angels and Saints).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Unity and Cooperation of the Members of the Church on Earth, in Purgatory, in Heaven is also called the Communion of Saints.

The Communion of Saints is the Spiritual Union which Unites the Faithful upon Earth, the Souls in Purgatory, and the Angels and Saints in Heaven, in the One (1) Mystical Body, the Church, of which Jesus Christ is the Head, and the Participation of All in the One (1) Supernatural Life. The Saints , by their Closeness-to God, Obtain-of Him many Graces and Favors for the Faithful on Earth and the Souls in Purgatory; the Faithful on Earth, by their Prayers and Good Works, Honor and Love the Saints, and Succor the Suffering Souls by their Prayers, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Gospels on every Page, speak of the Kingdom of God as a Divine, Spiritual Kingdom established by Christ, and United in the Bond of Charity. It Embraces all the Elect on Earth and in Heaven, even the Angels.

 

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Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical on the Holy Eucharist, Mirae Caritatis May28, 1902: "For the Communion of Saints is nothing other than a Mutual Communication of Help, Expiation, Prayers, Benefits among the Faithful; either (1) those who have already attained the Heavenly Fatherland, or (2) are assigned to Atoning Fire or (3) are Still in Pilgrimage on Earth; Coalesced into One City, whose Head is Christ, whose Form is Charity".

 

Mystical Body of the Church

We Love Jesus Christ in His Church because She is His Immaculate Spouse Who came out of His Opened Side on the Cross, just as Eve came out of the First Adam

Saint Eugene de Mazenod

 

Pentecost is Traditionally considered to be the Birthday-of the Church, which is Christ's One (1) and only Bride. However, the above Quote by Saint Eugene-de-Mazenod sheds additional Light on the Subject. Actually, the Birth of the Church Commenced on Good Friday, when the Side (Heart) of Jesus was Pierced with a Lance, and Water and Blood Flowed-Forth for the Salvation of all Mankind. This Concept is Eloquently Explained below by the Great Doctor-of-the-Church, Saint John Chrysostom. The Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Soul of the Church, Fifty (50) days after Easter, on the Feast-of Pentecost, Concluded the Birth (Fashioning) of Christ's Immaculate Spouse, the Church.

Birth of Eve,
the Bride of Adam,
from Adam's side

Birth of the Church,
the Bride of Christ,
from Christ's Side

"Water and Blood Symbolized Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. From these Two (2) Sacraments the Church is Born: from Baptism, the Cleansing Water that gives Rebirth and Renewal from the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Eucharist. Since the Symbols of Baptism and the Eucharist flowed from His Side, it was from His Side that Christ 'Fashioned' the Church, as He had 'Fashioned' Eve from the side of Adam".

Saint John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church

 

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Pentecost - by El Greco -
from Museo del Prado, Madrid
 

The Church came into Being when Christ Died on the Cross, but it was Formally Inaugurated on Pentecost, when He sent the Holy Spirit as He had Promised. Saint Paul speaks of All Christians as Members of Christ, so that with Him, they Form One (1) Mystical Body (Cf. 1Corinthians 12:12-31; Colossians 1:18; 2:18-20; Ephesians 1:22-23; 3:19; 4:13). Saint Paul did not use the Word Mystical. The Term Mystical was developed more-recently to Bring-out the Fact that this Union is Unique, there is no Parallel-to it. It is not the same as the Union of a Physical Body, nor that of a Business Corporation. Mystical was First Officially-used in Boniface VIlI's Bull, Unam Sanctam, in Unfolding the Ideas put-forth by Saint Paul.

The Analogy linking a Society to an Organism is easily understood. In every Society the Constituent Individuals are United (1), as are also the Members of a Body, to effect a Common End; while the Parts they Severally (>1) Play, Correspond-to the Functions of the Bodily Organs. They Form a Moral Unity (1). This, of course, is True of the Church, but the Church has also a Unity (1) of a Higher Order; it is not merely a Moral, but a Mystical Body. This Truth, that the Church is Part-of the Mystical Body oj Christ, all its Members being Guided and Directed-by Christ the Head, is Set-forth by Saint Paul in various Passages, more especially in Ephesians 4:4-13 (cf. John 15:5-8). The Doctrine may be summarized as follows:

 

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) The Members of the Church are Bound-together by a Supernatural Life, Communicated-to them by Christ through the Sacraments. Christ is the Center and Source of Life to Whom all are United, and Who Endows each one with Gifts fitting him for his Position-in the Body. These Graces, through which each is Equipped-for his Work, Form it into an Organized Whole (1), whose Parts are Knit-together as though by a System of Ligaments and Joints.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) Through them, too, the Church has its Growth and Increase, Growing-in Extension as it Spreads-through the World, and Intensively as the Individual Christian develops in himself the Likeness of Christ.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) In Virtue-of this Union, the Church is the Fullness or Complement (Pleroma) of Christ (Ephesians 1:23). It Forms One (1) Whole with Him; and the Apostle even speaks of the Church as "Christ" (1Corinthians 12:12).

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes) This Union between Head and Members is Conserved and Nourished-by the Holy Eucharist. Through this Sacrament, our Incorporation-into the Body of Christ is alike, Outwardly-Symbolized and Inwardly-Actualized; "We being Many, are One Bread, One Body; for we all Partake of the One Bread" (1Corinthians 10:17).

 

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In this depiction of the Final Judgment, Jesus sits in Judgment of the World and is being handed a Red-hot Sword by the Angel at the top-right of the painting.

One of the most Thought-Provoking Passages in the Gospels is that of Our Lord telling about the Final Judgment. Men will be Separated, one from another, as a Shepherd separates Sheep from Goats. The Lord Condemns those who did not give Him Food when He was Hungry, Clothing when He was Naked, or a Visit when He was Sick. He tells the Nations "In so far as you did this to one of the least of these Brothers, you did it to Me" (Matthew 25:40). Here Christ is Identifying Himself with Mankind a very Real Way. He says He is Present-in His Brothers, to such a degree, that it is He Who is Fed, Clothed and Visited. This is a Powerful Statement, and it Sheds Light on our Understanding-of Christ's Mystical Body. Somehow Christ Dwells-in each Individual Person. This is seen again in the Acts of the Apostles where Saint Paul hears the Words of Christ, "Saul, Saul, why are you Persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4-5). Paul had never Known Our Lord Personally. He was Persecuting the Christians. Christ however Stated that He Himself was being Persecuted. Again, Christ is Identifying Himself with Men. He is Joined-to them, a Part-of them, or rather they are a Part-of Him.

We, who Belong-to the Church, are the Living Parts or Members of Christ's Body. "Christ is the Head of the Church and Saves the Whole Body" (Ephesians 5:23). Just as Christ is the Vine, He is the Head of His Body, Giving Life-to the Members and Bringing-about their Salvation. Paul uses the Analogy of the Human Body in showing that all Parts must Cooperate-for the Good of the Church: "Not you together are Christ's Body; but each of you is a Different Part of It" (1Corinthians 12:27). Some Members are Apostles, some Teachers, but they all Form One (1) Body, United-in Christ.

One of the most important Pauline Themes, Connecting-with the Mystical Body, is that Adam was a Type-of Christ. In Adam, the Whole Human Race Fell (1Corinthians 15:45). As Adam was the First Head of Mankind, so Christ became the New Head of the entire Human Race through His Victory over Satan, Death and Sin. When the Second Divine Person became Man, all of Humanity was Elevated. Christ, being both True God and True Man, Manifested His Position as Head of the Whole Human Race. And by Founding His Church on the Apostles and the Sacraments, He Set-up a Means-to Incorporate People into His Very Life. The Church, then, is the Extension-of Christ in Time, which Reaches-out to bring the Redemptive Grace to all Men.

Speaking of Full-Membership in the Church, Pius XII, in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body, said it is the Society of those who have been Baptized, and who Profess the Faith of Christ, and who are Governed-by their Bishops under the Visible Head, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.

 

Scriptural Reference to the
Mystical Body of Christ

Romans 12:4-5
For as in One Body we have many Members, and all the Members do not have the same Function, so we, though many, are One Body in Christ, and Individually Members one of another.

1Corinthians 6:15,17
Do you not know that your Bodies are Members of Christ? ... But he who is United to the Lord becomes One Spirit with Him.

1Corinthians 10:16-17
The Cup of Blessing which we Bless, is it not a Participation in the Blood of Christ? The Bread which we Break, is it not a Participation in the Body of Christ? Because there is One Bread, we who are many are One Body, for we all Partake of the One Bread.

1Corinthians 12:12-14, 24-27
For just as the Body is One and has many Members, and all the Members of the Body, though many, are One Body, so it is with Christ. For by One Spirit we were all Baptized into One Body -- Jews or Greeks, Slaves or Free -- and all were made to Drink of One Spirit. For the Body does not consist of One Member, but of many .... But God has so Composed the Body ... that there may be no Discord in the Body, but that the Members may have the same Care for one another. If One Member Suffers, all Suffer together; if One Member is Honored, all Rejoice together. Now you are the Body of Christ and individually Members of it.

Ephesians 1:22-23
[God the Father] has put all things under [Christ's] Feet and has made Him the Head over all things for the Church, which is His Body, the Fullness of Him Who fills all in all.

Ephesians 2:11-16
Therefore remember that at One Time you Gentiles in the Flesh, called the Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision, which is made in the Flesh by Hands -- remember that you were at that Time Separated from Christ, Alienated from the Commonwealth of Israel, and Strangers to the Covenants of Promise, having no Hope and without God in the World. But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were Far-off have been brought Near in the Blood of Christ. For He is our Peace, Who has made us both one, and has Broken down the Dividing Wall of Hostility, by Abolishing in His Flesh the Law of Commandments and Ordinances, that He might create in Himself One New Man in place of the Two, so making Peace, and might Reconcile us both to God in One Body through the Cross, thereby bringing the Hostility to an End.

Ephesians 4:4,11-13,15-16
There is One Body and One Spirit ... And His Gifts were that some should be Apostles, some Prophets, some Evangelists, some Pastors and Teachers, to Equip the Saints for the Work of Ministry, for Building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the Unity of the Faith and of the Knowledge of the Son of God, to mature Manhood, to the Measure of the Stature of the Fullness of Christ ... Rather, speaking the Truth in Love, we are to Grow up in every way into Him Who is the Head, into Christ, from Whom the Whole Body, Joined and Knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each Part is Working Properly, makes Bodily Growth and Upbuilds itself in Love.

Ephesians 5:23,29-32
For the Husband is the Head of the Wife as Christ is the Head of the Church, His Body, and is Himself its Savior .... For no Man ever Hates his own Flesh, but Nourishes and Cherishes it, as Christ does the Church, because we are Members of His Body. "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 ...

Colossians 1:18,24
He is the Head of the Body, the Church ... Now I Rejoice in my Sufferings for your sake, and in my Flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's Afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the church ...

Colossians 3:15
And let the Peace of Christ Rule in your Hearts, to which indeed you were called in the One Body.

Acts 9:1-5
But Saul, still breathing Threats and Murder against the Disciples of the Lord, went to the High Priest and asked him for Letters to the Synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, Men or Women, he might bring them Bound to Jerusalem. Now as he Journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a Light from Heaven flashed about him. And he Fell to the Ground and Heard a Voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you Persecute Me?" And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And He said, "I am Jesus, Whom you are Persecuting ..."

 

Teachings of the
Doctors of the Church

A Study of the Incarnation could not be Complete without Reflecting-on the Doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. The Second Divine Person took Flesh at One Point in History, as we read in the First Chapter of Saint John: "And the Word was made Flesh and Dwelt among us" (John 1:14). Without the Incarnation, there could be no Mystical Body. The One is the Source, or Prerequisite, for the Other. The Mystical Body exists because the Word has become Man, and God has Willed that the Mystical Body be the Extension, or Prolongation, of the Incarnation and the Redemption.

 

Saint Irenaeus

According to Saint Irenaeus, the Body of Christ is what Realizes the Will of the Father in Men, and Renews them from their Old Way into the New Life of Christ. A Pauline Theme which is Developed-by Irenaeus deals with Christ as the Second Adam. He writes: "We have Offended God in the First Adam ... but we are Reconciled through the Obedience, even unto Death of the Second Adam". Adam was the Head of the Human Race and Caused its Fall from Grace, but Christ, the new Head, Redeemed all Mankind and takes His Place as the Head of the Mystical Body.

 

Saint Cyprian

Saint Cyprian also Asserts the Union of all Faithful Christians in Christ, a Union which is seen in the Church. He writes that. "The Church is One, with One Head and One Origin ... " (De Catholicae Ecclesiae Unitate, 5). This reminds us of Christ's Teaching that He is the Vine for the Branches, that is, the Head and Origin of Divine Life.

 

Saint Athanasius

The Writings of Saint Athanasius bring out a further Understanding of the Doctrine of the Mystical Body. He says that through the Incarnation and the Redemptive Act on Calvary, all Men are Intimately Connected-with Christ. The Whole Human Race is Elevated and Brought-into a Greater Participation in the Supernatural Life. In his Work against the Arians, Athanasius writes: "For just as the Word, having Assumed a Body, became Man, so also, we Men have been Assumed to the Word through the Flesh, and are made Inheritors-of Eternal Life and Bearers-of God through Him".

 

Saint Augustine

With the coming of Saint Augustine, a Great Advance was made in Theology. Our Understanding of the Mystical Body was deepened by his Insights and Writings. For example, he said that "What the Soul is to the Body of a Man, the Holy Spirit is to Christ's Body which is the Church". This reaffirms the Teachings of Saint Paul about the Church, but he goes further to State that the Holy Spirit is "the Soul" of that Body. Here Augustine is speaking Analogically. Both Paul and Augustine recognize that there are many Analogous Concepts between the Human Body and the Church. Based on Paul's Teaching, Augustine is able to Develop our Understanding of the Mystical Body and unfold its Deeper Implications. He also writes "All Men are One Man in Christ, and the Unity of Christians constitutes but One Man" (In Psalms 39, En. 2). Again, Paul's Teaching that many Members make up One (1) Body is the Foundation for this Point made by Augustine.

Augustine makes an Interesting Statement regarding the Whole Christ. He writes: Our Lord Jesus Christ, like a Whole and Perfect Man, is Head and Body ... His Body is the Church, not simply the Church that is here in this Particular Place, but both the Church that is here and the Church which extends over the Whole Earth; not simply the Church that is Living Today, but the Whole Race of Saints, from Abel down to all those who will ever be born and Believe-in Christ until the End of the World, for all belong to One City. This City is the Body of Christ ... This is the Whole Christ: Christ United with the Church. Augustine uses the Term Church in the Broad Sense. He refers to Her as that which Extends-through the Entire World, and that which Includes all the Just who ever Lived and will ever Live. He describes the Church as One (1) Man who reaches unto the End of Time. Augustine stresses the Reality that all the Members of the Church make-up One (1) Body in Christ.

 

Saint Thomas Aquinas

A Few Centuries later, the Greatest Theologian of the Church, Saint Thomas Aquinas, builds on the Teachings of Augustine. His Writings on the Mystical Body of Christ and the Church are so Extensive that it will be possible to mention only a Few here. He writes, The Head and Members are as One Mystical Person, and therefore Christ's Satisfaction belongs to all the Faithful and His Members. This Question brings up a Recurring Theme found in the Study of the Incarnate Word, that is, Solidarity. Because of the Vital Intimacy between Christ and His Members, there is a Principle of Solidarity present-in the Mystical Body. This Solidarity is a Communion-between Two (2) or more People. Saint Thomas develops the Idea of Solidarity (Unity) between Christ and Ourselves: The Members and the Head are but One Person. Therefore, since Christ is our Head by Reason of His Divinity and His Superabundant Fullness of Grace, and since we are His Members, His Merit is not Something Outside us, but it is Communicated-to us or Flows-into us on account of the Unity of the Mystical Body.