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February 21, 1964     Catholic Northwest Progress
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February 21, 1964

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Fddav, Fe. 21, 1964 THE PROGRFS---7 i The Mystical Body of Christ Editor's Note: Both the liturgical and ecumenical movements which have revolutionized religious thinking in the Twentieth Century can only be grasped through a clear under- standing of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. New emphasis on the social nature of the Church has caused increased interest in Pope Pius XIl's monumental encyclical entitled "Mystici Corporis" (The Mystical Body). In keeping with this new interest in the nature of the Church, The Progress presents a commentary on "Mysfici Corporis" by Rev. John Paul McManus, S.S., S.T.L., professor at St. Edward Seminary. The six installments should make excellent Lenten reading and present a deeper insight into both the liturgical and ecumenical movements which play so important a role in the Church today. This is installment Number 2. By REV. JOHN P. McMANUS, S.S. Pazagraph 26-55 his week, for our consideration, we shall take up why the Church is called "not merely a body but the Body of Jesus Christ." We ought to go over, once more, what we learned, last week, so that we can follow its connection with what we shall seek j to add to it this week. Our reading of the Encyclical showed us that the Church is so constituted that her members are a body. This term is not just a picturesque way of speaking; it represents a reality. For the members of the Church are united to one another -- and this forms them into a visible unity. But their unity is not that of a club or public institution like a uni- versity. It is an organic unity. Many members--Catholic--are linked together to form a growing, living whole--possessed of a D vitality, the seven sacraments -- that enables it to begin, to foster, and to protect its own life. It also possesses the organs -- as does the human body -- necessary to perform the func- tions of its life: the bishops and priests to teach, rule and sanctify its members, families, those dedicated to prayer and good works. Our next consideration is Whose Body is this? And we answer: It is Christ's Body. Today we shall follow the Holy Father's discussion of the fact that we form with Christ one Body for be is the source from which it comes; he is its head, its support, its saviour. Hence it is known as the Church the D Body of Christ. 1. He is the Source from which it comes (27-341 We readily accept the claim of an author to whatever he has created. So the Holy Father argues. This Body of which we are members was Christ's own idea. In paragraph 28, the Holy Father shows Christ preparing for it by his public ministry, particularly by the way he prepared those very means which make it a living organism. All this preparation bore its fruit when Christ died on the cross. As we shall soon be singing in the Preface of Passiontide: What was a source of death has become the source from which life springs. Or in the words of the Encyclical: "The Church was born from the side of Our Savior on the Cross like a new Eve, Mother of all the living." Read carefully paragraph 31. Notice what Christ did to bring life to his Mystical Body. First, he shed his blood to expiate for our sins, removing them from us and restoring us to God's good grace -- the source of all life. Secondly, he merited for us the right to the unlimited graces necessary to save each and every person. Third, by removing our sins -- the obstacles to grace -- the grace that he won for us was now free to flow through the members of His Body, making them live, as the blood stream helps to keep our human bodies alive. And because he is the one who saved us from sin and through whom we are spiritually alive, then we live with his life -- we are his members. "For (we) would not have been united to This Mystical Body through the waters of Baptism except by the salutary virtue of the Cross, by which (we) had already been brought under the complete sway of Christ." Christ, after his death and resurrection, is like one who has won e tremendous victory. All things lie open before him. What once confined him: the limits of the human voice, the hatred of the Pharisees, the small numbers of his followers, can no longer hold back the surge of light and life that flows from his resurrected person. And so he can extend to His Mystical Body this new vitality of his. 2 But if our Saviour, by His death, became in the full and complete sense of the word, the Head of the Church, it was likewise through His blood that the Church was endowed with that fullest communication of the Holy Spirit, through 'which from the time when the Son of Man was lifted up and glorified on the gibbet by His sufferings, she is divinely illumined. For then, as Augustine notes, with D the rending of the veil of the temple it happened that the dew of the Paraclete's gifts, which heretofore had descended only on the fleece, that is on the people of Isreael, fell cop- iously and abundantly (while the fleece remained dry and deserted) on the whole earth, that is on the Catholic Church, which is confined by no boundries of race or territory. Just as at the first moment of the Incarnation, the Son of the Eternal Father adorned with the fullness of the Holy Spirit the human nature which was substantially united to Him, that it might be a fitting instrument of the Divinity in the D sanguinary task of the Redemption, so at the hour of His precious death He wished that His Church should be enriched with the abundant gifts of the Paraelete in order that in dis- pensing the divine fruits of the Redemption it might be for the Incarnate Word a powerful instrument that would eertdinly never fail. For the juridical mission of the Church, and the Ray. John P. McManus, S.S., S.T.L., Professor of English Literature and Religion at St. Edward Seminary Church. On him all the Body depends; it is organized and unified by each contact with this source which supplies it; and thus, each limb receiving the active power it needs, it achieves its natural growth, building itself up through charity." The next section of the encyclical will be an enlargement of this sentence taken from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians. We are Christ's Body, that to which he gives life and which he uses to carry on his work in this world. It is his Body because of all that belong to it, he stands out as the first. Why? He is the eternal Son of God. As Mary's Son he still remains the true and natural Son of God who through his resurrection triumphed over death. He now sits at the righthand of God "the one medi, ator of God and man." 'We are Christ's body because as the Head of that Body he rules it for the salvation of ell its members. 8 Because Christ is so exalted, He alone by every right rules and governs the Church; and herein is yet another reason why He must be likened to a head. As the head is the "royal citadel" of the body--to use the words of Ambrose--and all the members, over which it is placed for their good, are naturally guided by it as being endowed with superior powers, so the Divine Redeemer holds the helm of the universal state of Christians, and directs its course. And as a government of human society means merely this, to lead men to the end proposed by means thet are expedient, just and helpful, it is easy to see how our Saviour, model and ideal of good shepherds, performs all these func- tions in a most striking way. The Holy Father has used a comparison. The head of a human Body is the center by which all the other organs end functions of the body are controlled for the good of the whole organism. Christ fulfills the same role as Head of His Mystical Body. For of all, he does so, directly and invisibly, by the power of his graces working in each soul. "For it is He who reigns within the minds and hearts of men and bonds and sub- jects to His purpose their wills even when rebellious." By guiding the ministers of the Mystical Body: "By this interior guidance the 'Shepherd and Bishop of our souls' not only watches over individuals, but exercises His providence over the universal Church as well, whether by enlightening and giving courage to the Church's rulers for the loyal and effective performance of their respective duties." By raising up saints to give us the example we need: "By singling out from the body of the Church--especially when times are grave--men and women of conspicuous holiness, who mey point the way for the rest of Christendom to the perfecting of His Mystical Body." Secondly, Christ fulfills his role as head of the Mystical Body through the public ministry of the Holy Father whose office is for the benefit of the members of the Mystical Body and who performs, in a visible and dependent way, the office that Christ does personally and invisibly. He is the Good Shepherd: "Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head." 1 But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden or extmot'dinary way. On the contrary, our Divine Re- deemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible way and ordinarily through His Vicar on earth. You know, Venerable Brothers, that after He had ruled the "little flock" Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, Christ our Lord entrusted to the chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. He was all wise; and how could He leave without a visible head the body of the Church He had founded as a human society. 2 Nor against this may one argue, thet the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in virtue of his Primacy is only Christ's Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely, Christ. He never ceases personally to guide the Church by an unseen hand, though nt the same time He rules it externally, visibly through him, who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter, too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar Christ must have members. And God has so ordained the work of salvetion that Christ needs us also to bring that work into the present world, He is still the head and he does not lose any of his right to say "Without me you can do nothing." The life of grace flows from him alone. But once we have received it, we have the necessity to put it to use. We are the arms and the legs, the mouth and the eyes of the Mystical Body, in the State of Washington, in the year 1964. Christ depends on us to see that the witness to the victory that he won on the cross does not die out. Dying on the Cross He left to His Church the immense trea- sury of the Redemption; toward this she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this task of sanctification with His Church, hut He wants it in a way to be due to her action. Deep mystery this, subject of inexhaustible mediation: that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention and on the assistance of pastors of souls and of the faithful, especially of fathers and mothers of families, which they must offer to our divine Saviour as though they were His associates. And finally, the Holy Father discusses three closely related reasons why this Body of which we are the members is that of Christ. The first of these reasons is that between the Head and the Body there is a sharing of the same nature. First Christ shared with us our human nature when he became a man. "And Christ not only took our nature, He became one of our flesh and blood with a frail body that could suffer and die." He sought this common ground with us that he might in turn give us something of His Nature. 9 But "if the Word emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave," it was that He might make His brothers in the flesh partakers of the divine nature, in this earthly exile through sanctifying grace, in heaven through the joys of eternal bliss. The reason why the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father wished to be a Son of Man, was that we might be made conformed to the image of the Son of God and be renewed according to the image of Him Who crea.ted us. Let those then who glory in the name of Christian all look to our Divine Saviour as the most exalted and most perfect exemplar of all virtues; but then let them also by careful avoidance of sin and assiduous practice of virtue, boar wit- ness by their conduct to His teaching and His life, so that when God appears they may be like unto Him and see Him as He is. It is the nature of God that he knows and loves the indescri- bable beauty that is his own being. Christ through his human nature has given to us a share in this power of the divine nature: to know God, first, on this earth, through faith and, in heaven, to know Him as He knows Himself. It is our life's work to deepen this share in the divine nature. We are daily about the task of clearing our minds and hearts of the deception that evil is good "by the careful avoidance of sin and the assiduous practice of virtue." And it is the Church's constant worry that any one of Her members mey fail, and consequently, the whole Body fail, to grow into a deeper and deeper sharing in the divine nature. Her teaching, Her laws, and Her Mass, all have that end in view. In her religious orders she encourages the practice of Christ's poverty, his obedience, and his virginal purity. These same orders in turn carry on the charity of Christ in their teaching and their nursing. "Christ deep in prayer on the mountain, or preaching to the people or healing the sick and wounded and bringing sinners back to the path of virtue, or in a word doing good to everyone." To put it another way, The Church's work is the external expression of the likeness of Christ, the Charity of Christ finding its realization in the yeer 1964. " . . . it is from this fulness that His Mystical Body receives. It is an observation made by a number of Fathers, that as the head of our mortal body is the seat of all .senses, while the other parts of our organism have only the sense of touch so ell the powers that are found in Christian society, all the gifts, all the extraordinary graces, all attain their utmost perfectio n in the Head, Christ." Once more, he is the head because all that we do as Christians comes from him: the lives we lead as Christians, the charity we try to practice, the courage with which we face and try to overcome our temptation. We are like springs that seem to pour out pure cool waters; our true source is in some distant mountain snowfield. !'So full of grace and truth is He, that of His inexhaustible fullness we have all received." And finally, if the life that vitalizes the members of the Church comes from Him, so does the light that guides the Church. This light guides those who minister to the members of the Church and lives in the living faith of each member of the constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our pro- people of God. Our Saviour, then, has another claim by the right power to teach, govern and administer the sacraments derive decessor of immortal memory, Boniface VIII, in the Apostolic of which he can call us his members. "In us the nerves reach their supernatural efficacy and force for the building up of Letters Unam Sanctum; and his successors have never from the head to all parts of the body and give them the power Body of Christ from the fact that Jesus Christ hanging on ceased to repeat the same. the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of divine to feel and move; in like manner our Saviour communicates D grace, which protect it from ever teaching men false doe- Third, each part of the Body has a shepherd appointed to power to His Church so that the things of God are understood trine, and enable it to rule them for their soul's salvation serve it, its Bishop. Through him Christ is present to guide more clearly and more eagerly desired by the faithful." First, the through supernaturally enlightened pastors and to bestow on them abundant heavenly graces. Notice: in the paragraph that you have just read the bold face sentences. See how the Pope parallels the life on earth of Christ, the Son of God, and the life of the Mystical Body on this earth. Both are given the guiding power of the Holy Spirit to be instruments of redemption. Just as Christ's human nature possessed these gifts to fulfill his work of redemption, so he has endowed his Mystical Body with these me gifts -- that each of us, in his own way, may continue the work of the redemp- tion in this world. To ponder this is to come to realize how near Christ is to each one of us. Nor would Christ allow this identity of purpose to remain hidden. For just as He himself when He began to preach, was made known by His Eternal Father through the Holy Spirit descending and remaining on Him; so likewise, as the Apostles were about to enter upon their office of preaching, i Christ our Lord sent the Holy Spirit down from heaven, to touch them with tongues of fire and to point out as by the finger of God the supernatural mission and supernatural office of the Church. Here again we are forced to recognize how closely Christ has identified himself with the members of His Church. His own public ministry was inaugurated by the miracle of the Holy Spirit's descending upon him in the form of a dove. The first members of the Church were identified by the Holy Spirit descending upon them in the form of tongues of fire. This i, identity was further revealed when Christ demanded of Saul as ) he lay stunned on the road to Damascus: Saul, Saul, why dost thou persecute me? 2. Christ is the Head of the Mystical Body (35-SS) What have we learned? The members of the Church form a living body -- membership in the Church implies a super- natural life born in us through Baptism, nourished in us through the other sacraments. By means of this life we share and share alike in the common work of each other to gain our salwation. What is this life? It is the grace that flows from Christ by which he fills us full of his supernatural vitality -- that we too might be living children of God, the Father. For the life that makes us members of his Church flows from his victory over death on the cross. This life forma us into members of his Body because "He must be universally acknowledged as its actual head. He, as St. Paul says, is the Head whose Body is the his members truthfully toward heaven, eway from evil. Through him Christ is present to sanctify them by his priestly powers that he shares with the pastors that he places in each parish. For they, the dioceses too, are ruled by Christ Jesus through the voice of their own respective Bishops. Bishops, then, must be considered as the nobler members ef the universal Church, for they are linked in an altogether special way to the Divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly cull- ed "principal parts of the members of the Lord"; what is more, as far as one's own diocese is concerned, they each and all as true Shepherds feed the flocks entrusted to them and rule theni in the name of Christ. Hence, they should be revered by the faithful ns divinely appointed successors of the Apostles. To Bishops, more than to the rulers of this world, even those in supreme authority, should be applied the sentence: "Touch not my anointed onel" For Bishops have been anointed with the chrism of the Holy Spirit. With this teaching in your mind, read paragraph 45. Notice how dose a union the Holy Father assumes exists between him and the bishops of the Church "Our Brother Bishops " And he considers the attacks on them "us committed against our own Person." In turn mark how close a bond he sees existing between the bishop and his people. For he says that the bishops are being attacked not only in their own persons but--"what is more cruel and heart-rending for them--in the faithful committed to their care, in those who share their apostolic labors, even in the Virgin consecrated to God." Here is certainly the echo of Christ himself: Saul, Saul why do you persecute me? And when we read these words, our own minds and heart should go to those prison ,cells, holding Hungarian, Yugoslavian, Bulgarian, and Chinese bishops, persecuted because they are members of our Body. Our prayers should be with them and with our fellow members of the Mystical Body in these lands, living under per- secution because they share with us our union with Christ. 6, In this paragraph the situation c h a n g e s. So far the emphasis has been on what we have received from Christ. "Because Christ the Head holds such an eminent position, one must not think that he does not require the Body's help. What Paul said of the human organism is to be applied likewise to this Mystical Body: The head cannot say to the feet: I have no need of you. " . . . Yet this, too must be held, marvelous though it appear: Christ requires his members." To be a head light of Christ fills the whole Church: a) Come a teacher from God to give testimony to the truth, He shed such light upon the nascent apostolic Church that the chief of, the Apostles, exclaimed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." b) He inspired its writings. 'From heaven He assisted the evangelists in such a way that as members of Christ they wrote what they had learnt at the dictation, as it were, of the Head." e) He is the source of our faith. "And for us today, who still linger on in this earthly exile, He is the author of faith as in our heavenly house He will be its finisher. It is He Who grants the light of faith to the believers." d) His light guides the bishops and the Pope "It is he who from His divine riches imparts the supernatural gifts of know- ledge, understanding, and wisdom to the pastors and teachers and above all to His Vir on earth, so that they may faith- fully preserve the treasury of faith, defend it, with reverence and devotion explain and protect it." e) And finally he guides the Church by his light when "it is He Who, though unseen, presides at the Church's Council and guides them." Second, Christ is the source of the holiness of the members of his Churoh-.ene of the marks by which His Church can be recognized." a) "If we grieve and do penance for our sins, if with filial fear and hope we turn again to God, it is because He is leading us." b) Grace and glory flow from His unfathomed fullness. Our Saviour is continually pouring out His gifts of counsel, forti- tude, fear and piety, especially on the leading members of His Body, so that the whole Body may grow daily more and more in spotless holiness. c) "When the Sacraments of the Church are administered by external rite, it is He Who produces their effect in souls. He nourishes the redeemed with His own flesh and blood, and thus claims the soul's turbulent passions." d) He gives increase of grace and is preparing future glory for souls and bodies." He is, to sum it all up, the Head because he is in complete control of the Mystical Body. 5 All these treasures of His divine goodness He is said to disburse to the members of His Mystical Body, not merely because He, Who is the Eucharistic Victim on earth and the glorified Victim in Heaven, lets His wounds and prayers plead our cause before the Eternal Father, but because He selects, He determines, He distributes every single grace to every single person "according to the mea- sure of the giving of Christ." We have covered a great deal in our reading today. Perhaps too much. Let us review some of these ideas, praying that we may understand them, and, what is more important, see their bearing on our lives. We all share a common life. It knits the Christian community so closely, that the Holy Father cells us members of one another--calls those ministries of the Church, its hierarchy, its families, organs of the Body that is the Church. Today we sought to understand from where this Body re- ceives the life that makes it a living Body. We have discovered that it is from Christ. He is the Head, the source from which flows all that the Body possesses. His is the life that we share with each other. He is the Head from whom comes the life and light that those organs of this Body are guided hy, when they minister to all of us the truth, show us the way to heaven, distribute to us the grace and strength to get there through the sacraments. It is Christ's deep concern for us that ought to bring the prayers to our lips. He died for us. From his death springs the vitality thet fills Baptism and all the sacraments. Read paragraph 23 again. Notice how the cross stands like a doorway inviting us to enter into the Church. Moreover, Christ was con- cerned enough to set up his Church so that through Himself, through the Holy Father, through Archbishop Connolly, I, as a member of his, would always be sure that the truth was taught to me, I would always know what his laws are, that the graces of the Mass and the sacraments would always be available to me. And this is so that I might grow to be like him, growing nearer to the day when he would reward that likeness with his own great possession, the eternal love of his Father. For these reasons he formed a Mystical Body end filled it full of his love and grace. And for these reasons I recognize that he is its only and rightful head, why it is the Body of Christ. But there is another side to the coin. Christ depends on me. 'Reread paragraph 46. Just as through his human nature --in Palestine--he spoke, blessed, healed and taught, so does he turn to the human members of His Church to carry on the witness that he bore in those days. Some members he calls on to continue his ministry of preaching, of blessing, of healing. He calls on all His members to bear witness to the graces that he has given to them. Here I need to pause; this is my personal concern. I cannot leave it to my neighbor, nor to the nuns. As the Holy Father has written "the salva- tion of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention and on the assistance of pastors of souls and of the faithful, especially of fathers and mothers of families, which they must offer to our divine Saviour as though they were His associate." What am I doing, this Lent, in the way of prayer and voluntary penances that the face of Christ in my life--and hence in that of the Church--may be more clearly seen by men? The world needs good example, the careful use of language, modesty in dress and conversation, self control for the love of others. By showing them to the world for the love of Christ, men can be drawn to him. Christ's deep concern for me ought to stir in me a deep concern for him, that his hopes in me and his love for me will not fail because I am not interested. I can rear a wall of indifference, of carelessness, of simple downright refusal to do what I know he asks me, and the wealth of his grace, the vitality flowing from the cross can come to nothing against that wall. SO I must be responsible, I must be concerned. I turn to you, then in prayer, Kind God who are my Father. Through the Great High Priest who offered Himself in sacrifice for His flock, through Him I plead with you that I may not be ungrateful for these blessings, unworthy of my service and the Send your Holy Spirit to help me appreciate and reverence as I ought what I am. And may the loyalty of my service and the quality of my daily life be in harmony with the nobility that is mine through your Son, Christ Jesus, Our Lord. (gth century prayer.) 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