Mystical Body of Christ

Flowing from discussion in another thread, it would be good to examine Pope Pius XII’s excellent teaching on who makes up the Body of Christ. I stopped short of reprinting the ending tenets, so that we can digest slowly what the Pontiff says in the early sections.

  1. If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ – which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church] – we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression “the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ” - an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers.
  1. Again, as in nature, a body is not formed by any haphazard grouping of members but must be constituted of organs, that is of members, that have not the same function and are arranged in due order; so for this reason above all the Church is called a body, that it is constituted by the coalescence of structurally united parts, and that it has a variety of members reciprocally dependent. It is thus the Apostle describes the Church when he writes: “As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”
  1. As Bellarmine notes with acumen and accuracy, this appellation of the Body of Christ is not to be explained solely by the fact that Christ must be called the Head of His Mystical Body, but also by the fact that He so sustains the Church, and so in a certain sense lives in the Church, that she is, as it were, another Christ. The Doctor of the Gentiles, in his letter to the Corinthians, affirms this when, without further qualification, he calls the Church “Christ,” following no doubt the example of his Master who called out to him from on high when he was attacking the Church: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?”

Joysong,

This is my favorite encyclical. It emphasizes the truth that when we profess our belief in the Holy Catholic Church we make as act of faith in the great mystery of the Christian Revelation.

The Church is more than a religious society whose purpose is the worship of God, more than a society different from all others because it was founded by God, more than a depository of grace and revealed truth. The Church herself is supernatural in her nature and essence, since she is the Body of Christ, living with the life of Christ himself, with a supernatural life. From the “fullness of Christ” (Collosians 2: 9 ff) all his members are filled, so that, the Church herself is “the fullness of him who is wholly fullfilledin all” (Ephesians 1:23). Hence the mystery of the Church is the very mystery of Christ himself.

Tomster

Also from Mystici Corporis Christi, Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, “On the Mystical Body of Christ”, June 29, 1943:

  1. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” [17] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. [18] And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican. [19] It follows that those are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.
  1. Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness. it is owing to the Savior’s infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet. [20] For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.

This may also be of interest…

(The following is taken from the American Ecclesiastical Review, June 1953, pages 448-459, published by the Catholic University of America Press. This is an exact reproduction of the text, and any emphasis in the text is from the original.)

catholicresponse.net/mysticicorporis.htm

Ten years ago this month, on June 29, 1943, to be exact, His Holiness Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Mystici Corporis. The publication of this doctrinal instruction was providential, as any comparison between manuals of ecclesiology written prior to its appearance and the texts which have been printed during the last ten years will very easily attest. It is only fitting that Catholic theologians throughout the world should take cognizance of this anniversary, and try, on this occasion, to appreciate some of the great benefits God has granted to His kingdom on earth through this doctrinal letter of Our Lord’s Vicar on earth.

The central pronouncement in the encyclical Mystici Corporis is to be found in the declaration that the expression “Mystical Body of Jesus Christ” is actually a definition of the Church. In the words of the Holy Father, “if we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ – which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church – we shall find no expression more noble, more sublime, or more divine, than the phrase which calls it ‘the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.’”[1]…

The most important definitions of the Church, from the standpoint of theological controversy, have always been those which applied exclusively to the Church militant of the New Testament. Classical expressions of this type of definition are the formulae employed by Domingo Bannez and St. Robert Bellarmine. The former defined the Church militant of the New Dispensation as **“the visible congregation of the baptized faithful, under one Head, Christ, in heaven, and under His Vicar on earth.”**11] St. Robert produced what has been by all means the most widely used formula for this sort of definition when he described the Church as “the assembly of men united in the profession of the same Christian faith and in the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of legitimate pastors, and in particular, that of the one Vicar of Christ on earth, the Roman Pontiff.”

There’s some helpful commentary in this document from the Holy Officein 1949 too, especially concerning the portions gorman cited :slight_smile:

matt1618.freeyellow.com/appendixe.html

Dear Genesis315,

Let’s just clarify that the Holy Office letter is in no way at odds with these articles from AER and Monsignor Fenton.:slight_smile: The Letter actually refers to the encyclical Mystici Corporis. The errors at Boston College and The St. Benedict Center are twofold…the denial of explaining away the Catholic Church as a necessity of means by the liberals…and the denial of the existence of members of the Church in voto. They are both errors…and the actual denial of the dogma is heresy. There were those at Boston College that were denying this dogma right under the nose of [Edited by Moderator].

catholicresponse.net/hol-necessity.htm

The following is taken from the American Ecclesiastical Review, December, 1952, pages 450-461, published by the Catholic University of America Press. This is an exact reproduction of the text, and any emphasis in the text is from the original.)

The Holy Office Letter on the Necessity of the Catholic Church

The Holy Office then proceeds against what has been perhaps the most obstinate and important error of the St. Benedict Center group when it explains that “this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens”; but that “when a person is involved in invincible ignorance, God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.”

It is noteworthy that the theologians of the Church have never included the doctrine of the Church itself among those supernatural truths which must be held explicitly if there is to be the necessary minimum for an act of true and salvific divine faith. The Holy Office letter, however, does not go to this theological reasoning, but directly to the authoritative teaching of Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Mystici Corporis to back up its contention. That encyclical effectively taught the possibility of salvation for persons who have only an implicit desire to enter and to live within the Catholic Church.

In the text of the Mystici Corporis, the Sovereign Pontiff clearly and authoritatively taught the requisites for actual membership in the Church. He issued as his own teaching the Bellarminian doctrine that “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.”[7] He likewise, however, spoke of the possibility of salvation for those who “are related to the Mystical Body by a certain unconscious yearning and desire (inscio quodam desiderio ac voto).” He depicted such individuals as existing in a state “in which they cannot be sure of their salvation” since “they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church.”[8]

**The Holy Office interprets these teachings of the Mystici Corporis as a condemnation of two errors. One of them, that defended explicitly by members of the St. Benedict Center group, is the doctrine that no man be saved if he has only an implicit desire or intention to enter the Church. The other is the teaching that men may be saved “equally well (aequaliter)” in any religion. For the previous condemnation of this latter error the letter refers to two pronouncements by Pope Pius IX, his allocution Singulari quadam and his encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore.**9]

Gorman

To further understand Mystici Corporis, look also to the reference in Mystici Corporis to the encyclical Satis Cognitum (59. Cf. Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum: A.S.S., XXVIII, 725.) (Reference Denz. #1955 as well)

From Satis Cognitum:

He who seeks the truth must be guided by these fundamental principles. That is to say, that Christ the Lord instituted and formed the Church: wherefore when we are asked what its nature is, the main thing is to see what Christ wished and what in fact He did. Judged by such a criterion it is the unity of the Church which must be principally considered; and of this, for the general good, it has seemed useful to speak in this Encyclical.

  1. It is so evident from the clear and frequent testimonies of Holy Writ that the true Church of Jesus Christ is one, that no Christian can dare to deny it. But in judging and determining the nature of this unity many have erred in various ways. Not the foundation of the Church alone, but its whole constitution, belongs to the class of things effected by Christ’s free choice. For this reason the entire case must be judged by what was actually done. We must consequently investigate not how the Church may possibly be one, but how He, who founded it, willed that it should be one. But when we consider what was actually done we find that Jesus Christ did not, in point of fact, institute a Church to embrace several communities similar in nature, but in themselves distinct, and lacking those bonds which render the Church unique and indivisible after that manner in which in the symbol of our faith we profess: “I believe in one Church.” “The Church in respect of its unity belongs to the category of things indivisible by nature, though heretics try to divide it into many parts…We say, therefore, that the Catholic Church is unique in its essence, in its doctrine, in its origin, and in its excellence…Furthermore, the eminence of the Church arises from its unity, as the principle of its constitution - a unity surpassing all else, and having nothing like unto it or equal to it” (S. Clemens Alexandrinus, Stronmatum lib. viii., c. 17). For this reason Christ, speaking of the mystical edifice, mentions only one Church, which he calls His own - "I will build my church; " any other Church except this one, since it has not been founded by Christ, cannot be the true Church. This becomes even more evident when the purpose of the Divine Founder is considered. For what did Christ, the Lord, ask? What did He wish in regard to the Church founded, or about to be founded? This: to transmit to it the same mission and the same mandate which He had received from the Father, that they should be perpetuated. This He clearly resolved to do: this He actually did. “As the Father hath sent me, I also send you” (John xx., 21). “As thou hast sent Me into the world I also have sent them into the world” (John xvii., 18).

Tomster, your post was superb! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this beautiful encyclical!

[quote=You]The Church is more than a religious society whose purpose is the worship of God, more than a society different from all others because it was founded by God, more than a depository of grace and revealed truth. The Church herself is supernatural in her nature and essence, since she is the Body of Christ, living with the life of Christ himself, with a supernatural life. From the “fullness of Christ” (Collosians 2: 9 ff) all his members are filled, so that, the Church herself is “the fullness of him who is wholly fullfilledin all” (Ephesians 1:23). Hence the mystery of the Church is the very mystery of Christ himself.
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Your thoughts are similar to another section of the encyclical that was a blessing for me to reflect on, as well.

  1. For this reason We deplore and condemn the pernicious error of those who dream of an imaginary Church, a kind of society that finds its origin and growth in charity, to which, somewhat contemptuously, they oppose another, which they call juridical. But this distinction which they introduce is false: for they fail to understand that the reason which led our Divine Redeemer to give to the community of man He founded the constitution of a Society, perfect of its kind and containing all the juridical and social elements - namely, that He might perpetuate on earth the saving work of Redemption – was also the reason why He willed it to be enriched with the heavenly gifts of the Paraclete.

And speaking about Christ’s work of Redemption, this later article I thought was exceptionally magnificent:

  1. And first of all let us imitate the breath of His love. For the Church, the Bride of Christ, is one; and yet so vast is the love of the divine Spouse that it embraces in His Bride the whole human race without exception. Our Savior shed His Blood precisely in order that He might reconcile men to God through the Cross, and might constrain them to unite in one Body, however widely they may differ in nationality and race.

True love of the Church, therefore, requires not only that we should be mutually solicitous one for another as members of the same Body, rejoicing in the glory of the other members and sharing in their suffering, but likewise that we should recognize in other men, although they are not yet joined to us in the Body of the Church, our brothers in Christ according to the flesh, called, together with us, to the same eternal salvation. It is true, unfortunately, especially today, that there are some who extol enmity, hatred, and spite as if they enhanced the dignity and the worth of man. Let us however, while we look with sorrow on the disastrous consequences of this teaching, follow our peaceful King who taught us to love not only those who are of a different nation or race, but even our enemies. While Our heart overflows with the sweetness of the teaching of the Apostle of the Gentiles, We extol with him the length, and the breadth, and the height, and the depth of the charity of Christ, which neither diversity of race or customs can diminish, nor the trackless wastes of the ocean weaken, nor wars, whether just or unjust, destroy.

[Footnote: This thread was not begun to debate, yet *again, the topic of E.E.N.S. (Outside the Church there is no salvation), and I ask those who are desirous of discussing this to please begin another thread and refrain from sabotaging this one. Thanks so much.]

Joysong,

I have a book written by Father Daniel Lord, S.J. which he used as a classroom text on this magnificent encyclical. I must sort through my mess here at home and find it. It has been some time since I have read it. I will be down in my archives:D searching for this volume in the hope that I will be able to contribute to this discussion worthily.

Tomster

Our act of faith in the great mystery of Christ’s Church means far more than belief in a wonderful world wide organizationof millions of men and women, united as no other group of men and women has ever been in belief and practice, and in central government; it means that there circulates throughout the Church the life of grace which Christ came to bring into the world, linking together the members of the Church under Christ their Head with such a closeness of union that Head and members form a unique reality: the Mystical Body of Christ. Our act of faith in the Church is an act of faith in Christ ever active in our midst, ever speaking, ever sanctifying those who are one with him, through the organism he has willed should exist in the world.

The negation of the visible character of the Church of Christ, and of its hierarchical constitution, has led to such stress bein laid upon the visible, tangible aspects of the Church that those who are not Catholics have come to think of it in terms of its external organization and of its dogmatic definitions, and not a few Catholics, concentrating their attention upon the argumentative, apologetical, and controversial side of the doctrine concerning the Church, have been in danger of overlooking theoretically - though practically it is impossible for them to do so - the supernatural, the mysterious, the vital, the overwhelming important character of the Church as the divinely established and only means of grace in the world, as the Mystical Body of Christ. Practically the doctrine of the supernatural life, of sanctifying grace, of the developement of the spiritual life, has safeguarded these truths; though even there individualism has asserted itself to the detriment of the collectivism of Christian activity. The stress laid by St. Paul on the edification of the body of Christ, on the benefit the whole derives from the perfection of the members, has tended to be passed over where the social value of the contemplative life is not appreciated.

It is in and through the Church that Jesus Christ has willed to effect the salvation of mankind. From the beginning that Church has been a complex entity, and its history is filled with incidents in which men have concentrated upon some one essential element of its constitution to the exclusion of another equally essential element, and have drifted into heresy. The Church has its visible and its invisible elements, its individual and its social claims, its natural and its supernatural activities, its adaptability to the needs of the times, while it is uncompromising in vindicating, even unto the blood, that which it holds from Christ and for Christ.

Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical Ecclesiam Suam (written during the Second Vatican Council and discussing its work), said that Pius XII’s encyclical goes hand in hand with Leo XIII’s Satis Cognitum when it comes to explaining ecclesiology. I highly recommend reading it too :thumbsup:

[quote=OP, Joysong]Flowing from discussion in another thread, it would be good to examine Pope Pius XII’s excellent teaching on who makes up the Body of Christ.
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Dear Joysong,

Can you tell us where the definition of who actually makes up the Mystical Body of Christ (which is the Catholic Church) is located within this encyclical?

Here’s a hint…the definition portion is found in Denzinger.

Gorman

Dear Genesis315,

Here’s an excerpt from Ecclesiam Suam…It’s not very clear how this better explains ecclesiology…maybe you can point out some other texts that do a better job.

[quote=Ecclesiam Suam]32. And so we are confident that the work of the Council will be assisted by the light of the Holy Spirit. It will be carried out and brought to a happy conclusion with such docility to His Divine Inspirations, with so much effort made to undertake fuller and deeper investigations into the pristine thinking of Christ and into the necessary and legitimate developments which have followed in the course of time, with such eagerness to make of Divine Truth an argument for union and not a reason to divide men in sterile discussions or regrettable divisions. It will rather lead them to greater understanding and concord; the result will be a source of glory for God, joy for the Church, and edification for the world.

  1. In this encyclical we are deliberately refraining from passing any judgment of our own on doctrinal points concerning the Church which are at present under examination by the Council itself over which we have been called to preside. It is our desire to leave full liberty of study and discussion to such an important and authoritative assembly. In virtue of our office of Teacher and Pastor, and placed at the head of the Church of God, we reserve to ourself the choice of the proper moment and manner of expressing our judgment. We are most happy if we can present it in perfect accord with that of the conciliar Fathers.
    [/quote]

Gorman

[quote=Tomster] have a book written by Father Daniel Lord, S.J. which he used as a classroom text on this magnificent encyclical. I must sort through my mess here at home and find it. It has been some time since I have read it. I will be down in my archives searching for this volume in the hope that I will be able to contribute to this discussion worthily.
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I’ll look forward to your posts, Tomster.

Our pastor gave a wonderful homily today for the feast of Corpus Christi, and referred to Pope Benedict’s Sacramentum Caritatis where the Pope explained St. Augustine’s sublime understanding of the Body of Christ. It was especially fitting and timely, not only for our discussion, but also for the sacred Feast we celebrated today. I’m happy to share, for I looked it up this afternoon.

Christus totus in capite et in corpore

  1. The “subject” of the liturgy’s intrinsic beauty is Christ himself, risen and glorified in the Holy Spirit, who includes the Church in his work. (109) Here we can recall an evocative phrase of Saint Augustine which strikingly describes this dynamic of faith proper to the Eucharist. The great Bishop of Hippo, speaking specifically of the eucharistic mystery, stresses the fact that Christ assimilates us to himself: “The bread you see on the altar, sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. The chalice, or rather, what the chalice contains, sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ. In these signs, Christ the Lord willed to entrust to us his body and the blood which he shed for the forgiveness of our sins. If you have received them properly, you yourselves are what you have received.”

Consequently, “not only have we become Christians, we have become Christ himself.” We can thus contemplate God’s mysterious work, which brings about a profound unity between ourselves and the Lord Jesus: "one should not believe that Christ is in the head but not in the body; rather he is complete in the head and in the body."

This is a most awesome meditation, and had our pastor not spoken of it, I might not have appreciated the fullness of teaching in this document. I missed it the first time I read it, unfortunately.

Carole

Thanks Genesis. I will cross reference!

I FOUND THE BOOK ! ! ! (Now I have a big clean up around the house :smiley: :smiley: :smiley: per wifey)

Interestingly enough the text, “Our Part in the Mystical Body” by Daniel Lord S.J., third edition, was copyrighted in 1935, some eight years before the promulgation of the encyclical. I did a quick read of it last night.

Using a quote from Fr. Lord from the beginning of chapter six he states: " The first thought of many a modern man or woman brought face to face with this astonishing doctrine of the Mystical Body is: 'Why wasn’t I told this before? Why, for all these years, has this magnificent fact been kept almost a secret from me?"

“For few if any among the thousands of Catholics who were being taught their catechism twenty or more years ago so much as heard of the doctrine of the Mystical Body, while to the world of religiously uninstructed people the whole truth comes with a blend of revolution and revelation. Indeed, many a priest may have pursued a whole course of theology without hearing any reference to this doctrine.”

“Yet, as we’ve seen, it is not new. It is as old as Christ.”

This was written well before 1935 and is telling.

Tomster

[quote=Tomster]I FOUND THE BOOK ! ! ! (Now I have a big clean up around the house per wifey)
[/quote]

Aha, a new spring time, not only in your physical house, but also your spiritual one. :stuck_out_tongue:

For few if any among the thousands of Catholics who were being taught their catechism twenty or more years ago so much as heard of the doctrine of the Mystical Body,

That’s very true, Tom, and more so even today. We hear errors on these forums like, “you’re horizontal” indicating how little the person truly understands the doctrine. In reading Pope Benedict’s Sacramentum Caritatis yesterday, this section also jumped out at me, for it is utterly significant to understanding our relationship to Christ and our neighbor.

  1. The eucharistic mystery helps us to understand the profound meaning of the communio sanctorum. Communion always and inseparably has both a vertical and a horizontal sense: it is communion with God and communion with our brothers and sisters. Both dimensions mysteriously converge in the gift of the Eucharist. "Wherever communion with God, which is communion with the Father, with the Son and with the Holy Spirit, is destroyed, the root and source of our communion with one another is destroyed. And wherever we do not live communion among ourselves, communion with the Triune God is not alive and true either."(
    vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html

I think if we just keep praying for our weaker members and plant solid seeds of instruction, maybe some day a few hearts will see God’s beautiful truth in the underlying meaning of Eucharist.

Carole

So true Carole. Perhaps a quote from St. John Chrysostom is apropos:

" ’ We being many are one bread, one body.’ What do I mean, he says, by ‘partaking’? (1 Cor. 10:17.) We are that very body. For what is that bread? The Body of Christ; not many bodies, but one. For just as a loaf, though made up of many grains is yet so united that those grains never appear, and, though they are there, their individual character does not show because they are so closely joined together; so, too, are we joined to one another and to Christ. For one is not fed with one body, another with another, but all with one and the same." - St. John Chrysostom, Homily 24, 2.

Tomster

Something from Fr. Lord:

"Anyone with the slightest glimmerings of understanding about the Blessed Sacrament has by this time got a very clear idea of one of the ways in which the life of Jesus Christ flows through the body and soul of the Christian. When St. Paul spoke in the same breath of “one body, one bread,” the mind of the Christian immediately flashed back to the Blessed Sacrament, to that intimate association of Holy Communion by which the man welds to himself in closest union the God-Man, Jesus Christ, and the divine life of Jesus Christ flows in undiminished streams of strength and power through his whole being.

At the very banquet during which Christ had prayed that His disciples might be one as He and His Father were one, during that solemn ceremony in which He rounded of the Old Law and began the rites of the New, prepared His friends for the terrors of Good Friday and reassured them of His abiding presence no matter how tight the circle of their enemies, He gave them the Eucharist, which was to cement their union in closest bonds…

“Take ye and eat . . . This is my body. Drink ye all of this . . . For this is my blood.”

His body for theirs; His pure and strong blood to supplement their (and mine) weak and watery blood; His divinity to complement their humanity; His whole self, body and soul and divinity, to be joined with the bodies and souls of His followers in the tight union of mind and heart and feeling and physical presence.

But the union with Christ in His Mystical Body existed even before this intimate union in Holy Communion.

Men are born into the world already united with Jesus. That union must be something freely accepted and desired, either by themselves or those responsible for them. God does not force upon the human race this union with His Son. Men must accept freely. It is a voluntary thing, a thing of their own choosing."

Tomster

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