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The Myhic Fire

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MysticiCorp2

31. But if our Savior, 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 enriched with the fullest communication of the Holy Spirit, through which, from the time when the Son of Man was lifted up and glorified on the Cross by His sufferings, she is divinely illumined. For then, as Augustine notes, [39] with 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 Israel, fell copiously and abundantly (while the fleece remained dry and deserted) on the whole earth, that is on the Catholic Church, which is confined by no boundaries 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 sanguinary work of the Redemption, so at the hour of His precious death He willed that His Church should be enriched with the abundant gifts of the Paraclete in order that in dispensing the divine fruits of the Redemption she might be, for the Incarnate Word, a powerful instrument that would never fail. For both the juridical mission of the Church, and the power to teach, govern and administer the Sacraments, derive their supernatural efficacy and force for the building up of the Body of Christ from the fact that Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine and enable her to rule them for the salvation of their souls through divinely enlightened pastors and to bestow on them an abundance of heavenly graces.

32. If we consider closely all these mysteries of the Cross, those words of the Apostle are no longer obscure, in which he teaches the Ephesians that Christ, by His blood, made the Jews and Gentiles one "breaking down the middle wall of partition...in his flesh" by which the two peoples were divided; and that He made the Old Law void "that He might make the two in Himself into one new man," that is, the Church, and might reconcile both to God in one Body by the Cross." [40]

33. The Church which He founded by His Blood, He strengthened on the Day of Pentecost by a special power, given from heaven. For, having solemnly installed in his exalted office him whom He had already nominated as His Vicar, He had ascended into Heaven; and sitting now at the right hand of the Father He wished to make known and proclaim His Spouse through the visible coming of the Holy Spirit with the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire.[41] 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 in the form of a dove, [42] so likewise, as the Apostles were about to enter upon their ministry of preaching, 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 office of the Church.

34. That this Mystical Body which is the Church should be called Christ's is proved in the second place from the fact that He must be universally acknowledged as its actual Head. "He," as St. Paul says, "is the Head of the Body, the Church." [43] He is the Head from whom the whole body perfectly organized, "groweth and maketh increase unto the edifying of itself." [44]

35. You are familiar, Venerable Brethren, with the admirable and luminous language used by the masters of Scholastic Theology and chiefly by the Angelic and Common Doctor, when treating this question; and you know that the reasons advanced by Aquinas are a faithful reflection of the mind and writings of the Holy Fathers, who moreover merely repeated and commented on the inspired word of Sacred Scripture.

36. However for the good of all We wish to touch on this point briefly. And first of all it is clear that the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin is to be called the head of the Church by reason of His singular pre-eminence. For the Head is in the highest place. But who is in a higher place than Christ God, who as the Word of the Eternal Father must be acknowledged to be the "firstborn of every creature?"[45] Who has reached more lofty heights than Christ Man who, though born of the Immaculate Virgin, is the true and natural Son of God, and in virtue of His miraculous and glorious resurrection, a resurrection triumphant over death, has become the "firstborn of the dead?" [46] Who finally has been so exalted as He, who as "the one mediator of God and men"[47] has in a most wonderful manner linked earth to heaven, who, raised on the Cross as on a throne of mercy, has drawn all things to Himself,[48] who, as the Son of Man chosen from among thousands, is beloved of God beyond all men, all angels and all created things? [49]

37. 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 [50] - to use the words of Ambrose - and all the members over whom it is placed for their good [51] are naturally guided by it as being endowed with superior powers, so the Divine Redeemer holds the helm of the universal Christian community and directs its course. And as to govern human society signifies to lead men to the end proposed by means that are expedient, just and helpful, [52] it is easy to see how our Savior, model and ideal of good Shepherds, [53] performs all these functions in a most striking way.

38. While still on earth, He instructed us by precept, counsel and warning in words that shall never pass away, and will be spirit and life [54] to all men of all times. Moreover He conferred a triple power on His Apostles and their successors, to teach, to govern, to lead men to holiness, making this power, defined by special ordinances, rights and obligations, the fundamental law of the whole Church.

39. But our Divine Savior governs and guides the Society which He founded directly and personally also. For it is He who reigns within the minds and hearts of men, and bends and subjects their wills to His good pleasure, even when rebellious. "The heart of the King is in the hand of the Lord; whithersoever he will, he shall turn it."[55] By this interior guidance He the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls,"[56] not only watches over individuals but exercises His providence over the universal Church, whether by enlightening and giving courage to the Church's rulers for the loyal and effective performance of their respective duties, or by singling out form the body of the Church - especially when times are grave - men and women of conspicuous holiness, who may point the way for the rest of Christendom to the perfecting of His Mystical Body. Morever from Heaven Christ never ceases to look down with especial love on His spotless Spouse so sorely tried in her earthly exile; and when He sees her in danger, saves her from the tempestuous sea either Himself or through the ministry of His angels,[57] or through her whom we invoke as Help of Christians, or through other heavenly advocates, and in calm and tranquil waters comforts her with the peace "which surpasseth all understanding." [58]

40. But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden [59] or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. You know, Venerable Brethren, that after He had ruled the "little flock" [60] Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in view of his primacy is only Christ's Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it 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 constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; [61] and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same.

41. They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it.

42. What we have thus far said of the Universal Church must be understood also of the individual Christian communities, whether Oriental or Latin, which go to makeup the one Catholic Church. For they, too, are ruled by Jesus Christ through the voice of their respective Bishops. Consequently, Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called "principal parts of the members of the Lord;" [62] moreover, as far as his own diocese is concerned, each one as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. [63] Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, Bishops should be revered by the faithful as divinely appointed successors of the Apostles, [64] and to them, even more than to the highest civil authorities should be applied the words: "Touch not my anointed one!" [65] For Bishops have been anointed with the chrism of the Holy Spirit.

43. That is why We are deeply pained when We hear that not a few of Our Brother Bishops are being attacked and persecuted not only in their own persons, but - what is more cruel and heartrending for them - in the faithful committed to their care, in those who share their apostolic labors, even in the virgins consecrated to God; and all this, merely because they are a pattern of the flock from the heart [66] and guard with energy and loyalty, as they should the sacred "deposit of faith"[67] confided to them; merely because they insist on the sacred laws that have been engraved by God on the souls of men, and after the example of the Supreme Shepherd defend their flock against ravenous wolves. Such an offence We consider as committed against Our own person and We repeat the noble words of Our Predecessor of immortal memory Gregory the Great: "Our honor is the honor of the Universal Church; Our honor is the united strength of Our Brethren; and We are truly honored when honor is given to each and every one." [68]

44. Because Christ the Head holds such an eminent position, one must not think that he does not require the help of the Body. What Paul said of the human organism is to be applied likewise to the Mystical Body: "The head cannot say to the feet: I have no need of you."[69] It is manifestly clear that the faithful need the help of the Divine Redeemer, for He has said: "Without me you can do nothing,"[70] and according to the teaching of the Apostle every advance of this Mystical Body towards its perfection derives from Christ the Head.[71] Yet this, also, must be held, marvelous though it may seem: Christ has need of His members. First, because the person of Jesus Christ is represented by the Supreme Pontiff, who in turn must call on others to share much of his solicitude lest he be overwhelmed by the burden of his pastoral office, and must be helped daily by the prayers of the Church. Moreover as our Savior does not rule the Church directly in a visible manner, He wills to be helped by the members of His Body in carrying out the work of redemption. That is not because He is indigent and weak, but rather because He has so willed it for the greater glory of His spotless Spouse. Dying on the Cross He left to His Church the immense treasury of the Redemption, towards which she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery, and an inexhaustible subject of meditation, 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 cooperation of pastors of souls and of the faithful, especially of fathers and mothers of families, a cooperation which they must offer to our Divine Savior as though they were His associates.

45. To the reasons thus far adduced to show that Christ our Lord should be called the Head of the Society which is His Body there may be added three others which are closely related to one another.

46. We begin with the similarity which we see existing between Head and body, in that they have the same nature; and in this connection it must be observed that our nature, although inferior to that of the angels, nevertheless through God's goodness has risen above it: "For Christ," as Aquinas says, "is Head of the angels; for even in His humanity He is superior to angels... Even as man He illumines the angelic intellect and influences the angelic will. But in respect to similarity of nature Christ is not Head of the angels, because He did not take hold of the angels - to quote the Apostle - but of the seed of Abraham."[72] And Christ not only took our nature; He became one of our flesh and blood with a frail body that could suffer and die. But "If the Word emptied himself taking the form of a slave," [73] it was that He might make His brothers according to the flesh partakers of the divine nature, [74] through sanctifying grace in this earthly exile, in heaven through the joys of eternal bliss. For the reason why the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father willed to be a son of man was that we might be made conformed to the image of the Son of God [75] and be renewed according to the image of Him who created us. [76] Let all those, then, who glory in the name of Christian, look to our Divine Savior as the most exalted and the most perfect exemplar of all virtues; but let them also, by careful avoidance of sin and assiduous practice of virtue, bear witness by their conduct to His teaching and life, so that when the Lord shall appear they may be like unto Him and see Him as He is. [77]

47. It is the will of Jesus Christ that the whole boy of the Church, no less than the individual members, should resemble Him. And we see this realized when, following in the footsteps of her Founder, the Church teaches, governs, and offers the divine Sacrifice. When she embraces the evangelical counsels she reflects the Redeemer's poverty, obedience and virginal purity. Adorned with institutes of many different kinds as with so many precious jewels, she represents 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 - in a word, doing good to all. What wonder then, if, while on this earth she, like Christ, suffer persecutions, insults and sorrows.

48. Christ must be acknowledged Head of the Church for this reason too, that, as supernatural gifts have their fullness and perfection in Him, it is of this fullness that His Mystical Body receives. It is pointed out by many of the Fathers, that as the head of our mortal body is the seat of all the senses, while the other parts of our organism have only the sense of touch, so all the powers that are found in Christian society, all the gifts, all the extraordinary graces, attain their utmost perfection in the Head, Christ. "In Him it hath well pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell."[78] He is gifted with those supernatural powers that accompany the hypostatic union, since the Holy spirit dwells in Him with a fulness of grace than which no greater can be imagined. To Him has been given "power over all flesh"; [79] "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him"[80] abundantly. The knowledge which is called "vision" He possesses with such clarity and comprehensiveness that it surpasses similar celestial knowledge found in all the saints of heaven. So full of grace and truth is He that of His inexhaustible fullness we have all received. [81]

49. These words of the disciple whom Jesus loved lead us to the last reason why Christ our Lord should be declared in a very particular way Head of His Mystical Body. As the nerves extend from the head to all parts of the human body and give them power to feel and to move, in like manner our Savior communicates strength and power to His Church so that the things of God are understood more clearly and are more eagerly desired by the faithful. From Him streams into the body of the Church all the light with which those who believe are divinely illumined, and all the grace by which they are made holy as He is holy.

50. Christ enlightens His whole Church, as numberless passages from the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers prove. "No man hath seen God at any time: the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father he hath declared him"[82] Coming as a teacher from God [83] to give testimony to the truth [84] He shed such light upon the nascent apostolic Church that the Prince of the Apostles exclaimed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life"; [85] from heaven He assisted the evangelists in such a way that as members of Christ they wrote what they had learned, as it were, at the dictation of the Head. [86] And as for us today, who linger on in this earthly exile, He is still the author of faith as in our heavenly home He will be its finisher.[87] It is He who imparts the light of faith to believers; it is He who enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain it and confirm it with reverence and devotion. Finally, it is He who, though unseen, presides at the Councils of the Church and guides them. [88]

51. Holiness begins from Christ; and Christ is its cause. For no act conducive to salvation can be performed unless it proceeds from Him as from its supernatural source. "Without me," He says, "you can do nothing."[89] 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. Grace and glory flow from His inexhaustible fulness. Our Savior is continually pouring out His gifts of counsel, fortitude, fear and piety, especially on the leading members of His Body, so that the whole Body may grow ever more and more in holiness and integrity of life. When the Sacraments of the Church are administered by external rite, it is He who produces their effect in souls.[90] He nourishes the redeemed with His own flesh and blood and thus calms the turbulent passions of the soul; He gives increase of grace and prepares future glory for souls and bodies. All these treasures of His divine goodness He is said to bestow on the members of His Mystical Body, not merely because He, as the Eucharistic Victim on earth and the glorified Victim in heaven, through His wounds and His prayers pleads our cause before the Eternal Father, but because He selects, He determines, He distributes every single grace to every single person "according to the measure of the giving of Christ."[91] Hence it follows that from our Divine Redeemer as from a fountainhead "the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, into the edifying of itself in charity." [92]

52. These truths which We have expounded, Venerable Brethren, briefly and succinctly tracing the manner in which Christ our Lord wills that His abundant graces should flow from His fulness into the Church, in order that she should resemble Him as closely as possible, help not a little to explain the third reason why the social Body of the Church should be honored by the name of Christ - namely, that our Savior Himself sustains in a divine manner the society which He founded.

53. As Bellarmine notes with acumen and accuracy,[93] 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," [94] 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?" [95] Indeed, if we are to believe Gregory of Nyssa, the Church is often called simply "Christ" by the Apostle;[96] and you are familiar Venerable Brethren, with that phrase of Augustine: "Christ preaches Christ." [97]

54. Nevertheless this most noble title of the Church must not be so understood as if that ineffable bond by which the Son of God assumed a definite human nature belongs to the universal Church; but it consists in this, that our Savior shares prerogatives peculiarly His own with the Church in such a way that she may portray, in her whole life, both exterior and interior, a most faithful image of Christ. For in virtue of the juridical mission by which our Divine Redeemer sent His Apostles into the world, as He had been sent by the Father, [98] it is He who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers, sacrifices.

55. But in virtue of that higher, interior, and wholly sublime communication, with which We dealt when We described the manner in which the Head influences the members, Christ our Lord wills the Church to live His own supernatural life, and by His divine power permeates His whole Body and nourishes and sustains each of the members according to the place which they occupy in the body, in the same way as the vine nourishes and makes fruitful the branches which are joined to it. [99]

56. If we examine closely this divine principle of life and power given by Christ, insofar as it constitutes the very source of every gift and created grace, we easily perceive that it is nothing else than the Holy spirit, the Paraclete, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who is called in a special way, the "Spirit of Christ" or the "Spirit of the Son."[100] For it was by this Breath of grace and truth that the Son of God anointed His soul in the immaculate womb of the Blessed Virgin; this Spirit delights to dwell in the beloved soul of our Redeemer as in His most cherished shrine; this Spirit Christ merited for us on the Cross by shedding His Own Blood; this Spirit He bestowed on the Church for the remission of sins, when He breathed on the Apostles;[101] and while Christ alone received this Spirit without measure,[102] to the members of the Mystical Body He is imparted only according to the measure of the giving of Christ from Christ's own fulness.[103] But after Christ's glorification on the Cross, His Spirit is communicated to the Church in an abundant outpouring, so that she, and her individual members, may become daily more and more like to our Savior. It is the Spirit of Christ that has made us adopted sons of God [104] in order that one day "we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face may be transformed into the same image from glory to glory."[105]

57. To this Spirit of Christ, also, as to an invisible principle is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the Body are joined one with the other and with their exalted Head; for He is entire in the Head, entire in the Body, and entire in each of the members. To the members He is present and assists them in proportion to their various duties and offices, and the greater or less degree of spiritual health which they enjoy. It is He who, through His heavenly grace, is the principle of every supernatural act in all parts of the Body. It is He who, while He is personally present and divinely active in all the members, nevertheless in the inferior members acts also through the ministry of the higher members. Finally, while by His grace He provides for the continual growth of the Church, He yet refuses to dwell through sanctifying grace in those members that are wholly severed from the Body. This presence and activity of the Spirit of Jesus Christ is tersely and vigorously described by Our predecessor of immortal memory Leo XIII in his Encyclical Letter Divinum Illud in these words: "Let it suffice to say that, as Christ is the Head of the Church, so is the Holy Spirit her soul."[106]

58. If that vital principle, by which the whole community of Christians is sustained by its Founder, be considered not now in itself, but in the created effects which proceed form it, it consists in those heavenly gifts which our Redeemer, together with His Spirit, bestows on the Church, and which He and His Spirit, from whom come supernatural light and holiness, make operative in the Church. The Church, then, no less than each of her holy members can make this great saying of the Apostle her own: "And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me."[107]

59. What We have said concerning the "mystical Head"[108] would indeed be incomplete if We were not at least briefly to touch on this saying of the same Apostle: "Christ is the Head of the Church: He is the savior of his Body."[109] For in these words we have the final reason why the Body of the Church is given the name of Christ, namely, that Christ is the Divine Savior of this Body. The Samaritans were right in proclaiming Him "Savior of the world;"[110] for indeed He most certainly is to be called the "Savior of all men," even though we must add with Paul: "especially of the faithful,"[111] since, before all others, He has purchased with His Blood His members who constitute the Church.[112] But as We have already treated this subject fully and clearly when speaking of the birth of the Church on the Cross, of Christ as the source of life and the principle of sanctity, and of Christ as the support of His Mystical Body, there is no reason why We should explain it further; but rather let us all, while giving perpetual thanks to God, meditate on it with a humble and attentive mind. For that which our Lord began when hanging on the Cross, he continues unceasingly amid the joys of heaven: "Our Head," says St. Augustine, "intercedes for us: some members He is receiving, others He is chastising, others cleansing, others consoling, others creating, others calling, others recalling, others correcting, others renewing."[113]But it is for us to cooperate with Christ in this work of salvation, "from one and through one saved and saviors."[114]

60. And now, Venerable Brethren, We come to that part of Our explanation in which We desire to make clear why the Body of Christ, which is the Church, should be called mystical. This name, which is used by many early writers, has the sanction of numerous Pontifical documents. There are several reasons why it should be used; for by it we may distinguish the Body of the Church, which is a Society whose Head and Ruler is Christ, from His physical Body, which, born of the Virgin Mother of God, now sits at the right hand of the Father and is hidden under the Eucharistic veils; and, that which is of greater importance in view of modern errors, this name enables us to distin guish it from any other body, whether in the physical or the moral order.

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