Mystical Body of Christ
The Catholic Church
Part OneExcerpt taken from “Fruits of Contemplation” by Victorino Osende, O.P.
VERY few Christians, even of those who have made religious profession and live the religious life, have a clear and complete idea of what the Church is in itself, what its relation is to us, and, consequently, what our relations and duties are toward the Church. The generality of Christians have no other idea in this regard than that which they learned in the catechism:
“The Church is the congregation of all the faithful on earth, united under one visible head.”
But this description is incomplete; it does not embrace the whole concept of the Church, but merely its visible-body. It tells us nothing of the bonds that unite us to her and the duties that these bonds imply. In addition to the definition expressed above, the Church can be considered under three fundamental aspects: as the mystical body of our Lord Jesus Christ, as His spouse, and as our spiritual mother.
The Mystical Body of Christ
As the mystical body of Christ, the Church is composed not only of the congregation of the faithful on earth, but also of the souls of the blessed in heaven and of all those who are united to Him by faith and grace. Moreover, it extends throughout all time, from the beginning to the end of the world, and will endure for all eternity. According to this concept, the Church is a great spiritual family whose head is Christ. It forms a truly organic body made up of various members animated by the same spirit and life and provided with the same means of development and of attaining perfection in accordance with the end which God has marked out for them.
From this arises the division of the Church into militant, triumphant, and suffering, and the further division of the Church militant into teaching and taught. From this also proceed the various categories of members which constitute it, with the diversity of functions, ministries, and graces enumerated by St. Paul. Hence also the communion of saints, for inasmuch as all the members form but one body and all are animated by the same spirit and life (that of Christ), so all share in and possess as their own what all the other members possess individually and collectively. This is the perfect union of which our Lord spoke at the Last Supper and which is verified by the indwelling of the three divine Persons in the souls of the just:
“That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, in Me, and I in Thee: that they also may be one in Us.”
“We belong to the Church Militant; and She is militant because on earth the
powers of darkness are ever restless to encompass her destruction.”Pope Pius XII, 1953
Thoughtful men, with hearts craving the truth, have come to seek in the Catholic Church the road which leads with surety to eternal life. They have understood that they could not cleave to Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church if they did not belong to the Body of Jesus Christ which is the Church. Nor could they ever hope to possess in all its purity the faith of Jesus Christ if they were to reject its legitimate teaching authority entrusted to Peter and his successors.Pope Leo XIII