Definition for Mystical Body of Christ
Mystical Body of Christ
Through Baptism, we become members of the Mystical Body of Christ — the Church. In the Eucharist, we become one-flesh with the Bridegroom on the Cross. We are meant to be literally, albeit meta-sense-ably, united to His resurrected body — the rebuilt New Covenant Temple. Jesus is not the
that becomes the Church, or vice versa. On the contrary, we are the Church (the Bride) built into the NC Temple in a nuptial mystery. Temple
The Temple grows because the Church grows (Eph. 2:20-22). Archbishop Sheen sums it up by saying, “The Church isn’t a collection of individuals who decide to form a club, united through a service of common ideals and purposes. Instead, she’s a living body of cells, infused by the life of Christ and united by his will and purposes.” [Sheen, The Mystical Body of Christ, Location 208.] If my wife were to grow twelve inches taller since our wedding, would we no longer be one flesh, one body? Instead, might we be 1⅛ flesh, 1⅛ body? That would be silly. The addition of a billion cells would not make us one-plus bodies? So, it is with the Church’s relationship to the Temple.
According to G. Joyce:
1. The members of the Church are bound together by a supernatural life communicated to them by Christ through the Sacraments (John 15:5). 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 (John 15:7-12). These graces, through which each is equipped for his work, form it into an organized whole, whose parts are knit together as though by a system of ligaments and joints (John 15:16; Colossians 2:19).2. 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 (John 15:13-15). In virtue of this union the Church is the fulness or complement (pleroma) of Christ (Ephesians 1:23). It forms one whole with Him; and the Apostle even speaks of the Church as "Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12).3. 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" (1 Corinthians 10:17). [G. Joyce, “Mystical Body of the Church,” In The Catholic Encyclopedia, (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), Retrieved January 24, 2022 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10663a.htm].
The Church is the new Body that Jesus assumed after his Ascension, the instrument he now uses to teach, govern, and sanctify the world [Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The Mystical Body of Christ, Ave Maria Press, Kindle Edition, Loc 168].
The Church isn’t a collection of individuals who decide to form a club, united through a service of common ideals and purposes. Instead, she’s a living body of cells, infused by the life of Christ and united by his will and purposes. Like any living body, the Mystical Body of Christ requires three components to flourish: a head, a soul, and a source of unity. For the Church, her head is visibly present on earth as the Pope. Her soul is the Holy Spirit, the vivifying, energizing principle of life. And the source of her unity is the Eucharist. Sheen reveals how each of these pieces fit together, the Head guiding the Body, the soul enlivening the Body, and the Eucharist uniting the Body, together allowing Christ to move and act in our world. [Ibid., Location 206].
It was thanks to the body which He assumed from the womb of the Virgin Mary that He was able to make His teaching, His power, and His sanctification visible to men. The plan of the Incarnation was based upon the communication of the Divine through the human, the invisible through the visible, and the eternal through the temporal. It was, in a certain sense, the foundation of a Sacramental universe in which material things would be used as the channels for the spiritual. [Ibid., p. 26.]
Such is His Mystical Life in the Church. As His human and Divine natures are one in the unity of His Person in the Incarnation, so too in His Mystical Life the Church His Body and He the Head are one Person—the Mystical Christ. [Ibid., p. 20.] Without the Church Christ would be incomplete. This is a strong statement, and yet it is precisely what the Scriptures mean in saying that the Church is the fullness of Christ, and that Christ must grow to His full stature.
The Incarnate did not exhaust Himself in the Incarnation. As the earthly Christ grew in age and grace and wisdom, so must the Mystical Christ grow, but neither can grow without a Body. The physical Body reached its perfect stature, humbled itself in death, and was exalted to glory; the Mystical Body must likewise grow, be humbled, and enter into its glory. Through it, Christ re-lives, re-grows, re-dies, and is re-glorified; and without it He would lack His fullness, and would be circumscribed by time and space — His own creation. [Ibid., pp. 43-44]