All Conversations in My Heart
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
  Mystical Body and our Unity

The Church as the Body of Christ

And He (Christ) is the head of the body, the Church" (Col. 1:18),

"which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all' (Eph. 1:23).

In the Holy Scriptures, the Church is repeatedly called the Body of Christ. "(Paul) Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, for His Body’s sake, which is the Church" (Col. 1:24), the Apostle Paul is writing about himself. Paul writes, Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, are given by Christ "for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ" (Eph.4:11-12).

Also for us, bread and wine are made into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Divine Liturgy, and the faithful partake thereof. Christ Himself ordered it so, communicating His Apostles at the Mystical Supper with the words, "Take, eat; this is My Body; Drink ye all of it; for this is My Blood of the New Testament" (Mat; 26:26-28). We should know and be able to answer, “A crushed and broken heart is more pleasing to You than rams, because You created us for Yourself and You want us to remember that and to give back to You what is Yours”.

How is the Body of Christ at the same time both the Church and the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist? Are the faithful both members of the Body of Christ, the Church, and communicants of the Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist? Of course and it is what we have to believe.

In neither instance is the name "Body of Christ" used metaphorically, but rather in the most basic sense, of the word. We believe that the Holy Eucharist, which keeps the form of bread and wine, are the very Body and the very Blood of Christ. We likewise believe and confess that Christ is the Son of the Living God, come into the world to save sinners, and become true man. His flesh, taken from the Virgin Mary, was true human flesh; that the body and soul of Christ was a true man, in all respects like man, except sin, at the same time He remains the true God. The Divine nature was neither diminished nor changed in the Son of God in this incarnation likewise the human nature was not changed but retained, in full, all our human qualities.

Unchanged and unconfused forever, the indivisibly and inseparably Godhead and manhood were united in the One Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Son of God became incarnate to make people partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), to free them from sin and death, and to make them immortal. Uniting ourselves with Christ, we receive divine grace, which gives human nature strength for victory over sin and death, the Lord Jesus Christ has shown people the way to victory over sin by His teaching, and He grants them eternal life, enabling them to be partakers in a life of everlasting grace in His eternal kingdom by His Resurrection. In order to receive that divine grace from Him, the closest possible and most intimate contact we can have with Him is not only necessary but must be maintained in the same purity where ever possible as is the Eucharist we receive. We must return to the state of grace given us at Baptism. Then drawing all to Himself by His divine love, and uniting them unto Himself, the Lord has united to each other those who love Him and come unto Him, uniting them into one Church. The Apostolic Church is unity in Christ, the closest union with Christ of all who rightly believe in Him and love Him, and all their union is through Christ. We who have fallen into death by sin arise with Him at Baptism or through the Sacrament of Confession.

Now the Church consists of both her earthly and heavenly parts, for the Son of God came to earth and became man that He might lead man into heaven and make him once again a citizen of paradise, returning to him his original condition of sinlessness and wholeness restoring us to the original innocence and then uniting us Himself.

This is accomplished by the action of divine grace granted through the Church in the Sacrament of Baptism, but due to our concupiscence an effort will also be required from man himself through the Sacrament of Penance. This act of sorrow and humility removes sin and all its temporal punishments. God then saves His fallen creature by His own love for him, but man's love for his Creator is also necessary and without it, salvation is impossible for him. With repentance driving us towards God and cleaving unto the Lord by seeking His love and mercy through forgiveness, the human soul obtains God’s power to cleanse itself from sin and to strengthen itself for the struggle to full victory over sin.

The body partakes in that struggle, being now the vehicle and instru­ment of sin, but fore-ordained by God’s will to be the instrument of righteousness and the vessel of holiness.

God created man, breathing divine breath into the animate body created earlier from the earth. The body was to have been an instrument of the spirit, subject to God, for through it the human spirit manifests itself in the material world. The spirit reveals its properties and qualities through the body and its separate members, which God gave it, in a likeness to His own image, because the body as a manifestation of the image of God both can be called and very truly is "our beauty created in the image of God". When the first-created people fell away in spirit from their Creator, the body, hitherto subject to the spirit and obtaining its directions through the soul, ceased to be subordinate to it and began to strive to dominate it. In place of the law of God the law of the flesh began to rule man.

Sin, having cut man off from God, the source of life, has rent asunder man himself, violated union of spirit, soul and body, and death has entered into him. The soul, not surrounded now by the streams of life, could no longer transmit them to the body, which became corruptible, and languor became the lot of the soul. Death entered the world and we willingly repeat the sinful exercise in ourselves until we come to our senses and seek reconciliation with our Creator.

Christ came to earth to restore anew the fallen image and return it to union with Him Whose image it is? Uniting man unto Himself, God thus restores him to his original goodness in all its fullness. Granting grace and sanctification to the spirit, Christ also purifies, strength­ens, heals and sanctifies the spirit and the body.

"But he that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit (with him)" (1 Cor. 6:17). The body, then, of the man who has been united unto the Lord must be an instrument of the Lord, must serve for the fulfillment of His will, and become a part of the Mystical Body of Christ.

For the full sanctification of man, the body of the servant of the Lord must be united with the Body of Christ, and this is accomplished in the mystery of Holy Communion. The true Body and the true Blood of Christ, which we receive, becomes a part of the great Body of Christ, Of course, for union with Christ, the mere conjoining of our body with the Body of Christ does not suffice. The consumption of the Body of Christ becomes beneficial when in spirit we strive toward Him and unite ourselves with Him with and in grace.

Reception of the Body of Christ, with an aversion to Him in spirit, that is through sin returning us to His enemy, is like the approach to Christ of those who struck Him, mocked and crucified Him. We too spit on Him. Their approaching Him served not for their salvation and healing, but for their condemnation. Those who partake in a state of grace, with purity, piety, love and readiness to bring themselves to serve Him, closely unite themselves with Him and become instruments of His divine will.

"He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me, and I in him," said the Lord (John 6:56).

Uniting with the Risen Lord and through Him with the entire eternal Trinity, man draws from It power for eternal life and does himself become immortal. "As the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth Me even he shall live by Me " (John 6:57).

All who believe in Christ, and are united unto Him by giving themselves to Him and by the reception of divine grace conjointly constitute the Church of Christ, the Head of which is Christ Himself, and they who enter into her are her members. Christ, invisible to the bodily eye, manifests Himself on earth clearly through His Church just as the unseen human spirit manifests itself through its body. The Church is the Body of Christ both because its parts are united to Christ through His divine mysteries and because through her Christ works in the world.

We partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, in the holy Mysteries, so that we ourselves truly are members of Christ's Body: the Church.

This is not accomplished instantly. Fully abiding in the Church is already victory over sin and complete purification of ourselves from sin. To some degree everything sinful estranges us from the Church and keeps us out of the Church; this is why we believe repentance, confession and absolution reconciles us with our neighbors, the Church and of course with God. Through repentance a Catholic is cleansed and united closely to Christ in partaking of the Sacramental Life of the Church, but later the grime of sin again settles upon him and estranges him from Christ and the Church, and therefore repentance and communion are again necessary.

As long as the earthly life of a man endures, up to the very departure of the soul from the body, the struggle between sin and righteousness goes on within him. However high a spiritual and moral state one might achieve, a gradual, or even headlong and deep fall into the abyss of sin is always possible. Therefore, communion of the holy Body and Blood of Christ, which strengthens our contact ", with Him and refreshes us with the living streams of the grace of the Holy Spirit flowing through the Body of the Church, is necessary for everyone. How very important communion of the Holy Mysteries is we see from the life of St. Mary of Egypt we

read that her final wish after many years of desert life was the reception of the Sacraments of the Church. The lives of other saints and faithful recorded by the Church Not in vain did the Lord speak and say: "Amen, amen, I say unto you, except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, ye have no life in you"(Jn. 6:23).

"To partake of the Body and Blood of Christ is to receive in oneself the Risen Christ, the victor over death, granting to those with Him victory over sin and death. Preserving in ourselves the grace-filled gift of Communion, we have a guarantee and foretaste of the blessed, eternal life of the soul and body.

Up to the very "Day of Christ," His Second Coming and the Judgment of the whole world, the struggle of sin with righteousness will continue, individually in each person and collectively in all mankind.

The earthly Church unites all who are reborn through baptism and who have taken up the cross of the struggle with sin, who follow after Christ in a graceful state who participating in the Divine Eucharist, that offering of the blood-less sacrifice and partaking thereof, sanctifies and strengthens their souls. This makes those who receive of the Body and Blood of Christ true members of His Body, the Church. It is only after death is it determined whether a man remained a true member of the Body of Christ to his last breath, or whether sin has triumphed in him thus driving out the grace that binds him to Christ and received by him in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That is the sacramental Grace of the Holy Eucharist

He who as a member of the earthly Church has reposed in grace goes over from the earthly Church into the heavenly Church; but he who has fallen away from the earthly Church will not enter into the heavenly, for the Church in this world is the way into the heavenly. Fallen souls inherit the earth and not heaven.

The more one is found to be under the influence of the grace of communion and the more tightly one has united himself to Christ, the more one will find pleasure in communion with Christ, in His coming Kingdom and the Divine Liturgy. We will find ourselves overwhelmed by beauty and in such a deep communion with the Blessed Trinity, that the time spent at worship is a time of peace and joy.

Therefore, it is important to partake of the Blessed and Holy Eucharist before or as we die when the lot of a man is determined forever. It is necessary to try to receive just before death, we must pray and beseech the Lord to find us worthy of this final anointing and to pray that others so that they may not be deprived of Communion before the end, thus fortifying ourselves with the grace of final perseverance and our victory over sin is assured.

Inasmuch as sin continues to operate in the soul until death. The body is liable to the consequences of sin and bears in itself the seeds of disease and death in this life. The body is only free from its relationship with sin and is freed only when it decays after death, It is either dead or alive to rise if sanctified, to be completely freed from them and join the sheep at the final judgment. He who unites himself in spirit and in body with Christ in this life will be with him in spirit and in body in the life to come. The grace-filled streams of the life-creating Sacramental life of the Mystical Body and Blood of Christ are the well-spring of our eternal joy in the risen Christ and in the contemplation of His glory in the Beatific Vision.

The same consequences of sin, not yet driven out finally from the human race, operate not only in individual people, but through them they are mani­fested in the earthly activity of entire sections of the Church. Heresies, schisms and other groups in the Church that set themselves above the Teachings of the church seeing in their way of life a far more Holy Life than the Church leads us too.

 
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