The Body of Christ
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Simplified
Abiding in Jesus' Body (787-788)
In sharing his mission, Jesus spoke of a more intimate communion: "Abide in me and I in you. I am the vine, you are the branches" (Jn 15:4-5). He announced a real communion between his body and ours. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him" (Jn 6:56).
After the Ascension, Jesus remained with them and even sent his Spirit. By his Spirit, Christ constitutes his mystical body, made up of people called from every nation (Second Vatican Council).
Three Qualities (789)
The Church as Christ's Body has three specific qualities:
- She is one body
- She has Christ as her head
- She is Christ's bride
Unity and Diversity in the Church (790-791)
In the Church, Christ gives his own life to believers through the sacraments. This is especially true of Baptism and the Eucharist (which brings the believer into communion with Christ and with others).
Within the Church's unity, there is a diversity of the Spirit's gifts. This unity stimulates charity ("If one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him") and triumphs over all division. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female for you are all one in Christ Jesus".
Growth in Christ (792-794)
Through the Church, Christ, the head, extends his reign over all things. In the Church, Christ provides the needed help for our growth in him and for mutual assistance toward salvation.
The Whole Christ (795)
The saints are acutely aware that Christ and his Church make up the "whole Christ". "Let us rejoice that we have become Christ, for the fullness of Christ is the head and the members" (St. Augustine).
"Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the holy Church" (Pope St. Gregory the Great).
"Head and members form the same mystical person" (St. Thomas Aquinas).
At her trial, St. Joan of Arc replied, "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing and we shouldn't complicate the matter."
Bride and Bridegroom (796)
This unity between Christ and his is best expressed in the image of bridegroom and bride. John the Baptist called himself, "the friend of the Bridegroom" (Jn 3:29). Jesus called himself the bridegroom (Mk 2:19). The Church is the spotless bride (Rev 22:17). The Church and each believer is a bride "betrothed" to Christ and Christ always cares "for his own body" (Eph 5:29). "As head he calls himself the bridegroom, as body, he calls himself bride" (St. Augustine).
The Temple of the Spirit (797-798)
"What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, the Church" (St. Augustine). By the Spirit, all the parts of the body are joined. "The whole Spirit is in the head (Christ) and in each of the members" (Pope Pius XII). "In the Church there has been deposited the Holy Spirit. Where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit. Where the Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace" (St. Irenaeus).
The Holy Spirit is the principle of the Church's saving action. He works by God's Word, by the sacraments, by the grace of the apostles, by virtues and by charisms.
The Spirit's Gifts for the Church (799-801)
All charisms, extraordinary or simple, are graces of the Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church. Charisms must be accepted with thanksgiving and used for the Church's apostolic vitality. These must be genuine gifts of the Spirit and used with charity (the measure of all charisms).
All charisms must be discerned by the Church's shepherds who have the duty to test all things "so that all charisms work for the common good" (1 Cor 12:7).