Reflections on Lumen Gentium, Part 7

7. In the human nature united to Himself the Son of God, by overcoming death through His own death and resurrection, redeemed humankind and re-molded human beings into a new creation.(50) By communicating His Spirit, Christ made His brothers and sisters, called together from all nations, mystically the components of His own Body.

In that Body the life of Christ is poured into the believers who, through the sacraments, are united in a hidden and real way to Christ who suffered and was glorified.(6*) Through Baptism we are formed in the likeness of Christ: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body”.(51) In this sacred rite a oneness with Christ’s death and resurrection is both symbolized and brought about: “For we were buried with Him by means of Baptism into death”; and if “we have been united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be so in the likeness of His resurrection also”.(52) Really partaking of the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up into communion with Him and with one another. “Because the bread is one, we though many, are one body, all of us who partake of the one bread”.(53) In this way all of us are made members of His Body,(54) “but severally members one of another”.(55) (7*)

As all the members of the human body, though they are many, form one body, so also are the faithful in Christ.(56) Also, in the building up of Christ’s Body various members and functions have their part to play. There is only one Spirit who, according to His own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives His different gifts for the welfare of the Church.(57) What has a special place among these gifts is the grace of the apostles to whose authority the Spirit Himself subjected even those who were endowed with charisms.(58) Giving the body unity through Himself and through His power and inner joining of the members, this same Spirit produces and urges love among the believers. From all this it follows that if one member endures anything, all the members co-endure it, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.(59)

The Head of this Body is Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and in Him all things came into being. He is before all creatures and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body which is the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the first place.(60) By the greatness of His power He rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with His all-surpassing perfection and way of acting He fills the whole body with the riches of His glory.

All the members ought to be molded in the likeness of Him, until Christ be formed in them.(62) For this reason we, who have been made to conform with Him, who have died with Him and risen with Him, are taken up into the mysteries of His life, until we will reign together with Him.(63) On earth, still as pilgrims in a strange land, tracing in trial and in oppression the paths He trod, we are made one with His sufferings like the body is one with the Head, suffering with Him, that with Him we may be glorified.(64)

From Him “the whole body, supplied and built up by joints and ligaments, attains a growth that is of God”.(65) He continually distributes in His body, that is, in the Church, gifts of ministries in which, by His own power, we serve each other unto salvation so that, carrying out the truth in love, we might through all things grow unto Him who is our Head.(66)

In order that we might be unceasingly renewed in Him,(67) He has shared with us His Spirit who, existing as one and the same being in the Head and in the members, gives life to, unifies and moves through the whole body. This He does in such a way that His work could be compared by the holy Fathers with the function which the principle of life, that is, the soul, fulfills in the human body.(8*)

Christ loves the Church as His bride, having become the model of a man loving his wife as his body;(68) the Church, indeed, is subject to its Head.(69) “Because in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”,(70) He fills the Church, which is His body and His fullness, with His divine gifts (71) so that it may expand and reach all the fullness of God.(72)

50 Cf. Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17.

51 1 Cor. 12:13.

52 Rom. 6:15.

53 1 Cor. 10:17.

54 Cf. 1 Cor 12:27.

55 Rom. 12:5.

56 Cf. 1 Cor. 12:12.

57 Cf. 1 Cor. 12.1-11.

58 Cf. 1 Cor. 14.

59 Cf. l Cor. 12:26.

60 Cf. Col. 1:15-18.

61 Cf. Eph. 1:18-23.

62 Cf. Gal. 4:19.

63 Cf. Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 2:11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12 etc.

64 Cf. Rom. 8:17.

65 Col. 2:19.

66 Cf. Eph. 4:11-16.

67 Cf. Eph. 4:23.

68 Cf. Eph. 5:25-28.

69 Ibid. 23-24.

70 Col. 2:9.

71 Cf. Eph. 1:22-23.

72 Cf. Eph. 3:19.

(6) Cfr. S. Thomas, Sumtna Theol. III, q. 62, a. 5, ad 1.

(7) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl Mystici Corporis, 29 iun. 1943 AAS 35 (1943), p. 208.

(8) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl Divinum illud, 9 maii 1897: AAS 29 (1896-97) p. 6S0. Pius XII, Litt Encyl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp 219-220; Denz. 2288 (3808).S. Augustinus, Serm. 268, 2: PL 38 232, ct alibi. S. Io. Chrysostomus n Eph. Hom. 9, 3: PG 62, 72. idymus Alex., Trin. 2, 1: PG 39 49 s. S. Thomas, In Col. 1, 18 cet. 5 ed. Marietti, II, n. 46-Sieut constituitur unum eorpus ex nitate animae, ita Ecelesia ex unil atc Spiritus…..

 

In this paragraph, the Council Fathers first summarize the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ: By way of the Incarnation, Christ assuming a human nature and body, Christ becomes one with us. By His life lived in perfect obedience to the will of the Father even unto death (Rom. 5:19; Phil. 2:8), Christ overcame death and was exalted, thus redeeming humanity from sin and making of us all a new creation in God. Then, sending His Holy Spirit, He made us members of His Body. We are the Body of Christ, and Christ is the Head of the Body. We are united in Christ’s Body by the Holy Spirit, for as the soul is for the human body, so is the Holy Spirit for the Body of Christ. Pope Leo XIII said, “If Christ is the Head of the Church, the Holy Spirit is her soul.”

By the Body of Christ, the Church, we are given access to God’s grace through the sacraments. By receiving the grace of God through the sacraments, we are united to Christ, both in His suffering and in His glory. By the first sacrament, Baptism, we are made one with Christ by the washing away of Original Sin and the infusion of the life of God into our souls. As such, we are made one with the other members of the Body of Christ, who have also been graced with the life of God in their souls. A sacrament effects what it symbolizes. So Baptism, which symbolizes our going down into the grave with Christ and rising to new life in Christ, effects our rising to new life in Christ (Rom. 6:15). The Eucharist, as well, unites us as members of the Body of Christ. Just as the bread is one, so we who share in the divine bread, the Body of Christ, are united as members of the one Body. Because the bread (Christ) is one, we who partake are one (1 Cor. 10:17). The word communion means just that “one union,” one Body in Christ.

The Council Fathers recognize the oneness of the entire human community. Just as all people are one under God, so all the members of the Church are one in the Body of Christ. What’s more, each has a role to play in the Body, just as each of the individual members of the human body have their functions, so the members of the Body of Christ have their roles (1 Cor. 12:1-11). These roles are assigned by the Holy Spirit, according to the gifts He gives, but each role, each gift, is assigned or given for the sake of the entire Church. So, whatever gift one has, it is not cause for boasting or for regarding oneself as of more importance than another. Each has a role, each has a gift. But, these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, not for one’s own benefit, but for the sake of the entire Church. Even still, a special place among the members of the Body is reserved for those who are given the grace of the apostles, that is, the bishops, who are the successors of the apostles. These men have the gift, given by the Holy Spirit for the benefit of the entire Church, to teach , sanctify and govern with authority. This same Spirit who assigns roles and bestows gifts has given to the entire Church the gift of love. So, we should love one another, united as we are in Christ. If one member, no matter how small, should suffer, we all suffer. If one member, no matter how great, is honored, we are all honored and rejoice. It is essential to remember that the roles and gifts of the Holy Spirit are given for the benefit of the entire Church. Rather than inspiring a sense of competition or status among us, they ought to inspire a love for each other, as they are given by the God who loves us all for the benefit of all.

Christ is the Head of the Body, the Head of the Church. We are glorified because He is glorified. We are holy because He is holy. We are baptized into the Body are conformed to the image of Christ. We have died with Him. We have been raised with Him. The life of Christ, the mission of Christ, is our mission. In carrying out that mission here on earth, there will be suffering. We cannot expect to be free from suffering when the Savior we serve suffered. Christ suffered, I think, because He was perfectly faithful to the will of the Father. The world would not tolerate such a life. We are called to imitate Christ in perfect faithfulness to the will of the Father. The world will not tolerate us, either. So, we can expect to suffer. We see this in the lives of the saints. Look to the saints! Have any avoided suffering? Many suffered at the hands of the world, but just as many suffered at the hands of the Church! Even in the Church there are those who cannot and will not tolerate perfect faithfulness to the will of the Father. This is sad, and can even be scandalous, but to be expected, as Christ warned us that there would be weeds among the wheat. But, more than that, there are those in the Church who are not weeds, but who have yet to fully understand what it means to be perfectly faithful to Christ. As the Church, we unite our sufferings with the sufferings of Christ, that we may be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).

Today, the Church is suffering in many parts of the world, but especially in those countries dominated by radical Islam and Communism. In the Middle East and China, especially, Christians face forced conversion, forced deportation, imprisonment, and even martyrdom. Even here in the United States and throughout the West Christians face discrimination in the face of a secular agenda that would have the Church silenced and our institutions closed. We need to support our confreres in those countries where physical imprisonment and death are a very real threat, as well as be willing to fight to keep our freedoms intact and our institutions viable as witnesses to the values of the Gospel.

Aid to the Church in Need is a Vatican organization that assists Christians around the world facing persecution. They can be contacted at:

https://www.churchinneed.org/

Alliance Defending Freedom and Thomas More Law Center are two organizations that work to protect and preserve the freedoms of Christians in the United States. They can be contacted at:

https://www.adflegal.org

https://www.thomasmore.org/

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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