The Mystical Body and the Physical Body of Christ

At Assumption University in Bangkok, ThailandIn much of the Latin Church, today is the Feast of the Body of Christ.

The Body of Christ is the physical part of the humanity of Jesus, who was incarnate, God, a worker, a friend, someone knowing sorrow and joy. This is the physical body. It is really present in Heaven and in the Eucharist.

The Body of Christ is the Church, organized as a body with organs and differences, with mutual interactions and some hierarchization amid the splendid brilliance of personal difference. This is the mystical body.

The Eucharist makes the Church. The Real Presence, as Henri Cardinal de Lubac said, is real not only because it is real, but also because it is realizing. It makes real. It builds the Body along the lines of nourishment that constitute the Church as Mystical Body of Christ: “She is therefore holy,” says Blessed Pope Paul VI, “though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity.” The nourishment that the Eucharist gives serves to grow the life of the Church, that is, the life of grace which alone is the Church’s true life.

And the Church makes the Eucharist. It is the Church, in the ministers of the Church (not disconnected from the people assembled around them), who can, by God’s permission and grace, effect the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the altar.

The physical Body makes the mystical. The mystical Body makes the physical. The Body of Christ is present in everyone and anyone in a state of grace. The Body of Christ is present on the altar and in the tabernacle. All of this is designed to grow in “no other life but that of grace,” and it is a communion or union-together of love. Whether it is Christ in our neighbour or Christ in the Real Presence, we can wonder and love; indeed, we are bound to and called by name to wonder and love. The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church. It is at the heart of contemplation, whether that be contemplation of God in himself, of God in Jesus’ humanity, or of God in our neighbour.

May we all have a blessed Corpus Christi.


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