Body of Christ

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The Institution of the Eucharist by Nicolas Poussin, 1640 Nicolas Poussin - The Institution of the Eucharist - WGA18310.jpg
The Institution of the Eucharist by Nicolas Poussin, 1640

In Christian theology, the term Body of Christ has two main but separate meanings: it may refer to Jesus' words over the bread at the celebration of the Jewish feast of Passover that "This is my body" in Luke 22:19–20 (see Last Supper), or it may refer to all individuals who are "in Christ" 1 Corinthians 12:12–14 (see Christian Church).

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Body of Christ may also refer to Christ's post-resurrection body in Heaven.

Christ also associated himself with the poor of the world and this is also called the Body of Christ. “If we truly wish to encounter Christ, we have to touch his body in the suffering bodies of the poor, as a response to the sacramental communion bestowed in the Eucharist. The Body of Christ, broken in the sacred liturgy, can be seen, through charity and sharing, in the faces and persons of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.” said Pope Francis on launching the World Day of the Poor. [1]

There are significant differences in how Christians understand the term as used by Christ at the Last Supper and as developed in Christian theology of the Eucharist. For some it may be symbolic, for others it becomes a more literal or mystical understanding.

As used by Saint Paul in the Pauline epistles The Body of Christ refers to all individuals who "heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit" Ephesians 1:13, "are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" Ephesians 2:22, are "joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" Ephesians 4:16.

In Roman Catholic theology the use of the phrase "mystical body" distinguishes the mystical body of Christ, the Church, from the physical body of Christ, and from a "moral body" such as any club with a common purpose. [2]

The Eucharist and Real Presence

Catholicism

While teaching that in the bread consecrated in the Eucharist there is absolutely no change open to the senses or to scientific investigation, the Catholic Church supports the Real Presence, i.e. that the reality of the bread is changed into that of the body of Christ. The Church teachings refer to this change as one of the "substance" or "transubstantiation". [3] It rejects the term "consubstantiation", which suggests that the substance or reality of the bread remains after the consecration, instead of being converted or changed into that of the body of Christ. At the same time, the Church holds that all that can be examined either directly or by scientific investigation  what in philosophy are called the "accidents" (as opposed to the reality)  remains quite unchanged.

In the Roman Rite, the priest or other minister who gives the consecrated host to a communicant says: "The body of Christ", indicating what is held to be the reality of what is given.

Since the consecrated bread is believed to be the body of Christ and sacred, what remains of the host after celebration of Mass is kept in the church tabernacle. This is primarily for the purpose of taking Communion to the sick, but also to serve as a focal point for private devotion and prayer. On appropriate occasions, there may be public Eucharistic adoration.

Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Church also believes that the Eucharistic elements of bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Christ. It has authoritatively used the term "Transubstantiation" to describe this change, as in The Longer Catechism of The Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church [4] and in the decrees of the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem. [5]

Protestantism

Historically, various Protestant theologians expressed different opinions regarding the Eucharist and the body of Christ. In contrast to Zwingli, Martin Luther reasoned that because divinity involves omnipresence, the body of Christ can be present in the Eucharist because of its participation in the divine nature. [6] A long debate took place between Luther and Zwingli on the issue of omnipresence, with each providing a variety of theological and biblical arguments to support his view. [7]

In current Lutheran teachings, the Body of Christ is used in a somewhat similar form to the Catholic teachings, but the Lutherans reject the Catholic teaching of transubstantiation. For the Lutheran, the Body of Christ is the formal title of the sacramental bread in the Eucharist, as seen in the Lutheran Divine Service. It is also said in the Words of Institution   see Luther's Small Catechism. A similar teaching is taught in various Methodist churches.

John Calvin disagreed with Luther's reasoning about omnipresence and, like Zwingli, argued that human presence requires a specific location. [6] Calvin stated that Christ's body was present in the first Eucharist during the Last Supper, but was thereafter in heaven. [6] [8] Melanchthon was accused of supporting Calvin, and the debates between the various groups eventually caused a further rift between the followers of Luther and Zwingli. [8]

The Church

Catholicism

1 Corinthians, from the Douai Bible, 1749 Challoner Douai Bible (1749).jpg
1 Corinthians, from the Douai Bible, 1749

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.1 Corinthians 12:12–14

The first meaning that Catholics attach to the expression "Body of Christ" is the Catholic Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes with approval, as "summing up the faith of the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer", the reply of Saint Joan of Arc to her judges: "About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they're just one thing, and we shouldn't complicate the matter." [9] In the same passage, it also quotes Saint Augustine: "Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man.... the fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what does 'head and members' mean? Christ and the Church." In light of all this, the Catholic Church calls itself the "universal sacrament of salvation" for the whole world, as it dispenses the sacraments which give the grace of Christ to the recipient.

Saint Paul the Apostle spoke of this unity of Christians with Christ, referred to in the New Testament also in images such as that of the vine and the branches, [10] in terms of a single body that has Christ as its head in Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and 1:24.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "the comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ." [11] The Catechism spells out the significance of each of these three aspects.

To distinguish the Body of Christ in this sense from his physical body, the term "Mystical Body of Christ" is often used. This term was used as the first words, and so as the title, of the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi of Pope Pius XII. In that document, Pope Pius XII in 1943 states, "the mystical Body of Christ... is the Catholic Church." But in 1964 the Catholic bishops gathered at the Second Vatican Council, while acknowledging that “full incorporation” in the Church required union with the Sovereign Pontiff, described various degrees of being “conjoined” or “related” to the Church including all persons of good will, [12] which was not something new. [13] The Council's decree on Ecumenism stated that "all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ's body" (3). [14] Following this understanding, Karl Rahner coined the term “anonymous Christians”. [15]

Eastern Orthodoxy

The Orthodox see the description of the Church ( Ecclessia ) as the "Body of Christ" as being inextricably connected to Holy Communion. According to Saint Ignatius (c. 35–107), the unity of the Church is expressed in Eucharistic terms. Just as there are many offerings made throughout the world on any given day, and yet all partake of one and the same Body of Christ, so the Church, though existing in many separate localities, is only one.

Protestantism

In modern teachings, the "Body of Christ" is used by other Protestants to collectively describe believers in Christ, as opposed to only those who are members of the Catholic Church. In this sense, Christians are members of the universal body of Christ not because of identification with the institution of the Church, but through identification with Christ directly through faith. This theology is based on several passages in the Bible, including Romans 12:5,1 Corinthians 12:12–27, Ephesians 3:6, 4:15-16 and 5:23, Colossians 1:18 and 1:24. Jesus Christ is seen as the "head" of the body, which is the church, while the "members" of the body are seen as members of the Church. In this way, Protestantism defines the "Body of Christ" in a much broader way than does the Catholic Church. This has allowed for a broad base within Christianity to call themselves part of the "Body of Christ."

See also

Related Research Articles

Consubstantiation Christian theological doctrine

Consubstantiation is a Christian theological doctrine that describes the real presence in the Eucharist. It holds that during the sacrament, the substance of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine, which remain present. It was part of the doctrines of Lollardy and considered a heresy by the Roman Catholic Church.

Eucharist Christian rite

The Eucharist is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during a Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.

Transubstantiation Catholic doctrine about the Eucharist

Transubstantiation is, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the change of substance or essence by which the bread and wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In this teaching, the notions of substance and transubstantiation are not linked with any particular theory of metaphysics.

Blessed Sacrament devotional name for the body and blood of Christ

The Blessed Sacrament, also Most Blessed Sacrament, is a devotional name used in the Latin Church of the Catholic Church, as well as in Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Methodism, and the Old Catholic Church, as well as in some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, to refer to the body and blood of Christ in the form of consecrated sacramental bread and wine at a celebration of the Eucharist. In the Byzantine Rite, the terms Holy Gifts and Divine Mysteries are used to refer to the consecrated elements. Christians in these traditions believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic elements of the bread and wine and some of them, therefore, practice Eucharistic reservation and adoration. This belief is based on interpretations of both scripture and sacred tradition. The Catholic understanding has been defined by numerous ecumenical councils, including the Fourth Lateran Council and the Council of Trent, which is quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in Christianity, the doctrine that Jesus Christ is really or substantially present in the Eucharist, not merely symbolically or metaphorically

The real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a term used in Christian theology to express the doctrine that Jesus is really or substantially present in the Eucharist, not merely symbolically or metaphorically.

Sacramental bread Communion bread used in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist (the Lords Supper)

Sacramental bread, sometimes called altar bread, Communion bread, the Lamb or simply the host, is the bread used in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist. Along with sacramental wine, it is one of two "elements" of the Eucharist. The bread may be either leavened or unleavened, depending on tradition.

Marburg Colloquy event

The Marburg Colloquy was a meeting at Marburg Castle, Marburg, Hesse, Germany, which attempted to solve a disputation between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli over the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It took place between 1 October and 4 October 1529. The leading Protestant reformers of the time attended at the behest of Philip I of Hessen. Philip's primary motivation for this conference was political; he wished to unite the Protestant states in political alliance, and to this end, religious harmony was an important consideration.

Words of Institution

The Words of Institution are words echoing those of Jesus himself at his Last Supper that, when consecrating bread and wine, Christian Eucharistic liturgies include in a narrative of that event. Eucharistic scholars sometimes refer to them simply as the verba.

<i>Mystici corporis Christi</i>

Mystici corporis Christi is a papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII on 29 June 1943 during World War II, on the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. It is one of the more important encyclicals of Pius XII because of its topic, the Church, which was strongly debated and further developed in the Second Vatican Council document on the Church, Lumen gentium.

Eucharistic theology branch of Christian theology

Eucharistic theology is a branch of Christian theology which treats doctrines concerning the Holy Eucharist, also commonly known as the Lord's Supper. It exists exclusively in Christianity and related religions, as others generally do not contain a Eucharistic ceremony.

<i>Metousiosis</i>

Metousiosis is a Greek term (μετουσίωσις) that means a change of ousia.

Sacramental union Lutheran doctrine of the real presence

Sacramental union is the Lutheran theological doctrine of the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Christian Eucharist.

Anglican eucharistic theology

Anglican eucharistic theology is diverse in practice, reflecting the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism. Its sources include prayer book rubrics, writings on sacramental theology by Anglican divines, and the regulations and orientations of ecclesiastical provinces. The principal source material is the Book of Common Prayer, specifically its eucharistic prayers and Article XXVIII of the Thirty-Nine Articles. Article XXVIII comprises the foundational Anglican doctrinal statement about the Eucharist, although its interpretation varies among churches of the Anglican Communion and in different traditions of churchmanship such as Anglo-Catholicism and Evangelical Anglicanism.

Blood of Christ concepts in Christianity

Blood of Christ in Christian theology may refer to (a) the physical blood actually shed by Jesus Christ primarily on the Cross, and the salvation which Christianity teaches was accomplished thereby; or (b) the sacramental blood present in the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, which some Christian denominations consider not to be the same blood of Christ shed on the Cross.

Eucharist in the Catholic Church

The Eucharist in the Catholic Church is a sacrament celebrated as "the source and summit" of the Christian life. The Eucharist is celebrated daily during the celebration of Mass, the eucharistic liturgy. The term Eucharist is also used for the bread and wine when transubstantiated, according to Catholic teaching, into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. "At the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic sacrifice of his Body and Blood."

The invisible church or church invisible is a theological concept of an "invisible" Christian Church of the elect who are known only to God, in contrast to the "visible church"—that is, the institutional body on earth which preaches the gospel and administers the sacraments. Every member of the invisible church is saved, while the visible church contains some individuals who are saved and others who are unsaved. According to this view, Bible passages such as Matthew 7:21-27, Matthew 13:24-30, and Matthew 24:29-51 speak about this distinction.

Theology of Huldrych Zwingli Theological view that considered scripture a higher authority then the church fathers

The theology of Huldrych Zwingli was based on the Bible, taking scripture as the inspired word of God and placing its authority higher than what he saw as human sources such as the ecumenical councils and the church fathers. He also recognised the human element within the inspiration noting the differences in the canonical gospels. Zwinglianism is the Reformed confession based on the Second Helvetic Confession promulgated by Zwingli's successor Heinrich Bullinger in the 1560s.

Sacrament sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance

A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Many Christians consider the sacraments to be a visible symbol of the reality of God, as well as a means by which God enacts his grace. Many denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed, hold to the definition of sacrament formulated by Augustine of Hippo: an outward sign of an inward grace that has been instituted by Jesus Christ. Sacraments signify God's grace in a way that is outwardly observable to the participant.

Lords Supper in Reformed theology

In Reformed theology, the Lord's Supper or Eucharist is a sacrament that spiritually nourishes Christians and strengthens their union with Christ. The outward or physical action of the sacrament is eating bread and drinking wine. Reformed confessions, which are official statements of the beliefs of Reformed churches, teach that Christ's body and blood are really present in the sacrament, but that this presence is communicated in a spiritual manner rather than by his body being physically eaten. The Reformed doctrine of real presence is sometimes called mystical real presence or spiritual real presence.

Stercoranism is a supposed belief or doctrine attributed reciprocally to the other side by those who in the eleventh century upheld and those who denied that the bread and wine offered in the Eucharist become in substance, but not in form, the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

References

  1. McElwee, Joshua J. (13 June 2017). "Launching World Day of the Poor, Francis says 'no Christian may disregard' serving them". National Catholic Reporter.
  2. Mystici corporis Christi , a papal encyclical issued by Pope Pius XII, sections 60–62
  3. Council of Trent, The Thirteenth Session Archived February 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  4. "The bread and wine are changed, or transubstantiated, into the very Body of Christ, and into the very Blood of Christ" (question 339).
  5. "In the celebration (of the Eucharist) we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present, not typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose, but truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptised in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sitteth at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world." (Decree XVII)
  6. 1 2 3 The Encyclopedia of Protestantism by Hans Joachim Hillerbrand 2003 ISBN   0-415-92472-3 page 676
  7. James A. Wylie (2002), The History of Protestantism ISBN   0-923309-80-2, pp. 595–596
  8. 1 2 The Blackwell Companion to Protestantism by Alister E. McGrath, Darren C. Marks 2003 ISBN   0-631-23278-8 page 27
  9. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 795 Archived December 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. John 15:4–5
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 789 Archived December 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  12. Vatican II Decree on the Church
  13. Lumen Gentium, Chapter 2, Footnote 19.
  14. "Unitatis redintegratio". www.vatican.va. Retrieved 2019-09-24.
  15. Anonymous Christians

Further reading