+Fourth Sunday in Advent+
In Part I, Revs. Mersch and Gruden define the functions of Christ’s Mystical Body among its members. For ease of reference, a summary of these points is presented below.
“First [Christ’s Mystical Body] will be an empirical, concrete, visible, tangible thing… for it is a human institution, a human society. And it is a society quite visibly and tangibly. Its sociology and Canon Law can be written down, it has its clearly defined members and its definite seat. Secondly the Church will be an invisible reality; a life of thought, love and grace that is infused into souls… THE EXPRESSION ‘MYSTICAL BODY’ DESIGNATES THE MYSTERIOUS AND INTERIOR ELEMENT OF THE CHURCH… it does not designate the external aspect of body except so far as it is the outward manifestation of the interior soul which consists in such a mystery… It is a union… primarily internal and supernatural. It is the supernatural union of the sanctified soul with Christ and with all other sanctified souls in Christ… The bonds that unite Christians to Christ and to one another are organic, physical, sacramental, although supernatural and invisible…
“The communion of saints is an invisible society, a “Church” or “ecclesia” in the broad sense, a moral body. Its invisible, moral, or juridical head is the glorified or exalted Christ.
Besides the many or multiple external visible elements, clergy and laity, hierarchical structure, sacraments, sacramentals, etc., the Church must possess an inner element which, intimately united to the visible elements, must be the formal cause of the unity and identity of the organism, formal cause, too, of its own peculiar life which is supernatural and divine… The invisible elements which, figuratively speaking, we call the soul of the Church, form together with the visible elements, its body, one undivided and indivisible whole, informed and vivified by the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. This living visible organism, of which the Holy Spirit is the soul in the real but mystical sense, is the Mystical Body of Christ, or the mystical Christ…” (end of Gruden/Mersch quotes).
What this tells us is that independent of the juridical, external aspect of the Church, it is Her inner life and the union and cooperation of Her members that is the formal cause of her unity and identity, NOT Her external attributes. This means that the Church, which IS Christ’s Mystical Body, survives in all Her essentials even without Her visible head on earth, the Pope, or the hierarchy, (although of course at all other times these elements are strictly required in the Church unless God wills otherwise, which He apparently does in these times). That She can and does so survive is Christ’s promise to us that the Church, HIS BODY, as defined by Pope Pius XII, will last into the consummation and that He will be with us until the earth is destroyed by fire and all the faithful are gathered up to Him. That the functionality of this super-naturalized state of the Church was reserved until the end times is clear from Holy Scripture, which tells us that the papacy, the Mass and hence the Sacraments will be taken way. Further proofs of this are provided below as well as a commentary on the role of the laity as apostles today.
The Formation of a Lay Apostle, Francis N. Wendell, O.P., 1954
I am the Church
“Lay people generally think of themselves as belonging to the Church. When they begin to get the concept that they are the Church they begin to be lay apostles. The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ is at the very heart of the lay apostolate. Christ is still living in the world in another body, it is true, a mystical, a mysterious body. The Catholic Church is not just an organization but an organism, a living body, a body with life that is Divine. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ . . . ‘I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.’ ‘I am . . . the Life.’ The impact of these ideas is tremendous. Christ lives in me, a layman, an ordinary worker, or as a man said to me just recently, ‘Just imagine, someone asked my advice and I am only a taxicab driver.’ There is revolution here, revolution in the sense that one’s life begins to be important. Christ living in me, this is revolution. ‘We need not fear the revolution, we are the revolution.’
“With all this there come two clear, distinct revelations. First, I am related to Christ, He is the Head of the Body and I am a member of His Body, the Church. He is my friend, I walk and talk with Him as Adam walked and talked with God in the cool and shade of the evening, as a friend. The doctrine of grace. Friendship with God — playing, as someone has said, in a league that is over one’s head. The second realization for the layman is almost as important. I am related to all the other members of the body… either actually or potentially, the good and the bad. We are all one in Christ Jesus our Head. I must love them all. The good I must love for their goodness which they get from Christ. The bad I must love for their need. The Jew I must love because God made him and he might someday enjoy membership in the Body. There is no color in the Mystical Body, the yellow, the red, the black and the white are all one in Christ.
“The discovery of this doctrine opens up a tremendous field for the lay apostle. He begins to see — I am responsible for others because I am related to them. I have the greatest gift in the world, actual membership in Christ’s Body, but that Body must grow and I must help it to grow. Therein lies my apostolate… I must exercise my apostolate as a layman, doing all the things that I am required to do as a layman. Yet it is not my apostolate but His…
“’What is needed,” said His Holiness Pope Pius XII in 1949, in speaking of the Young Christian Workers, ‘is the active presence in factories and work places, of pioneers who are fully conscious of their double vocation — as Christians and workers — and who are bent on assuming their responsibilities to the full, knowing neither peace nor rest until they have transformed the environment of their lives to the demands of the Gospel. The Church, by this positive, constructive work, will be able to extend her life-giving action to the millions of souls for whom she has a maternal and ardent solicitude.’ The lay person must be apprised of the fact that it is in the very accomplishing of the ordinary things of life that he becomes holy. The traveling to work, the making of the baby’s formula, the rendering of an honest day’s work, all these are the warp and woof out of which lay sanctity is woven.
“Mary [is the] Mediatrix of All Graces… All graces come into the world through her as through a channel. He ties this up with his knowledge, also growing, of the Mystical Body and he suddenly realizes that she also plays a part in that Body. Christ is the Head, we the members, and she, as one of the Fathers of the Church pointed out, is the neck uniting the Head to the members.”
The Path of Mary, Mother Mary Potter, 1878
“In a remarkable French work, a beautiful explanation of [the Mystical Body] may be found…: “According to the explanation of some of the Fathers, the first man that is born in Mary is the man-God Jesus Christ; the second is a mere man, the child of God and Mary by adoption. If Jesus Christ, the Head of men, is born in her, the predestinate who are the members of that head ought also to be born in her by a necessary consequence. One and the same mother does not bring forth into the world the head without the members nor the members without the head, for this would be a monster of nature. So in like manner, in the order of grace, the head and the members are born of one and the same mother; and if a member of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is to say one of the predestinate, was born of any other mother than Mary, who has produced the Head, he would be simply a monster in the order of grace. Saint Augustine affirms that all the predestinate, in order to be conformed to the image of the son of God, are, in the world, hidden in the womb of the most holy Virgin where they are guarded, nourished, brought up and made to grow by that great Mother until she has brought them forth to glory after death. God the Son wishes to form Himself, and, so to speak, to Incarnate Himself every day by His dear Mother in His members.”
The Theology of the Mystical Body by Emile Mersch S.J., 1951
“We do not say that explicit submission to the external teaching authority is the only condition that makes an act of supernatural faith possible. If this were so, the souls of good will that are outside the Catholic Church could have no faith. Nor do we say that attachment to the bishops and the Pope regarded as persons who exercise an external office is enough to establish us formally on the immovable rock of truth. What we are trying to bring out is that this point of view is not adequate. The Church is Christ and Christ is God. When the Church as such speaks, we need not pursue our investigations further. All we have to do is believe, and the one we believe is God. Since the time of the Incarnation, God is not other than Christ and since Pentecost Christ is not other than the Church; on the one side hypostatic unity, on the other side mystic unity. But in both cases the unity is real… We should think with Christ, in Him and in dependence on Him. He stands before us very near, real and attentive in the magisterium of the Church. He is there to deliver to us the data of our undertaking to sustain our effort to correct our wanderings if the need should arise and to approve the result. What more could we desire? If we approach the work with a craven or irresolute spirit, the fault is none of His, for we ought to perform the task in Him.
“The part played by man in the vitality of Christian teaching is very great and we do well to assure ourselves on that point. To appreciate the fact better, have we noticed how important it was in the very founding of the Church? Jesus came to establish the Catholic Church on earth, but the ones who actually established it were men. Christ himself hardly preached to anyone except the lost sheep of the House of Israel and during His mortal life He sent his disciples nowhere except to the villages of Palestine, directing them not to travel the roads of Samaria or to cross over to the pagan districts. He himself apparently wished to do no more than train the apostles and to make ready to see that later, under His hidden action and His bidding, would [the seed be sown] to spread the gospel over all the earth. In point of fact, truly Catholic preaching, the diffusion of the true doctrine, is the work of the Church, not of Christ. Or better it is the work of Christ in the Church. The body of Christ has built itself up; as Saint Paul says it has achieved its own construction and growth. But it was able to do so because it was attached to the Head and possesses the real, though invisible, power of the Head.
“A Christian is a member of the Mystical Body not by his own effort but through Christ. On the other hand the act of knowing, which is a function of being, is construed as the being that knows. Consequently, although the Christian truly knows, he knows not of himself but through Christ. But Christ who lives in souls by His anointing and His living truth does not express Himself outwardly and authentically except in the teaching authority of the Church. Therefore this anointing, this living truth, in a word this Christian life, appeals to the teaching authority when it appeals to Christ and its voice is lifted up in the councils: ‘Peter, teach us; you have the words of eternal life and you have them for me’” (end of Mersch quotes).
The Mystical Christ, Rev. John C. Gruden, S.T.L., 1938
“The supreme visible pastor of the Church is the successor of St. Peter, the bishop of Rome. He is head of the episcopal body just as St. Peter was head of the apostolic college, and, being head of the hierarchy of jurisdiction, he is also juridic head of the Church. This honor and dignity belongs to him because he is bishop of the see which St. Peter had chosen as his own and occupied at the time of his death.
“The bishop of Rome is vicar of Christ and as such possesses primacy of jurisdiction, that is, he has supreme and immediate jurisdiction over the universal Church. It is his right and privilege to feed and to shepherd, to teach and to rule, Christ’s whole flock. This position of the pope as visible, juridic head of the Church is in no way derogatory to the honor of Christ as invisible head of his visible Mystical Body. Christ is head of the Church in the full and proper sense (sensu pleno et proprio) because he is head as both priest and pastor. The pope, on the other hand, is head of the Church, the Mystical Body, not because he is visible high priest but because he is supreme visible shepherd. The bishop of Rome possesses no more of Christ’s priesthood than other validly consecrated bishops of the Christian world. In fact, the pope in his capacity as supreme visible pastor need not be a priest at all.
“The immediate or proximate purpose of the priesthood and the pastorate is the sanctification of the members of the Mystical Body. The ultimate or remote purpose is the same as that of the mystical organism of which they are constituent elements and of all creation, namely, to give honor and glory to God by leading men from a life of grace here below into a life of glory in the kingdom of God in the world to come. When this purpose will have been realized, when this present order will have passed away and the destinies of men will have been forever sealed for weal or for woe, THE PRIESTHOOD AND THE PASTORATE OF THE CHURCH WILL ALSO PASS. THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST IS NOT AN ETERNAL FOUNDATION; IT WILL LAST ONLY UNTIL THE WORK WHICH IT HAS BEEN FASHIONED TO PERFORM HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED. When the created grace of Christ the head, measured out by the hand of the heavenly Father, will, as it were, have been exhausted, when the pleroma of Christ of which the apostle speaks will have been achieved, THEN THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH WILL CEASE TO EXIST. Then will the kingdom of God on earth — the mystical, visible, body of Christ, the Church — with its multiple functions and its variously articulated offices cede to a new order, the kingdom of God in the world to come.
“Multiplicity will give way to simplicity. The various visible sacramental accommodations by which men were brought into the pure vision of an all-holy God, will disappear. Of sacraments and of the Eucharistic sacrifice there will no longer be any need, for grace will have been brought to full, verdant fruition in the light of glory. For a complicated hierarchy of jurisdiction with its twofold authority of magisterium and imperium there will likewise be no more need, for men will see the Light, the heavenly magnetism of which will prevent them from ever wandering from its thrall; they will see God ‘even as He is.’ ‘Then shall the just,’ says our Lord, ‘shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.’
“The kingdom of God will enter upon its final phase on the day of judgment when in the sight of all men the good will be separated from the bad, the just from the wicked, as men separate wheat from darnel, sheep from goats. The final judgment is certain although no one knows the day and the hour, ‘but the Father alone’; it will come at an unexpected time as a thief in the night. The day of the judgment will see the inauguration of the new kingdom of God in the world to come. The New Jerusalem will then have sprung into being. The old Jerusalem, the city built of living stones, the Church, the mystical Christ, will have done perfectly the work appointed; redemption will have been fully accomplished even to the resurrection of the flesh, and God will be all in all” (end of Gruden quotes).
And Henry Cardinal Manning says much the same. He writes in his Temporal Power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ, written in the late 1800s: “Yet the event may come to pass that as our divine Lord after His three years of public ministry were ended, delivered Himself of His own free will into the hands of men and thereby permitted them to do that which was before impossible; so, in His inscrutable wisdom, He may deliver over His Vicar upon earth as He delivered Himself, and that the providential support of the temporal power of the Holy See may be withdrawn when its work is done. What that work is we know from Holy Scripture: it is the support and maintenance of the present Christian order of the world during such time as the grace of God is gathering out His people until the whole number of those whom He have chosen to the eternal life is filled up. It may be that when that is done and when the times of Antichrist are come that He will give over His Vicar upon earth and his Mystical Body at large” (for a certain time).
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us: “The state of the New Law is intermediate between the state of the Old Law… and the state of glory, in which all truth will be fully and perfectly manifested. Then there will be no more sacraments; but now, inasmuch as we see only through a glass darkly, we have to enter into spiritual things through sensible signs” (Summa Theologica, Part 3, Q. 61, Art. 4; Necessity of the Sacraments after Christ’s Coming). We must learn to love and adore God in these times without the sacred means He provided us for nearly two millennia, the Mass and the Sacraments. It is not a deprivation and should never be interpreted as such, although we believe the cessation of the continual magisterium and the continual Sacrifice was in part a punishment for the sins of those who neglected to take advantage of the rich treasury of Eucharistic graces and properly thank God for the ability to do so.
St. Thomas enlightens us further on this subject by explaining that there are five reasons why God sends us chastisements: “To try and to test, to preserve humility, to purify, to give glory to God and to punish the wicked,” (H. B. Kramer’s The Book of Destiny, pg. 109). If we have been wicked, (and through the sin of communicatio in sacris, this can be said to be true of all of us), yes, it is a punishment. But it was also a trial and a test, to see if we would repent and remain faithful to Our Lord. And it was sent to help us arrive at humility by admitting our mistakes and sins; to purify us and give glory to God by accepting and promoting the truth. Only in Heaven will the truth be fully known, but we must use the gifts and graces God has provided us to determine it as far as we are able on this earth, according to the teachings of His Vicars.
Either we are being offered a foretaste of life in our Eternal Home, and the Church will eventually be restored, (although the prospects of this appear dim); or we are being prepared for the end of the world proper and the commencement of the life to come in a very intimate way. The latter could very well be true since St. Thomas Aquinas also says: “Although men be terrified by the signs appearing about the judgment day, yet before those signs begin to appear the wicked will think themselves to be in peace and security after the death of Antichrist and before the coming of Christ, seeing that the world is not at once destroyed as they thought hitherto” (Summa Theologica, Supplement, 73: 1). If it is true that Paul 6 was the Antichrist, the Man of Sin, and we cannot see how it could be otherwise, then it is very likely that we live in this time-period St. Thomas describes.
So in summary, if the assessment of Rev. Gruden is taken seriously, at any time Christ can decide that the time allotted to the Church He established on earth has come to an end and its work on earth is completed. And that time could only naturally coincide with the coming of Antichrist, because this is the only time in Holy Scripture when the saints are said to be utterly crushed and overcome. In Matt. 24:21, Christ warns us these times would be like no other in history. Despite what Traditionalists say, there can be no comparison of this interregnum to the Western Schism, because a true pope reigned all along in those times, although his identity was unknown to the faithful. Only by ignoring Christ’s warning, the prophecies found in Holy Scripture and the teachings of the Church can Catholics dismiss the clear signs that we are living in the end times. That they cannot dismiss their prejudices, fueled by the deliberate diffusion of disinformation and overreliance on private revelations, fulfills the predictions involving the operation of error.
One Vatican Council teaching often cited as proof this could not be the case is that regarding the Church’s perpetuity. The Vatican Council in 1870 taught that “…Blessed Peter has (not “will have”) perpetual successors in the primacy over the universal Church — Si quis ergo dixerit, non esse ex ipsius Christi Domini institutione seu iure divino, ut beatus Petrus in primatu super universain Ecclesiam habeat perpetuos successores; aut Romanum Pontificem non esse beati Petri hi eodem primatu successorem; anathema sit.” (DZ 1825). Habeat = he has (present tense — subjunctive because it follows dixerit according to sequence of tenses). Future tense (he will have) = habebit. He must have = debeat habere. (This was first pointed out by Hutton Gibson in his The War is Now.) Gibson observed: “The Church can oblige us only to Scriptural prophecy (such as St. Paul’s revolt).” The Church WILL last until the very end; precisely HOW She will last has never been specifically defined by the Church.
And Henry Cardinal Manning’s translation of the Vatican Council documents found in the appendix to his work The Vatican Council Definitions is even less clear: “If then, any should deny that it is by the institution of Christ the Lord, or by divine right, that Blessed Peter should have a perpetual line of successors in the Primacy over the Universal Church, or that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of Blessed Peter in this primacy; let him be anathema.” Should, as found in Webster’s 7th Collegiate Dictionary, is defined as “owed or obliged to; used in auxiliary function to express a condition, “if he shall” (1), or what is probable or expected (4). Again, why is this not clearly expressed as “will have”? Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton also wrote: “This Church is meant… to endure until the end of the world” (Laying the Foundations, A Handbook of Catholic Apologetics and Fundamental Theology, 1942). It will endure as a spiritual entity, but in God’s way, not ours.
This has to do with the dogma regarding free will. How could this dogma ever be upheld if it was once granted we could always be assured that a Church left dependent by Our Lord on the good will of men for its continuance would never betray Her? Was not He Himself betrayed? And even aside from this, how could the Scriptures regarding the cessation of the Sacrifice, the taking away of he who withholdeth and the overcoming of the saints during Antichrist’s reign ever be fulfilled unless the Church was “taken way,” as St. Victorinus says? Prejudices regarding the fulfillment of these prophecies is what keeps Catholics from realizing their fulfillment, as Rev. Goffine explains below.
Rev. Leonard Goffine, Quinquagesima Sunday
(Gospel commentary on Luke 18: 31-43)
Why did Our Saviour so often predict His sufferings to His apostles?
- To show that He already knew of them, thereby indicating His omniscience; and that,
- He desired to suffer.
- In order that His disciples should not be scandalized at His humiliation, nor think evil of Him as if He had deceived them, but, by remembering His words, be rather confirmed in their belief in Him as the Son of God and Redeemer of the world.
Did not the apostles understand anything of what He thus predicted in regard to His sufferings?
They may have known that He was to suffer, for St. Peter undertook to dissuade Him from it (Matt. xvi. 22), but they could not reconcile these predictions with their expectation of a future glorious kingdom. Nor would we be able to cast off our prejudices, and understand the truths of the faith, however plainly taught, were we not enlightened by the Holy Ghost.”
All this is also explained in Matt. 26 and John 18-19, regarding Christ’s arrest, Passion and death. Scripture must be fulfilled, and all that is now being done on this earth must fulfill it — this is the passion of Christ’s Mystical Body. And yet the anticipation of a glorious rebirth of the Church has blinded many to the reality of Antichrist’s reign, and all the signs that the Second Coming is undeniably near. In celebrating Christ’s birth this 2,022nd year of our Lord, let us not forget that He must first be born anew in our hearts in order that, joined to His Mystical Body, we may be gathered up, (Matthew 24:26-31; Luke 21:25-28): “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light. And the stars of heaven shall be falling down, and the powers that are in heaven, shall be moved. And then shall they see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, with great power and glory. And then shall he send his angels and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.”