Skip to main content

Mystical Body of Christ

MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST

The phrase "Body of Christ," as applied to the Church, is both Pauline and patristic, but the adjectival modifier "mystical" is neither. As far as known, the phrase "Mystical Body" is first used to designate the militant Church in Latin theological writings of the second half of the 12th century; and the first official document using it is Boniface VIII's bull Unam Sanctam (Nov. 18, 1302, H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum 87075). From the time of the Eucharistic controversies in the 9th century until c. 1150, the Latin phrase Corpus mysticum occurs frequently, but it always means Christ's Eucharistic Body. In this Eucharistic meaning there is at work a profound awareness, chiefly Augustinian in inspiration, of the intimate link between Christ's Eucharistic (i.e., mystical) Body, and his Church Body, often called at this time Christ's true Body (verum Corpus ). The connection is this: the mystical Eucharistic Body, as a sacramental mystery, both signifies and realizes the "true" or Church-Body of Christ. From c. 1150 onward, beren- garius's errors touching Christ's Eucharistic Presence occasioned by way of reaction such an emphasis on the identity of Christ's Eucharistic Body with his "physical" Body (see Enchiridion symbolorum 700), that the Eucharist began to be called Christ's "true" Body (verum Corpus ); and, by a gradual inversion of the two earlier formulas, Christ's Church-Body began to be called his Mystical Body to distinguish it from his true physical Body present in the Eucharist. At first, the qualifier "mystical," applied to the Church-Body, kept its traditional Eucharistic resonances; the Church-Body is thought of as a "mystically" or sacramentally signified and realized Body. With the passage of time, however, this Eucharistic sense of the qualifier "mystical" gradually disappeared. In St. Thomas this dissociation of the adjective "mystical" from its Eucharistic context seems already well begun (see Summa theologiae 3, 8.1 and8.3); and by the time of the Reformation the Eucharistic connection was wholly lost. For the meaning attached to the term in the early 20th century, see Pius XII's encyclical mystici corporis, par. 58.

St. Paul. Exegetes are not wholly agreed (1) on the origin and meaning of the Pauline theme "Body of Christ;" (2) on the relation between 1 Cor and Rom, where the theme occurs only occasionally, and later epistles such as Col and Eph, where the theme is central and combined with the new themes of "Head" and "fullness."

Origin of Theme. Some exegetes see its origin in the popular Stoic commonplace likening the cosmos or the state to an organism (see 1 Cor 12.1230; Rom 12.45), while others prefer to appeal to the Gnostic myth-motif of the Primal Heavenly Man. Still the most distinctively important elements of the Pauline Body of Christ theme are to be found within the resources of Christian revelation and life, and within the framework of Judaic habits of thought and of expression.

In his presentation of salvation history St. Paul sees Christ as the countertype of adam. Just as "the first man, Adam" (1 Cor 15.45) was the head of humankind in its catastrophic fall, so Christ, "the last Adam, became a life-giving spirit" (ibid.) to the new humankind, restored according to "the likeness of the heavenly man" (1 Cor 15.49; see Rom 8.29. See in general 1 Cor 15.2028; 4549; Rom 5.1221). Because Christ, risen and glorified after the victory in his own Body-Person over sin and death, is "the beginning" (Col 1.18; 1 Cor 15.20, 23), i.e., not merely a fresh start in time, but a total fontal beginning of new life, he is the Head of the new humanity in whom all live anew.

In this Adam-Christ parallel St. Paul is using a Hebraic category of thought, namely, the so-called "corporate or inclusive personality." To the Hebraic mind the father-head of a family or nation is looked on as fulfilling a real-representative role compassing and including all his issue; he acts in their name and stead and holds their destiny in his own person and work. His descendants in turn are their forefather, in the sense that his destiny unfolds itself in their lives. This conceptual framework enabled the Hebrew to pass in thought and language from the One to the Many in him, and vice versa. Such inclusiveness, when applied to Christ's Person and work, supposes his oneness with human flesh and blood, but is grounded primarily in his mission, held from his Father, to be the one who is the beginning of the new age and the new creation; whose saving acts, once done in history's center, have meaning and make destiny for the Many compassed in his Body-Person; and whose Spirit-filled Humanity is now in glory qualified to invest sacramentally the Many, as they appear in the unfolding of time, with the new life which is his once and forever.

To appreciate the realism of St. Paul's soteriology, one must recognize how forcefully he stresses the role of the human being Jesus in salvation history (see Rom 5.15; 1 Cor 15.21; 15.47; 1 Timothy 2.5). To St. Paul salvation in Christ is neither Greek nor Gnostic in aiming at any final emancipation from the body; rather it presses for the integral renewal of the "old man" in totality. This is possible only through union with the human being Jesus and with his saving work, wrought in his Body-Person; this is possible only through a sharing in his passage from his lowly Body of death, wholly like (sin apart) the human being's own natural style of existence, to his new Body of life in glory. In Christ's own life the Body of sin and death, which he took on himself at his Father's behest, was broken in death (see Rom 8.3), and in a critical reversal of the old world's momentum this same Body, now "spiritual" and "life-giving" (1 Cor 15.4458), is endowed with all the newness of life through the Spirit (Rom 1.4). To be saved one must share in Christ's way and level of life; one must be wholly conformed to "the body of his glory" (Phil 3.21; see 2 Cor3.18); one must "bear the likeness of the heavenly man" (1 Cor 15.49). The Body of Jesus, the living Body-Person, has then the decisive role in the work of the salvation of humans; and it is into that Body, passing and passed from death to glorious life, that Christians are baptized (see Rom 6.311; Gal 3.27; 1 Cor 1.1315) in a union the reality of which belongs to a new final order that in this present world is still hidden (Col 3.3) and only beginning. By Baptism in faith the whole Christian, as a body-person, begins sharing in the new life of the human being Jesus, and this sacramental union, inaugurated in Baptism and consummated in the Eucharist, tends right from the start, even in this world, toward the "spiritual body" that will transform the human being's "natural body" (1 Cor 15.44; see Rom 6.8; 8.11).

The Pauline theme of the Body of Christ has thus primarily a soteriological provenience and meaning. It always involves a reference to the individual Body of Christ, i.e., to him who has borne death up in his own Body onto the cross, and who enters into heaven to become the bearer of new life in his glorious Body. The mode of this most unique of unions by which the glorious Christ compasses in himself all Christians as his members is something St. Paul is not much concerned with. What he does stress is: (1) the tremendous reality and intimacy of this inward-outward union, without prejudice to the distinct personalities, divine or human; (2) the prime ground of the union in the dead and risen Savior, the human being Jesus (see Col 2.17); (3) the wholeness of the term of the union, i.e., the individual member is a body-person; and (4) the many members who are Body together, or "fellow members of the same body" (Eph3.6).

Relation of Great Epistles to Col and Eph. The main lines of the development of the theme in Rom and 1 Cor (1 Cor 6.1220; 10.17; 12.1230; Rom 12.45) are substantially continued in later epistles (Col 2.1113, compared with 1.22; 3.911; Eph 2.1416; 4.46). These letters are clearly within the tradition of Paul, though their direct authorship is debatable. They combine new traits with the earlier Body of Christ theme, thus enriching it with a fusion of new elements. The new emphases in Col are the following: (1) the Body is now personified and practically identified with the universal Church; (2) the glorified Christ appears as the Head of the Church Body and is thus clearly distinguished from it; and (3) the Body theme is associated with a more cosmic dimension of salvation, a development that is manifested by its linkage with the term "fullness." Eph includes these themes and contributes further: (1) a focus on the hierarchical structure of the Body of Christ; and (2) the image of the Church as the "Bride of Christ," which stresses its distinctiveness from Christ more than its identity. The Body of Christ now designates the object of Christ's redemptive love; He is the "savior of the body" (Eph 5.23), of which Christians are "the members" (5.30). This Body is a living organism, holding together all Christians and which "attains a growth which is of God" (Col 2.19; see Eph 4.16). This Body is "the Church" (Col 1.18, 24; Eph1.2223; 5.2333); Christians are its "members" (Eph4.25); and Christ is its "Head" (Col 1.18; 2.19; Eph 1.22;4.1516; 5.23). Lastly, this Body is associated with the theme of "fullness" (Col 1.182.3; 2.9; Eph 1.23;4.1316).

In the Head-Body combination, the term Head is used in a twofold metaphorical sense: (1) superior authority or leader (Col 1.18; Eph 1.22; 5.23); (2) source of the energies of life and growth (Col 2.19; Eph 4.1516). The origin of this thematic combination is not easy to discern. However, the term Head, meaning superior authority, is a Biblical metaphor, which St. Paul applies to Christ, apart from the Body theme, first in 1 Cor 11.3, and then later in Col 2.10. In the latter case St. Paul calls Christ the Head of the cosmic "Powers," thus countering certain false speculations, current at Colossae, that placed Christ on a level with these "Powers." Once Christ is thus thought of as Head in this sense, the metaphor could be conveniently combined with the Body theme, with Christ becoming the authoritative Head, the glorious Lord, ruling his Body the Church. The Head-Body combination once thus made, could admit a further metaphorical coloration with the use of the term Head to signify the vital principle of nurture and of growth in a living body, a usage which St. Paul could have taken over from his Hellenistic milieu, especially from the Stoics or from contemporary medical language.

The splendid passage in Eph 5.2232 is a synthesis of all the ideas on the Church as Body and Christ as Head, with the exception of the Head understood as principle of the Body's life and growth.

Members of the Body. For St. Paul the baptized faithful are members of the Body. He emphasizes the charismatic diversity in unity of the various members of Christ's Body in his one Spirit (1 Cor 12; Rom 12.38). The faithful are "fellow-members of the same body" (Eph 3.6), not in spite of their differing charisms, but because of them. The member's various gifts (see 1 Cor 12.7) are meant to conspire under the one Spirit, their author and mover (1 Cor 12.711; see Eph 4.7), to serve and adorn the whole Body (Rom 12.38; 1 Cor 12.7; 14.12,26). This unity in diversity is a permanent characteristic of the structure and life of Christ's Body (1 Cor 12; Rom 12.38).

Spirit and Body. That Christ's Body is intimately joined to the Spirit is clear from the way St. Paul coordinates "one body and one Spirit" (Eph 4.4; see Eph 2.16,18). The Spirit that is the life principle of the new economy is the Spirit of the Father who quickens the Body of the risen Christ, and through Him, the Christian (1 Cor 15.4449; see 1 Cor 6.17). The Spirit of Christ (Rom 8.9; Gal 4.6; Phil 1.19; see 2 Cor 3.17) is the inward lifegiving principle, sovereignly building up and forming the Church as the living Body of Christ (1 Cor 12.311, 13). The Spirit is given in Baptism (1 Cor 6.11; Tit 3.5).

Fathers. The mystery of the Church as Christ's Body found congenial expression in the Fathers (notably Origen, Hilary, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and Augustine), although often they treat it less in itself than in the elaboration of other doctrinal themes, e.g., the incarnation, the redemption, the divinization of the Christian, and the Eucharist. Here only certain general patristic orientations will be indicated.

(1) St. Ignatius of Antioch touched the heart of this mystery when he urged the faithful of the Church of Magnesia to "a union both according to the flesh and according to the spirit" (To the Magnesians, 1.2; see To the Smyrnaeans, 12.2). The key patristic belief that Ignatius expresses here is this: that the empiric Church-Body that the Fathers knew so well as churchmen and as faithful is Christ's Spirit-quickened Body; that the great mystery that the Father had in mind since eternity is now being realized, with a beginning finality, in the continuing work of Christ in his Body, the present Church. In the early Church "the appeal to the Church's holiness was born of the fact that men took the visible Church seriously" (J. Ratzinger, Volk und Haus Gottes in Augustins Lehre von der Kirche, München 1954, 65). The grace of the new economy is profoundly incarnational, an embodied grace, because the Church's "beginning and first-fruits is the flesh of Christ" (Augustine, In epist. Ioh. 2.2, Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P Migne, 35:1990). The principle that the Fathers used in their reflections on the mystery of the visible Church is "the sacramental principle, which marks the necessary union between the visible sign and the hidden reality, a principle as dear to the West as to the East" (j. daniÉlou, "Μία κκλησία chez les Pères grecs des premiers siécles," in 10541954: L'Église et les Églises, Chevetogne 1954, 1.139).

(2) A second patristic constant is this: "the great and glorious Body of Christ" (Irenaeus, Adversus haereses 4.33.7, Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 7:1076) is the one sphere of Christ's Spirit ever "realizing the will of the Father in human beings and renewing them from their old way into the newness of Christ" (ibid. 3.17.1, Patrologia Graeca 7:929). "For," says Paul, "God has established in the Church Apostles, prophets, teachers, and all the other effects of the Spirit's working, in which those who do not come together in the Church, have no share. Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and all grace. And the Spirit is truth. Wherefore those who have no share in the Spirit do not drink of the shining water flowing from the Body of Christ "(ibid. 3.24.1, Patrologia Graeca 7:966). It is to "Christ's own Spirit" (Cyril of Alexandria, In Ioh. Evang. 17.2021, Patrologia Graeca 74:561) that is primarily due the varied and total inward-outward life of Christ's Body, in which each member has his proper energies and role suiting him to serve the interplay of faith and hope and love in the communion of the saints; it is to the Spirit likewise that is due the Body's splendid holiness. These patristic convictions are condensed in an Augustinian formula still current: "What the soul is to the body of a human being, that the Holy Spirit is to Christ's Body which is the Church" (Serm. 267.4, Patrologia Latina 38:1231). Indeed these patristic affirmations were so urgent and so massive that they opened up genuine problems. Faced with certain heterodox puritan movements such as montanism and donatism, the Fathers were challenged to save not merely the appearances, but the reality of the "Una Sancta," the One Holy Body of Christ. Among the troublesome problems that they thus had to grapple with were these: (a) how is the grave sinner, especially a heresiarch, to be thought of as having place and role within the glorious Body of Christ; (b) in what measure is the Spirit, with his grace, at work outside the Church's frontiers, particularly in the Sacraments of the schismatic and Heretic?

(3) Another significant orientation is the indissoluble association that the Fathers proclaimed between Christ's Eucharistic Body and his Church-Body, with the Eucharist being the supreme symbol and the chief realization of the inward-outward unity of the Church-Body. To the Fathers it was unthinkable to accord the Eucharist a kind of independent treatment apart from its chief effect, which is the in-and con-corporation of Christ's members in his one Body. To partake of the Eucharist meant to be embodied into the Church. Communion in the sacred "things" or elements of the Eucharist (communio sanctorum in the real-sacramental sense) meant communion with Christ and with the saints who are his members (communio sanctorum in the masculine-personal sense). For St. Augustine, writes Ratzinger, "what makes the essence of the concrete Church is this: that she celebrates and is the Body of Christ" ("Herkunft und Sinn der Civitas-Lehre Augustins," in Augustinus Magister, Paris 1954, 2.978). Augustine, who here, as elsewhere, dominates the whole development of medieval ecclesiology, says: "If then you are the Body of Christ and his members, your mystery is laid on the Lord's table; you are receiving your own mystery. Be what you see, and receive what you are" (Serm. 272, Patrologia Latina 38:124748).

(4) One last patristic orientation. At times some Fathers give the term "Body of Christ" a meaning and an extension different from that of the Pauline letters, in which Christ's Body is a visible Body, sacramentally and hierarchically structured, and composed of baptized Christians as its members. St. Augustine, e.g., more than once makes the Body of Christ comprehend all the saints "who are to be born and to believe in Christ from Abel himself until the end of time" (In Psalm. 90 serm. 2.1, Patrologia Latina 37:1159). The Church-Body thus understood as reaching out and comprising in a solidarity of Christian faith all the saints of both covenants, old and new, is a theological construct, due mainly to the Latin Fathers. St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great were deeply influential in impressing this development on later Western ecclesiology.

Although the Fathers found it useful to express in this way the continuing unity of the whole historical economy of salvation, nevertheless they had a deep sense of the newness and originality of Christianity and held that the Church of the Old Testament was but an imperfect, preparatory stage, a kind of childhood minority with respect to the adult Church of the New Testament. But in their effort to stress the overall economy of salvation in the one Christ, what held their attention, at least from St. Augustine onward, was rather the invisible line of inward Christian grace; whereas the continuing embodiment, itself a grace, of that same inward grace in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, was much less satisfactorily integrated into a balanced synthesis. This orientation tended to view the mystery of salvation from a metahistorical and an asocial plane. In affirming that the Old Testament saints, by their faith in the Christ to come, were really Christians and members of his Body, St. Augustine explained that "the times have changed, but not the faith the signs have varied, but the faith abides" (In evang. Ioh. 45.9, Patrologia Latina 35:1722, 1723). This Augustinian orientation occasioned in subsequent Western theology a bias toward an un-Pauline disembodiment of Christ's Body, toward a one-sided view of Christ's Body as an interior community of grace with Christ, whose headship is thus limited to an invisible inpouring of grace. The question left unanswered is this: what has the fullness of the times (Heb 1.12) brought to the fullness of the mystery; and wherein lies the fulfillment within the acknowledged continuity (Col 2.17)?

Medieval Period. St. Augustine's authority dominates the ecclesiology of the early and high scholastic periods. As in the patristic age, so too here there are no formal treatises of ecclesiology. The pertinent matter is distributed piecemeal, not only in the various questions of the summists (see sentences and summae), but also in liturgical, homiletic, and exegetical writings.

In the 12th century the dominant description of the Church is the Body of Christ. This designation, although allowing a variety of meaning and extension as in the Fathers, still has its central reference and focus in the visible Catholic Church. However, the elaboration of the theme "Body of Christ" commonly emphasizes the inward community of grace in Christ, without any special effort to integrate the socio-juridic aspect of the Church into the Body of Christ. Such a one-sided concern marks an inchoative dissociation of sensibility and interest with respect to the total mystery, i.e., the theandric reality of the Body of Christ. The reasons for this practical dissociation are the following: (1) the patronage of the Augustinian tradition in ecclesiology; (2) the then visible Church as a reality, peacefully forming and framing life, unchallenged by any significant heresies; (3) the beginnings of Canon Law as a separate discipline, with socio-juridic questions in ecclesiology falling gradually to its purview, while the more inward elements of the Church were appropriated to speculative dogma.

The 13th century does not fundamentally alter the orientations and emphases of the 12th. The scholastics of this period, beyond doubt, had a sound sense of the theandric nature of the Body of Christ (see, e.g., St. Thomas, Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 108.1; 3a, 60.6; 3a, 62.6). This fact is discernible, for instance, in the physicoinstrumental causality assigned by St. Thomas to Christ the Head in his humanity (Summa theologiae 3a, 8.1 ad1), a role that Augustine never attributed to the human being Jesus (see G. Philips, "L'influence du Christ Chef sur son corps mystique suivant s. Augustin," in Augustinus Magister, Paris 1954, 2.80515); it is perceptible, too, in the strongly affirmed ecclesial dimension of the Eucharist, which is "the Sacrament of Church unity" (St. Thomas, Summa theologiae 3a, 67.2), and whose reality is "the unity of the Mystical Body" (Summa theologiae 3a, 73.3), or "the Mystical Body of Christ which is the society of the saints" (Summa theologiae 3a, 80.4).

It is clear enough, however, that in practice the 13th-century theologians were more interested in the inward grace of the Christian Body than in the Christian embodiment, itself a grace, of that inward grace. What commanded their attention was the inwardness of grace. This fact is discernible in various ways:

1. In the Augustinian view that "the ancient Fathers belonged to the same Body of the Church as we do" (St. Thomas, Summa theologiae 3a, 8.3 ad 3). Citing the Aristotelean dictum that "each thing appears to be that which preponderates in it" (Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 106.1), and rightly holding that "the grace of the Holy Spirit" (ibid.) is the chief element in the New Covenant, St. Thomas concludes that the saints of the Old Covenant "in this respect belonged to the New Testament" (ibid., ad 3). This theological construct uses "Body" in a quite un-Pauline way.

2. In the treatment of Christ's Headshipand of the correlative membership or incorporation of the faithful principally from the viewpoint of the Head's invisible inpouring of interior grace (St. Thomas, Summa theologiae 3a, 8.3 corp. and ad 3) and of the member's inward adhesion to the Head through faith and love.

3. In the tendency to look on the heavenly Church in a way analogous to the Augustinian consideration of the Church of the New Alliance, i.e., to attend to what is "principal" in it, namely, the soul's vision of the Triune God, without a firm enough evangelical emphasis on what is "secondary," i.e., the whole human being, according to the Biblical anthropology, gloriously sharing in one's risen body in the new life with one's fellows (see St. Thomas, In 3 Sent. 26.2.5, sols. 12 compared with Summa theologiae 1a2ae, 106.1 corp. and ad 1; 1a2ae, 107.1 ad 3).

14th to the 19th Century. The 14th and 15th centuries mark the beginnings of a separate treatise on the Church, often the work of canonists and arising chiefly under the sign of controversy. The 16th-century Reformers, with their dissociation of any empirical Church from the true Church of the saints or the predestined, led the Catholic controversialists to counter by stressing the visible Church as the social means of salvation and by deemphasizing some of the older Augustinian themes judged less useful to mark the visible reality of the New Testament Church. bellarmine, e.g., distinguishing between the "body" and the "soul" of the Church, and between the various ways of pertaining to them, singly and jointly, (see De Eccl. Mil., ch. 2), gives a value to the element "body" in which, at the rare extreme, the visible elements, i.e., "the external profession of the faith and sharing in the sacraments" (ibid.), seem to acquire almost a consistency by themselves. The Church, which is "a society, not of angels, nor of souls, but of human beings" (ibid. ch. 12), has for "its form, not interior faith, but exterior, i.e., the confession of faith"(ibid. ch. 10). In this Bellarminian emphasis, which admittedly considers only very extreme cases, the meaning of "body" becomes almost the opposite of what that term so often stressed in the medieval scholastics, i.e., the inward grace-filled company of the Christian saints. At the same time the older Augustinian ecclesiology continued its way unflaggingly, chiefly in more speculative theological writing.

It is symptomatic that neither orientation was very successful with the theological problem of the grave sinner's place in Christ's Body; and that often the solution, phrased in embarrassed language, resulted in a partial dissociation of the visible Church and the Mystical Body.

19th Century. J. A. mÖhler (1796 to 1838) contributed decisively to a recentering of the theology of the Mystical Body, though his early and later works stand somewhat in tension with each other. In Die Einheit in der Kirche (1825) Möhler rather romantically describes the Body of the Church as "the concentration of love" (no. 64), thus assigning a dynamism to grace that is inward-outward in its orientation; "the whole social structure of the Church is nothing else but the embodied love" (ibid. of the community of the faithful, itsel fashioned by the Spirit of the Lord. In Symbolik (5th ed. 1838), however, Möhler resolutely makes the redemptive Incarnation the guiding principle of his ecclesiology. The visible Body of the Church is presented as a theandric mystery, patterned on Christ as its paradigm (see theandric acts of christ), and charged with continuing his work and his way among human beings until he come. Möhler thus establishes a fruitful and harmonious interplay of life between the Church as the bearer of salvation and the Church as the company of the saints; under both aspectsthat of the saving energies of Christian grace and that of the new life of salvation in Christian gracethe Church is an embodied grace, both sacramental and social.

Möhler's later orientations were usefully elaborated by several theologians who in one way or another underwent his influence and who had an affinity of spirit with him. They are Carlo passaglia (1812 to 1887), Klemens schrader (1820 to 1875), J. B. franzelin (1816 to 1886), and the celebrated M. J. scheeben (1835 to 1888). The work of the first three of these, although today not well known, was solid and influential. Themes from Möhler's early and later works continue to stand in tension in contemporary ecclesiology.

20th Century. Pius XII's Mystici Corporis (1943) used the Mystical Body of Christ to tie together the Church understood as a social institution with the Church of grace and love imbued with the Holy Spirit. In that encyclical, he explicitly identified the Mystical Body of Christ with the Roman Catholic Church. Many theologians whose work was to be influential at the Second Vatican Council, such as Yves Congar and Charles Journet, developed the mystical body as a major theme. Vatican II's Lumen gentium also used the Mystical Body of Christ as a prominent image. It complemented it, however, with other important images of the Church, such as the People of God, the Pilgrim Church, the Communion of Saints, and the Church as Leaven in the World. Also, although Mystici Corporis was not lacking in ecumenical sensitivity, in Lumen Gentium the identification of the Mystical Body with the Catholic Church was expressed in a yet more ecumenically sensitive manner: "this church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside its visible confines." (8) The Mystical Body of Christ continues to function in official church documents as well as the work of theologians as a primary and indispensable image of the Church.

See Also: brother in christ; incorporation in christ; soul of the church; communion of saints; office, ecclesiastical; paul, apostle, st.; church, articles on.

Bibliography: p. benoit, "Corps, tête et plérôme dans les épîtres de la captivité," Revue biblique 63 (1956) 544. l. cerfaux, The Church in the Theology of St. Paul, tr. g. webb and a. walker (New York 1959). j. a. t. robinson, The Body: A Study in Pauline Theology (London 1952). f. malmberg, Ein Leib -Ein Geist (Freiburg 1960). s. tromp, Corpus Christi quod est ecclesia, 3 v. (Rome 1960). h. de lubac, Corpus Mysticum: L'Eucharistie et l'église au moyen-âge (2d ed. Paris 1949). m. schmaus, Die Lehre von der Kirche, v.3.1 of Katholische Dogmatik (5th ed. Munich 195558). É. mersch, The Whole Christ, tr. j. r. kelley (Milwaukee 1938; London 1949). v. branick, Understanding the New Testament and Its New Testament and Its Message (New York 1998). m. himes, Ongoing Incarnation: Johann Adam Möhler and the Beginnings of Modern Ecclesiology (New York 1997).

[f. x. lawlor/

d. m. doyle]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mystical Body of Christ." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Dec. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Mystical Body of Christ." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 9, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystical-body-christ

"Mystical Body of Christ." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved December 09, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/mystical-body-christ

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.