19 April 2010
Blessed Columba Marmion on the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ
Excerpted from Christ, the Life of the Soul:
"We can consider the Church in two ways: as a visible and hierarchic society, founded by Christ to continue here below His sanctifying mission; she appears thus as a living organism. But that point of view is not the only one. To have a complete idea of the Church, we must, besides this, regard her as the holy and invisible society of souls who participate, through grace, in the Divine Sonship of Christ and form the kingdom He has won by His blood. It is this that St. Paul calls the body of Christ-- without doubt, not the physical body but His mystical body. It is particularly the second viewpoint that we shall dwell upon. However, we cannot pass over the first in silence.
It is true that the invisible Church, or the "soul" of the Church, is more important than the visible Church; but, in the normal Divine plan of Christianity, it is only through union with the visible society that souls enter into a participation in the good things and privileges of the invisible Kingdom of Christ.
It is not necessary for me to expound to you how this society, established by Christ upon Peter and the Apostles to maintain supernatural life in souls, has been organized, has developed, has spread throughout the world.
What we should keep in mind is that she is the continuer, here below, of the mission of Jesus by her doctrine, by her jurisdiction, by the sacraments, by her worship.
By her doctrine, which she keeps intact and whole in a living and uninterrupted tradition. By her jurisdiction, in virtue of which she has authority to direct us in the name of Christ. By the sacraments, whereby she enables us to draw from the wellsprings of grace that her Divine Founder has created. By her worship, which she herself organizes in order to render all glory and all honor to Christ Jesus and to His Father.
After Christ had come into this world, the sole means of going to the Father was to submit oneself entirely to His Son Jesus... While He was on earth, Christ confined infallibility to Himself: 'I am the truth'--'I am the way, the truth and the life';... Before leaving us, He entrusted His powers to His Church: 'As the Father has sent me, I also send you'; 'He who listens to you, listens to me; he who despises you, despises me; and he who despises me, despises Him that sent me.' In the same way as I get my teaching from my Father, so with the teaching you give out. That teaching you get from me. Whoever receives this teaching, receives my teaching, which is that of my Father. Whoever despises it, to whatever degree and in whatever measure that may be, despises my teaching, despises me, despises my Father.
See, then, this Church which possesses all the power, all the infallible authority of Christ, and understand that absolute submission of all your being, intellect, will and energies to this Church is the sole means of going to the Father. Christianity, in its true expression, only exists by means of this absolute submission to the doctrine and the laws of the Church.
The voice of Christ in His teaching, the Church is also the living continuation of His mediation.
You want to enter into the family of God, to be admitted among His children, to be incorporated into Christ? Address yourself to the Church: it is her baptism, not any other, which is the door through which one must pass. In the same way, to obtain pardon for our sins, it is to the Church that we must address ourselves. If we wish to receive food for our souls, we have to attend on the priests who have received, through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the sacred powers of dispensing to us the Bread of Life. And, among those who are baptized, the union of man and woman is culpable unless the Church has consecrated it by her blessing....
Such, then, is the manner in which the Church, founded by Jesus, continues His Divine work here below. The Church is the authentic depositary of the doctrine and the law of Christ; the dispenser of His graces among men; and, finally, the spouse who, in the name of Christ, offers to God for all her children perfect praise....
No one goes to the Father-- and going to the Father is what salvation and holiness is all about; no one goes to the Father except through Christ: 'No one comes to the Father but through me.' But remember well the following truth which is of no less capital importance. No one goes to Christ except through the Church; we only belong to Christ if we belong in fact or in desire to the Church; we only live the life of Christ in the unity of the Church."