Sermons on the Church - The Mystical Body of Christ
Our Lord, besides His earthly Life and glorified Life, possessed also a Mystical Life. The day of Pentecost, ten days after His Ascension, was the birth of Christ's new life on earth. On that day, He sent His Spirit to His apostles, the nucleus of His Church, to make them in the language of Holy Writ, His New Body, the Church, of which He is the invisible Head. The new presence of Christ on earth in His Church is the third phase of the complete life of Christ, and in order to demarcate it from His Physical Life and from His Glorified Life, tradition has called it the Mystical Life. Just as in His earthly Life, He took a human body as an instrument for the exercise of His office as Prophet, King, and Priest, so now on Pentecost He assumes a new body, His Church, through the instrumentality of which He still fulfills the same triple role of teaching, governing, and sanctifying. In His earthly Life, He has only one human nature united to Him; in His Mystical Life, He unites to Himself all those natures throughout the world who receive His Spirit.
Now let us have a clear understanding of the union of the human and the Divine in Christ. This is absolutely necessary. We know the teaching of the Church. The Church, our infallible guide tells us: in Christ there are two natures, human and divine, and one Person. What is the difference between nature and person? It is really not so difficult to understand. When we speak of nature we mean the source of action; when we speak of person we mean the source of responsibility. For example, the answer to the question: what is crying? gives us the nature; the answer to the question who is crying? gives us the person. What is crying? a baby; thereby we know the nature. Who is crying? Jimmie; thereby we know the person. Now in Christ there is the perfect nature of God, and the perfect nature of man. But though there are two natures in Christ, there are not two persons, but only One, which is the Person of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
It follows that the human nature of Christ was a kind of instrument of His Divine Personality. Because Our Lord united our human nature to His Divinity, He made man capable of sharing in the whole work of Redemption and Sanctification. This is such a startling truth that it is almost overwhelming. Our Lord's life, death, Resurrection and Ascension are the instruments of Divinity for our sanctification, our life, our resurrection, and our ascension. Our human nature became infinitely beloved by God because He sees all of us in the human nature united to the divine nature of His Son. That is why God looks upon all of us as one person.
But it may be asked, "Why should Our Lord's human nature acquire such power even though it is a perfect human nature?" The reason is because of its union with the Person of God. There is an old Latin axiom which explains why and it may be translated in these words: "Actions belong to the person - not to the nature." For example, though it is the nature of my eye to see, the nature of my tongue to taste, and the nature of my feet to walk, it is nevertheless true that when it comes to accounting for the source of their responsibilities, we attribute these actions not to our nature, but to our person. We do not say, "My eye saw you," but we say, "I saw you." We do not say, "My ear heard you." We say, "I heard you." Now, in the earthly life of Our Savior, though His human nature is a perfect human nature like unto ours, though it did the perfectly human things such as shedding tears, suffering pain and a bloody sweat, blessing children, and speaking words of comfort, nevertheless each of the actions of His human nature is to be attributed to His Person. But His Person is the Person of God - therefore, each and every action of His human nature had an infinite value because they were done by the person of God. Hence, a sigh, a word, or a tear would have been sufficient to have redeemed the world, because it was the sigh, the word, or the tear of God.
St. John tells us if every action of Our Lord were put in writing, "the world itself would not be able to contain the books that should be written." This beautiful variety of actions, however, can be reduced to three, for Our Lord filled a triple role or office. He was Teacher, He was King, and He was Priest. In other words, He taught, He governed, and He sanctified. He was a Prophet and Teacher, not as the Scribes and Pharisees, but as one having authority, as the Light of the World. He was King, not a king of this world, but King of a spiritual Kingdom whose power extended over heaven and earth, the living and the dead. He was Priest by offering Himself in sacrifice for the Redemption of the world.