Adoremus, Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy
Mystici Corporis Christi
On the Mystical Body of Christ
Pope Pius XII
Encyclical promulgated on June 29, 1943
To Our Venerable Brethren, Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries enjoying Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
1. The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, was first taught us by the Redeemer Himself. Illustrating as it does the great and inestimable privilege of our intimate union with so exalted a Head, this doctrine by its sublime dignity invites all those who are drawn by the Holy Spirit to study it, and gives them, in the truths of which it proposes to the mind, a strong incentive to the performance of such good works as are conformable to its teaching. For this reason, We deem it fitting to speak to you on this subject through this Encyclical Letter, developing and explaining above all, those points which concern the Church Militant. To this We are urged not only by the surpassing grandeur of the subject but also by the circumstances of the present time.
2. For We intend to speak of the riches stored up in this Church which Christ purchased with His own Blood, and whose members glory in a thorn crowned Head. The fact that they thus glory is a striking proof that the greatest joy and exaltation are born only of suffering, and hence that we should rejoice if we partake of the sufferings of Christ, that when His glory shall be revealed we may also be glad with exceeding joy.
3. From the outset it should be noted that the society established by the Redeemer of the human race resembles its divine Founder who was persecuted, calumniated and tortured by those very men whom He had undertaken to save. We do not deny, rather from a heart filled with gratitude to God We admit, that even in our turbulent times there are many who, though outside the fold of Jesus Christ, look to the Church as the only haven of salvation; but We are also aware that the Church of God not only is despised and hated maliciously by those who shut their eyes to the light of Christian wisdom and miserably return to the teachings, customs and practices of ancient paganism, but is ignored, neglected, and even at times looked upon as irksome by many Christians who are allured by specious error or caught in the meshes of the world’s corruption. In obedience, therefore, Venerable Brethren, to the voice of Our conscience and in compliance with the wishes of many, We will set forth before the eyes of all and extol the beauty, the praises, and the glory of Mother Church to whom, after God, we owe everything.
4. And it is to be hoped that Our instructions and exhortations will bring forth abundant fruit in the souls of the faithful in the present circumstances. For We know that if all the sorrows and calamities of these stormy times, by which countless multitudes are being sorely tried, are accepted from God’s hands with calm submission, they naturally lift souls above the passing things of earth to those of heaven that abide forever, and arouse a certain secret thirst and intense desire for spiritual things. Thus, urged by the Holy Spirit, men are moved, and, as it were, impelled to seek the Kingdom of God with greater diligence; for the more they are detached from the vanities of this world and from inordinate love of temporal things, the more apt they will be to perceive the light of heavenly mysteries. But the vanity and emptiness of earthly things are more manifest today than perhaps at any other period, when Kingdoms and States are crumbling, when enormous quantities of goods and all kinds of wealth are being sunk in the depths of the sea, and cities, towns and fertile fields are strewn with massive ruins and defiled with the blood of brothers.
5. Moreover, We trust that Our exposition of the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ will be acceptable and useful to those also who are without the fold of the Church, not only because their good will towards the Church seems to grow from day to day, but also because, while before their eyes nation rises up against nation, kingdom against kingdom and discord is sown everywhere together with the seeds of envy and hatred, if they turn their gaze to the Church, if they contemplate her divinely-given unity–by which all men of every race are united to Christ in the bond of brotherhood they will be forced to admire this fellowship in charity, and with the guidance and assistance of divine grace will long to share in the same union and charity.
6. There is a special reason too, and one most dear to Us, which recalls this doctrine to Our mind and with it a deep sense of joy. During the year that has passed since the twenty-fifth anniversary of Our Episcopal consecration, We have had the great consolation of witnessing something that has made the image of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ stand out most clearly before the whole world. Though a long and deadly war has pitilessly broken the bond of brotherly union between nations, We have seen Our children in Christ, in whatever part of the world they happened to be, one in will and affection, lift up their hearts to the common Father, who, carrying in his own heart the cares and anxieties of all, is guiding the barque of the Catholic Church in the teeth of a raging tempest. This is a testimony to the wonderful union existing among Christians; but it also proves that, as Our paternal love embraces all peoples, whatever their nationality and race, so Catholics the world over, though their countries may have drawn the sword against each other, look to the Vicar of Jesus Christ as to the loving Father of them all, who, with absolute impartiality and incorruptible judgment, rising above the conflicting gales of human passions, takes upon himself with all his strength the defense of truth, justice and charity.
7. We have been no less consoled to know that with spontaneous generosity a fund has been created for the erection of a church in Rome to be dedicated to Our saintly predecessor and patron Eugene I. As this temple, to be built by the wish and through the liberality of all the faithful, will be a lasting memorial of this happy event, so We desire to offer this Encyclical Letter in testimony of Our gratitude. It tells of those living stones which rest upon the living corner-stone, which is Christ, and are built together into a holy temple, hr surpassing any temple built by hands, into a habitation of God in the Spirit.
8. But the chief reason for Our present exposition of this sublime doctrine is Our solicitude for the souls entrusted to Us. Much indeed has been written on this subject; and we know that many today are turning with greater zest to a study which delights and nourishes Christian piety. This, it would seem, is chiefly because a revived interest in the sacred liturgy, the more widely spread custom of frequent Communion, and the more fervent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus practiced today, have brought many souls to a deeper consideration of the unsearchable riches of Christ which are preserved in the Church. Moreover recent pronouncements on Catholic Action, by drawing closer the bonds of union between Christians and between them and the ecclesiastical hierarchy and especially the Roman Pontiff, have undoubtedly helped not a little to place this truth in its proper light. Nevertheless, while We can derive legitimate joy from these considerations, We must confess that grave errors with regard to this doctrine are being spread among those outside the true Church, and that among the faithful, also, inaccurate or thoroughly false ideas are being disseminated which turn minds aside from the straight path of truth.
9. For while there still survives a false rationalism, which ridicules anything that transcends and defies the power of human genius, and which is accompanied by a cognate error, the so-called popular naturalism, which sees and wills to see in the Church nothing but a juridical and social union, there is on the other hand a false mysticism creeping in, which, in its attempt to eliminate the immovable frontier that separates creatures from their Creator, falsifies the Sacred Scriptures.
10. As a result of these conflicting and mutually antagonistic schools of thought, some through vain fear, look upon so profound a doctrine as something dangerous, and so they shrink from it as from the beautiful but forbidden fruit of paradise. But this is not so. Mysteries revealed by God cannot be harmful to men, nor should they remain as treasures hidden in a field, useless. They have been given from on high precisely to help the spiritual progress of those who study them in a spirit of piety. For, as the Vatican Council teaches, "reason illumined by faith, if it seeks earnestly, piously and wisely, does attain under God, to a certain and most helpful knowledge of mysteries, by considering their analogy with what it knows naturally, and their mutual relations, and their common relations with man’s last end," although, as the same holy Synod observes, reason, even thus illumined, "is never capable of understanding those mysteries as it does those truths which form its proper object."
11. After pondering all this long and seriously before God We consider it part of Our pastoral duty to explain to the entire flock of Christ through this Encyclical Letter the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ and of the union in this Body of the faithful with the divine Redeemer; and then, from this consoling doctrine, to draw certain lessons that will make a deeper study of this mystery bear yet richer fruits of perfection and holiness. Our purpose is to throw an added ray of glory on the supreme beauty of the Church; to bring out into fuller light the exalted supernatural nobility of the faithful who in the Body of Christ are united with their Head; and finally, to exclude definitively the many errors current with regard to this matter.
12. When one reflects on the origin of this doctrine, there come to mind at once the words of the Apostle: "Where sin abounded, grace did more abound." All know that the father of the whole human race was constituted by God in so exalted a state that he was to hand on to his posterity, together with earthly existence, the heavenly life of divine grace. But after the unhappy fall of Adam, the whole human race, infected by the hereditary stain, lost their participation in the divine nature, and we were all "children of wrath." But the all-merciful God "so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son"; and the Word of the Eternal Father with the same divine love assumed human nature from the race of Adam–but an innocent and spotless nature — so that He, as the new Adam, might be the source whence the grace of the Holy Spirit should flow unto all the children of the first parent. Through the sin of the first man they had been excluded from adoption as children of God; through the Word incarnate, made brothers according to the flesh of the only-begotten Son of God, they receive also the power to become the sons of God. As He hung upon the Cross, Christ Jesus not only appeased the justice of the Eternal Father which had been violated, but He also won for us, His brethren, an ineffable flow of graces. it was possible for Him of Himself to impart these graces to mankind directly; but He willed to do so only through a visible Church made up of men, so that through her all might cooperate with Him in dispensing the graces of Redemption. As the Word of God willed to make use of our nature, when in excruciating agony He would redeem mankind, so in the same way throughout the centuries He makes use of the Church that the work begun might endure.[11
13. If we would define and describe this true Church of Jesus Christ — which is the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church — we shall find nothing more noble, more sublime, or more divine than the expression "the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ" — an expression which springs from and is, as it were, the fair flowering of the repeated teaching of the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers.
14. That the Church is a body is frequently asserted in the Sacred Scriptures. "Christ," says the Apostle, "is the Head of the Body of the Church." If the Church is a body, it must be an unbroken unity, according to those words of Paul: "Though many we are one body in Christ." But it is not enough that the body of the Church should be an unbroken unity; it must also be something definite and perceptible to the senses as Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: "the Church is visible because she is a body." Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely "pneumatological" as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by an invisible bond.
15. But a body calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body.
16. Again, as in nature a body is not formed by any haphazard grouping of members but must be constituted of organs, that is of members, that have not the same function and are arranged in due order; so for this reason above all the Church is called a body, that it is constituted by the coalescence of structurally united parts, and that it has a variety of members reciprocally dependent. It is thus the Apostle describes the Church when he writes: "As in one body we have many members, but all the members have not the same office: so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another."
17. One must not think, however, that this ordered or "organic" structure of the body of the Church contains only hierarchical elements and with them is complete; or, as an opposite opinion holds, that it is composed only of those who enjoy charismatic gifts–though members gifted with miraculous powers will never be lacking in the Church. That those who exercise sacred power in this Body are its first and chief members, must be maintained uncompromisingly. It is through them, by commission of the Divine Redeemer Himself, that Christ’s apostolate as Teacher, King and Priest is to endure. At the same time, when the Fathers of the Church sing the praises of this Mystical Body of Christ, with its ministries, its variety of ranks, its officers, its conditions, its orders, its duties, they are thinking not only of those who have received Holy Orders, but all those too, who, following the evangelical counsels, pass their lives either actively among men, or hidden in the silence of the cloister, or who aim at combining the active and contemplative life according to their Institute; as also of those who, though living in the world, consecrate themselves wholeheartedly to spiritual or corporal works of mercy, and of those who live in the state of holy matrimony. Indeed, let this be clearly understood, especially in these our days: fathers and mothers of families, those who are godparents through Baptism, and in particular those members of the laity who collaborate with the ecclesiastical hierarchy in spreading the Kingdom of the Divine Redeemer occupy an honorable, if often a lowly, place in the Christian community, and even they under the impulse of God and with His help, can reach the heights of supreme holiness, which, Jesus Christ has promised, will never be wanting to the Church.
18. Now we see that the human body is given the proper means to provide for its own life, health and growth, and for that of all its members. Similarly the Savior of mankind out of His infinite goodness has provided in a wonderful way for His Mystical Body, endowing it with the Sacraments, so that, as though by an uninterrupted series of graces, its members should be sustained from birth to death, and that generous provision might be made for the social needs of the Church. Through the waters of Baptism those who are born into this world dead in sin are not only born again and made members of the Church, but being stamped with a spiritual seal they become able and fit to receive the other Sacraments. By the chrism of Confirmation, the faithful are given added strength to protect and defend the Church, their Mother, and the faith she has given them. In the Sacrament of Penance a saving medicine is offered for the members of the Church who have fallen into sin, not only to provide for their own health, but to remove from other members of the Mystical Body all danger of contagion, or rather to afford them an incentive to virtue, and the example of a virtuous act.
19. Nor is that all; for in the Holy Eucharist the faithful are nourished and strengthened at the same banquet and by a divine, ineffable bond are united with each other and with the Divine Head of the whole Body. Finally, like a devoted mother, the Church is at the bedside of those who are sick unto death; and if it be not always God’s will that by the holy anointing she restore health to the mortal body, nevertheless she administers spiritual medicine to the wounded soul and sends new citizens to heaven — to be her new advocates — who will enjoy forever the happiness of God.
20. For the social needs of the Church Christ has provided in a particular way by the institution of two other Sacraments. Through Matrimony, in which the contracting parties are ministers of grace to each other, provision is made for the external and duly regulated increase of Christian society, and, what is of greater importance, for the correct religious education of the children, without which this Mystical body would be in grave danger. Through Holy Orders men are set aside and consecrated to God, to offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharistic Victim, to nourish the flock of the faithful with the Bread of Angels and the food of doctrine, to guide them in the way of God’s commandments and counsels and to strengthen them with all other supernatural helps.
21. In this connection it must be borne in mind that, as God at the beginning of time endowed man’s body with most ample power to subject all creatures to himself, and to increase and multiply and fill the earth, so at the beginning of the Christian era, He supplied the Church with the means necessary to overcome countless dangers and to fill not only the whole world but the realms of heaven as well.
22. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. "For in one spirit" says the Apostle, "were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free." As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered–so the Lord commands–as a heathen and a publican. It follows that those are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.
23. Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness. it is owing to the Savior’s infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet. For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy. Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.
24. Let every one then abhor sin, which defiles the mystical members of our Redeemer; but if anyone unhappily falls and his obstinacy has not made him unworthy of communion with the faithful, let him be received with great love, and let eager charity see in him a weak member of Jesus Christ. For, as the Bishop of Hippo remarks, it is better "to be cured within the Church’s community than to be cut off from its body as incurable members." "As long as a member still forms part of the body there is no reason to despair of its cure; once it has been cut off, it can be neither cured nor healed."
25. In the course of the present study, Venerable Brethren, we have thus far seen that the Church is so constituted that it may be likened to a body. We must now explain clearly and precisely why it is to be called not merely a body, but the Body of Jesus Christ. This follows from the fact that our Lord is the Founder, the Head, the Support and the Savior of this Mystical Body.
26. As We set out briefly to expound in what sense Christ founded His social Body, the following thought of Our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, occurs to Vs at once: "The Church which, already conceived, came forth from the side of the second Adam in His sleep on the Cross, first showed Herself before the eyes of men on the great day of Pentecost." For the Divine Redeemer began the building of the mystical temple of the Church when by His preaching He made known His precepts; He completed it when He hung glorified on the Cross; and He manifested and proclaimed it when He sent the Holy Ghost as Paraclete in visible form on His disciples.
27. For while fulfilling His office as preacher He chose Apostles, sending them as He had been sent by the Father namely, as teachers, rulers, instruments of holiness in the assembly of the believers; He appointed their Chief and His Vicar on earth; He made known to them all things whatsoever He had heard from His Father; He also determined that through Baptism those who should believe would be incorporated in the Body of the Church; and finally, when He came to the close of His life, He instituted at the Last Supper the wonderful Sacrifice and Sacrament of the Eucharist.
28. That He completed His work on the gibbet of the Cross is the unanimous teaching of the holy Fathers who assert that the Church was born from the side of our Savior on the Cross like a new Eve, mother of all the living. "And it is now," says the great St. Ambrose, speaking of the pierced side of Christ, "that it is built, it is now that it is formed, it is now that is …. molded, it is now that it is created Now it is that arises a spiritual house, a holy priesthood." One who reverently examines this venerable teaching will easily discover the reasons on which it is based.
29. And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished; then the Law of Christ together with its mysteries, enactments, institutions, and sacred rites was ratified for the whole world in the blood of Jesus Christ. For, while our Divine Savior was preaching in a restricted area–He was not sent but to the sheep that were lost of the house of Israel–the Law and the Gospel were together in force; but on the gibbet of his death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees, fastened the handwriting of the Old Testament to the Cross, establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race. "To such an extent, then," says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, "was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom."
30. On the Cross then the Old Law died, soon to be buried and to be a bearer of death, in order to give way to the New Testament of which Christ had chosen the Apostles as qualified ministers; and although He had been constituted the Head of the whole human family in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, it is by the power of the Cross that our Savior exercises fully the office itself of Head in His Church. "For it was through His triumph on the Cross," according to the teaching of the Angelic and Common Doctor, "that He won power and dominion over the gentiles"; by that same victory He increased the immense treasure of graces, which, as He reigns in glory in heaven, He lavishes continually on His mortal members it was by His blood shed on the Cross that God’s anger was averted and that all the heavenly gifts, especially the spiritual graces of the New and Eternal Testament, could then flow from the fountains of our Savior for the salvation of men, of the faithful above all; it was on the tree of the Cross, finally, that He entered into possession of His Church, that is, of all the members of His Mystical Body; for they would not have been united to this Mystical Body through the waters of Baptism except by the salutary virtue of the Cross, by which they had been already brought under the complete sway of Christ.
31. But if our Savior, by His death, became, in the full and complete sense of the word, the Head of the Church, it was likewise through His blood that the Church was enriched with the fullest communication of the Holy Spirit, through which, from the time when the Son of man was lifted up and glorified on the Cross by His sufferings, she is divinely illumined. For then, as Augustine notes, with the rending of the veil of the temple it happened that the dew of the Paraclete’s gifts, which heretofore had descended only on the fleece, that is on the people of Israel, fell copiously and abundantly (while the fleece remained dry and deserted) on the whole earth, that is on the Catholic Church, which is confined by no boundaries of race or territory. Just as at the first moment of the Incarnation the Son of the Eternal Father adorned with the fullness of the Holy Spirit the human nature which was substantially united to Him, that it might be a fitting instrument of the Divinity in the sanguinary work of the Redemption, so at the hour of His precious death He willed that His Church should be enriched with the abundant gifts of the Paraclete in order that in dispensing the divine fruits of the Redemption she migt be, for the Incarnate Word, a powerful instrument that would never fail. For both the juridical mission of the Church, and the power to teach, govern and administer the Sacraments, derive their supernatural efficacy and force of the building up of the body of Christ from the fact that Jesus Christ, hanging on the Cross, opened up to His Church the fountain of those divine gifts, which prevent her from ever teaching false doctrine and enable her to rule them for the salvation of their souls through divinely enlightened pastors and to bestow on them an abundance of heavenly graces.
32. If we consider closely all these mysteries of the Cross, those words of the Apostle are no longer obscure, in which he teaches the Ephesians that Christ by His blood made the Jews and Gentiles one "breaking down the middle wall of partition in his flesh" by which the two peoples were divided; and that He made the Old Law void "that he might make the two in himself into one new man," that is, the Church, and might reconcile both to God in one Body by the Cross.
33. The Church which He founded by His Blood, He strengthened on the day of Pentecost by a special power, given from heaven. For, having solemnly installed in his exalted office him whom He had already nominated as His Vicar, He had ascended into Heaven; and sitting now at the right hand of the Father He wished to make known and proclaim His Spouse through the visible coming of the Holy Spirit with the sound of a mighty wind and tongues of fire. For just as He Himself when He began to preach was made known by His Eternal Father through the Holy Spirit descending and remaining on Him in the form of a dove, so likewise, as the Apostles were about to enter upon their ministry of preaching, Christ our Lord sent the Holy Spirit down from Heaven, to touch them with tongues of fire and to point out, as by the finger of God, the supernatural mission and office of the Church.
34. That this Mystical Body which is the Church should be called Christ’s is proved in the second place from the fact that He must be universally acknowledged as its actual Head. "He," as St. Paul says, "is the Head of the Body, the Church. He is the Head from whom the whole body perfectly organized, "groweth and maketh increase unto the edifying of itself."
35. You are familiar, Venerable Brethren, with the admirable and luminous language used by the masters of Scholastic Theology, and chiefly by the Angelic and Common Doctor, when treating this question; and you know that the reasons advanced by Aquinas are a faithful reflection of the mind and the writings of the holy Fathers, who moreover merely repeated and commented on the inspired word of Sacred Scripture.
36. However for the good of all We wish to touch on this point briefly. And first of all it is clear that the Son of God and of the Blessed Virgin is to be called the Head of the Church by reason of His singular pre-eminence. For the Head is in the highest place. But who is in a higher place than Christ God, who as the Word of The Eternal Father must be acknowledged to be the "firstborn of every creature? Who has reached more lofty heights than Christ Man, who, though born of the Immaculate Virgin, is the true and natural Son of God, and in virtue of His miraculous and glorious resurrection, a resurrection triumphant over death, has become the "firstborn of the dead?" Who finally has been so exalted as He, who as "the one mediator of God and men" has in a most wonderful manner linked earth to heaven, who, raised on the Cross as on a throne of mercy, has drawn all things to Himself, who, as the Son of Man chosen from among thousands, is beloved of God beyond all men, all angels and all created things?
37. Because Christ is so exalted, He alone by every right rules and governs the Church; and herein is yet another reason why He must be likened to a head. As the head is the "royal citadel" of the body–to use the words of Ambrose–and all the members over whom it is placed for their good are naturally guided by it as being endowed with superior powers, so the Divine Redeemer holds the helm of the universal Christian community and directs its course. And as to govern human society signifies to lead men to the end proposed by means that are expedient, just and helpful, it is easy to see how our Savior, model and ideal of good Shepherds, performs all these functions in a most striking way.
38. While still on earth, He instructed us by precept, counsel and warning in words that shall never pass away, and will be spirit and life to all men of all times. Moreover He conferred a triple power on His Apostles and their successors, to teach, to govern, to lead men to holiness, making this power, defined by special ordinances, rights and obligations, the fundamental law of the whole Church.
39. But our Divine Savior governs and guides the Society which He founded directly and personally also. For it is He who reigns within the minds and hearts of men, and bends and subjects their wills to His good pleasure, even when rebellious. "The heart of the King is in the hand of the Lord; whithersoever he will, he shall turn it." By this interior guidance He, the "Shepherd and Bishop of our souls," not only watches over individuals but exercises His providence over the universal Church, whether by enlightening and giving courage to the Church’s rulers for the loyal and effective performance of their respective duties, or by singling out from the body of the Church–especially when times are grave–men and women of conspicuous holiness, who may point the way for the rest of Christendom to the perfecting of His Mystical Body. Moreover from heaven Christ never ceases to look down with especial love on His spotless Spouse so sorely tried in her earthly exile; and when He sees her in anger, saves her from the tempestuous sea either Himself or through the ministry of His angels, or through her whom we invoke as the Help of Christians, or through other heavenly advocates, and in calm and tranquil waters comforts her with the peace "which surpasseth all understanding."
40. But we must not think that He rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Divine Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. You know, Venerable Brethren, that after He had ruled the "little flock" Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. Since He was all wise He could not leave the body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in virtue of his primacy is only Christ’s Vicar; so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisible, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter too, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute one only Head is the solemn teaching of Our predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascension into heaven this Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same.
41. They, therefore, walk in the path of dangerous error who believe that they can accept Christ as the Head of the Church, while not adhering loyally to His Vicar on earth. They have taken away the visible head, broken the visible bonds of unity and left the Mystical Body of the Redeemer so obscured and so maimed, that those who are seeking the haven of eternal salvation can neither see it nor find it.
42. What We have thus far said of the Universal Church must be understood also of the individual Christian communities, whether Oriental or Latin, which go to make up the one Catholic Church. For they, too, are ruled by Jesus Christ through the voice of their respective Bishops. Consequently, Bishops must be considered as the more illustrious members of the Universal Church, for they are united by a very special bond to the divine Head of the whole Body and so are rightly called "principal parts of the members of the Lord"; moreover, as far as his own diocese is concerned, each one as a true Shepherd feeds the flock entrusted to him and rules it in the name of Christ. Yet in exercising this office they are not altogether independent, but are subordinate to the lawful authority of the Roman Pontiff, although enjoying the ordinary power of jurisdiction which they receive directly from the same Supreme Pontiff. Therefore, Bishops should be revered by the faithful as divinely appointed successors of the Apostles, and to them, even more than to the highest civil authorities should be applied the words: "Touch not my anointed ones." For the Bishops have been anointed with the chrism of the Holy Spirit.
43. That is why We are deeply pained when We hear that not a few of Our Brother Bishops are being attacked and persecuted not only in their own persons, but–what is more cruel and heartrending for them–in the faithful committed to their care, in those who share their apostolic labors, even in the virgins consecrated to God; and all this, merely because they are a pattern of the flock from the heart and guard with energy and loyalty, as they should the sacred "deposit of faith" confided to them; merely because they insist on the sacred laws that have been engraved by God on the souls of men, and after the example of the Supreme Shepherd defend their flock against ravenous wolves. Such an offense We consider as committed against Our own person and We repeat the noble words of Our predecessor of immortal memory Gregory the Great: "Our honor is the honor of the Universal Church; Our honor is the united strength of Our Brethren; and We are truly honored when honor is given to each and every one."
44. Because Christ the Head holds such an eminent position, one must not think that he does not require the help of the Body. What Paul said of the human organism is to be applied likewise to the mystical Body: "The head cannot say to the feet: I have no need of you." It is manifestly clear that the faithful need the help of the Divine Redeemer, for He has said: "Without me you can do nothing," and according to the teaching of the Apostle every advance of this Mystical Body towards its perfection derives from Christ the Head. Yet this, also, must be held, marvelous though it may seem: Christ has need of His members. First, because the person of Jesus Christ is represented by the Supreme Pontiff, who in turn must call on others to share much of his solicitude lest he be overwhelmed by the burden of his pastoral office, and must be helped daily by the prayers of the Church. Moreover as our Savior does not rule the Church directly in a visible manner, He wills to be helped by the members of His Body in carrying out the work of redemption. This is not because He is indigent and weak, but rather because He has so willed it for the greater glory of His spotless Spouse. Dying on the Cross He left to His Church the immense treasury of the Redemption, towards which she contributed nothing. But when those graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this work of sanctification with His Church, but He wills that in some way it be due to her action. This is a deep mystery, and an inexhaustible subject of meditation, that the salvation of many depends on the prayers and voluntary penances which the members of the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ offer for this intention and on the cooperation of pastors of souls and of the faithful, especially of fathers and mothers of families, a cooperation which they must offer to our Divine Savior as though they were His associates.
45. To the reasons thus far adduced to show that Christ our Lord should be called the Head of Society which is His Body there may be added three others which are closely related to one another.
46. We begin with the similarity which we see existing between Head and body, in that they have the same nature; and in this connection it must be observed that our nature, although inferior to that of the angels, nevertheless through God’s goodness has risen above it: "For Christ," as Aquinas says, "is Head of the angels; for even in His humanity He is superior to angels Even as man He illumines the angelic intellect and influences the angelic will. But in respect to similarity of nature Christ is not Head of the angels, because He did not take hold of the angels–to quote the Apostle–but of the seed of Abraham." And Christ not only took our nature; He became one of our flesh and blood with a frail body that should suffer and die. But "if the Word emptied himself taking the form of a slave," it was that He might make His brothers according to the flesh partakers of the divine nature, through sanctifying grace in this earthly exile, in heaven through the joys of eternal bliss. For the reason why the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father willed to be a son of man was that we might be made conformed to the image of the Son of God and be renewed according to the image of Him who created us. Let all those, then, who glory in the name of Christian, look to our Divine Savior as the most exalted and the most perfect exemplar of all virtues; but let them also, by careful avoidance of sin and assiduous practice of virtue, bear witness by their conduct to His teaching and life, so that when the Lord shall appear they may be like unto Him and see Him as He is.
47. It is the will of Jesus Christ that the whole body of the Church, no less than the individual members, should resemble Him. And we see this realized when, following in the footsteps of her Founder, the Church teaches, governs, and offers the divine Sacrifice. When she embraces the evangelical counsels she reflects the Redeemer’s poverty, obedience, and virginal purity. Adorned with institutes of many different kinds as with so many precious jewels, she represents Christ deep in prayer on the mountain, or preaching to the people, or healing the sick and wounded and bringing sinners back to the path of virtue–in a word, doing good to all. What wonder then, if, while on this earth she, like Christ, suffer persecutions, insults and sorrows.
48. Christ must be acknowledged Head of the Church for this reason too, that, as supernatural gifts have their fullness and perfection in Him, it is of this fullness that His Mystical Body receives. It is pointed out by many of the Fathers, that as the Head of our mortal body is the seat of all the senses, while the other parts of our organism have only the sense of touch, so all the powers that are found in Christian society, all the gifts, all the extraordinary graces, attain their utmost perfection in the Head, Christ. "In him it hath well pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell." He is gifted with those supernatural powers that accompany the hypostatic union, since the Holy Spirit dwells in Him with a fullness of grace than which no greater can be imagined. To Him has been given "power over all flesh"; "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him" abundantly. The knowledge which is called "vision" He possesses with such clarity and comprehensiveness that it surpasses similar celestial knowledge found in all the saints of heaven. So full of grace and truth is He that of His inexhaustible fullness we have all received.
49. These words of the disciple whom Jesus loved lead us to the last reason why Christ our Lord should be declared in a very particular way Head of His Mystical Body. As the nerves extend from the head to all parts of the human body and give them power to feel and move, in like manner our Savior communicates strength and power to His Church so that the things of God are understood more clearly and are more eagerly desired by the faithful. From Him streams into the body of the Church all the light with which those who believe are divinely illumined, and all the grace by which they are made holy as He is holy.
50. Christ enlightens His whole Church, as numberless passages from the Sacred Scriptures and the holy Fathers prove. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Coming as a teacher from God to give testimony to the truth, He shed such light upon the nascent apostolic Church that the Prince of the apostles exclaimed: "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life"; from heaven He assisted the evangelists in such a way that as members of Christ they wrote what they had learnt, as it were, at the dictation of the Head. And for us today, who linger on in this earthly exile, He is still the author of faith as in our heavenly home He will be its finisher. It is He who imparts the light of faith to believers; it is He who enriches pastors and teachers and above all His Vicar on earth with the supernatural gifts of knowledge, understanding and wisdom, so that they may loyally preserve the treasury of faith, defend it vigorously, and explain and confirm it with reverence and devotion. Finally it is He who, though unseen, presides at the Councils of the Church and guides them.
51. Holiness begins from Christ; and Christ is its cause. For no act conducive to salvation can be performed unless it proceeds from Him as from its supernatural source. "Without me," He says, "you can do nothing." If we grieve and do penance for our sins, if, with filial fear and hope, we turn again to God, it is because He is leading us. Grace and glory flow from His inexhaustible fullness. Our Savior is continually pouring out His gifts of counsel, fortitude, fear and piety, especially on the leading members of His Body, so that the whole Body may grow ever more and more in holiness and in integrity of life. When the Sacraments of the Church are administered by external rite, it is He who produces their effect in souls. He nourishes the redeemed with His own flesh and blood and thus calms the turbulent passions of the soul; He gives increase of grace and prepares future glory for souls and bodies. All these treasures of His divine goodness He is said to bestow on the members of His Mystical Body, not merely because He, as the Eucharistic Victim on earth and the glorified Victim in heaven, through His wounds and His prayers pleads our cause before the Eternal Father, but because He selects, He determines, He distributes every single grace to every single person "according to the measure of the giving of Christ."
Hence it follows that from our Divine Redeemer as from a fountainhead "the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity."
52. These truths which We have expounded, Venerable Brethren, briefly and succinctly tracing the manner in which Christ our Lord wills that His abundant graces should flow from His fullness into the Church, in order that she should resemble Him as closely as possible, help not a little to explain the third reason why the social Body of the Church should be honored by the name of Christ–namely, that our Savior Himself sustains in a divine manner the society which He founded.
53. As Bellarmine notes with acumen and accuracy, this appellation of the Body of Christ is not to be explained solely by the fact that Christ must be called the Head of His Mystical Body, but also by the fact that He so sustains the Church, and so in a certain sense lives in the Church, that she is, as it were, another Christ. The Doctor of the Gentiles, in his letter to the Corinthians, affirms this when, without further qualification, he calls the Church "Christ," following no doubt the example of his Master who called out to him from on high when he was attacking the Church: "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Indeed, if we are to believe Gregory of Nyssa, the Church is often called simply "Christ" by the Apostle; and you are familiar, Venerable Brethren, with that phrase of Augustine: "Christ preaches Christ."
54. Nevertheless this most noble title of the Church must not be so understood as if that ineffable bond by which the Son of God assumed a definite human nature belongs to the universal Church; but it consists in this, that our Savior shares prerogatives peculiarly His own with the Church in such a way that she may portray, in her whole life, both exterior and interior, a most faithful image of Christ. For in virtue of the juridical mission by which our Divine Redeemer sent His Apostles into the world, as He had been sent by the Father, it is He who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers, sacrifices.
55. But in virtue of that higher, interior, and wholly sublime communication, with which We dealt when We described the manner in which the Head influences the members, Christ our Lord wills the Church to live His own supernatural life, and by His divine power permeates His whole Body and nourishes and sustains each of the members according to the place which they occupy in the Body, in the same way as the vine nourishes and makes fruitful the branches which are joined to it.
56. If we examine closely this divine principle of life and power given by Christ, in so far as it constitutes the very source of every gift and created grace, we easily perceive that it is nothing else than the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who is called in a special way the "Spirit of Christ" or the "Spirit of the Son." For it was by this Breath of grace and truth that the Son of God anointed His soul in the immaculate womb of the Blessed Virgin; this Spirit delights to dwell in the beloved soul of our Redeemer as in His most cherished shrine; this Spirit Christ merited for us on the Cross by shedding His own blood; this Spirit He bestowed on the Church for the remission of sins, when He breathed on the Apostles; and while Christ alone received this Spirit without measure, to the members of the Mystical Body He is imparted only according to the measure of the giving of Christ from Christ’s own fullness. But after Christ’s glorification on the Cross, His Spirit is communicated to the Church in an abundant outpouring, so that she, and her individual members, may become daily more and more like to our Savior. It is the Spirit of Christ that has made us adopted sons of God in order that one day "we all beholding the glory of the Lord with open face may be transformed into the same image from glory to glory."
57. To this Spirit of Christ, also, as to an invisible principle is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the Body are joined one with the other and with their exalted Head; for He is entire in the Head, entire in the Body, and entire in each of the members. To the members He is present and assists them in proportion to their various duties and offices, and the greater or less degree of spiritual health which they enjoy. It is He who through His heavenly grace is the principle of every supernatural act in all parts of the Body. It is He who while He is personally present and divinely active in all the members, nevertheless in the inferior members acts also through the ministry of the higher members. Finally, while by His grace He provides for the continual growth of the Church, He yet refuses to dwell through sanctifying grace in those members that are wholly severed from the Body. This presence and activity of the Spirit of Jesus Christ is tersely and vigorously described by Our predecessor of immortal memory Leo XIII in his Encyclical Letter Divinum Illud in these words: "Let it suffice to say that, as Christ is the Head of the Church, so is the Holy Spirit her soul."
58. If that vital principle, by which the whole community of Christians is sustained by its Founder, be considered not now in itself, but in the created effects which proceed from it, it consists in those heavenly gifts which our Redeemer, together with His Spirit, bestows on the Church, and which He and His Spirit, from whom come supernatural light and holiness, make operative in the Church. The Church, then, no less than each of her holy members can make this great saying of the Apostle her own: "And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me."
59. What We have said concerning the "mystical Head" would indeed be incomplete if We were not at least briefly to touch on this saying of the same Apostle: "Christ is the Head of the Church: he is the Savior of his Body." For in these words we have the final reason why the Body of the Church is given the name of Christ, namely, that Christ is the Divine Savior of this Body. The Samaritans were right in proclaiming Him "Savior of the world"; for indeed He most certainly is to be called the "Savior of all men," even though we must add with Paul: "especially of the faithful, since, before all others, He has purchased with His Blood His members who constitute the Church. But as We have already treated this subject fully and clearly when speaking of the birth of the Church on the Cross, of Christ as the source of life and the principle of sanctity, and of Christ as the support of His Mystical Body, there is no reason why We should explain it further; but rather let us all, while giving perpetual thanks to God, meditate on it with a humble and attentive mind. For that which our Lord began when hanging on the Cross, He continues unceasingly amid the joys of heaven: "Our Head" says St. Augustine "intercedes for us: some members He is receiving, others He is chastising, others cleansing, others consoling, others creating, others calling, others recalling, others correcting, others renewing." But it is for us to cooperate with Christ in this work of salvation, "from one and through one saved and saviours."
60. And now, Venerable Brethren, We come to that part of Our explanation in which We desire to make clear why the Body of Christ, which is the Church, should be called mystical. This name, which is used by many early writers, has the sanction of numerous Pontifical documents. There are several reasons why it should be used; for by it we may distinguish the Body of the Church, which is a Society whose Head and Ruler is Christ, from His physical Body, which, born of the Virgin Mother of God, now sits at the right hand of the Father and is hidden under the Eucharistic veils; and, that which is of greater importance in view of modern errors, this name enables us to distinguish it from any other body, whether in the physical or the moral order.
61. In a natural body the principle of unity unites the parts in such a manner that each lacks its own individual subsistence; on the contrary, in the Mystical Body the mutual union, though intrinsic, links the members by a bond which leaves to each the complete enjoyment of his own personality Moreover, if we examine the relations existing between the several members and the whole body, in every physical, living body, all the different members are ultimately destined to the good of the whole alone; while if we look to its ultimate usefulness, every moral association of men is in the end directed to the advancement of all in general and of each single member in particular; for they are persons. And thus–to return to Our theme–as the Son of the Eternal Father came down from heaven for the salvation of us all, He likewise established the body of the Church and enriched it with the divine Spirit to ensure that immortal souls should attain eternal happiness according to the words of the Apostle: "All things are yours; and you are Christ’s: and Christ is God’s." For the Church exists both for the good of the faithful and for the glory of God and of Jesus Christ whom He sent.
62. But if we compare a mystical body with a moral body, it is to be noted that the difference between them is not slight; rather it is very considerable and very important. In the moral body the principal of union is nothing else than the common end, and the common cooperation of all under the authority of society for the attainment of that end; whereas in the Mystical Body of which We are speaking, this collaboration is supplemented by another internal principle, which exists effectively in the whole and in each of its parts, and whose excellence is such that of itself it is vastly superior to whatever bonds of union may be found in a physical or moral body. As We said above, this is something not of the natural but of the supernatural order; rather it is something in itself infinite, uncreated: the Spirit of God, who, as the Angelic Doctor says, "numerically one and the same, fills and unifies the whole Church."
63. Hence, this word in its correct signification gives us to understand that the Church, a perfect society of its kind, is not made up of merely moral and juridical elements and principles. It is far superior to all other human societies; it surpasses them as grace surpasses nature, as things immortal are above all those that perish. Such human societies, and in the first place civil Society, are by no means to be despised or belittled, but the Church in its entirely is not found within this natural order, any more than the whole of man is encompassed within the organism of our mortal body. Although the juridical principles, on which the Church rests and is established, derive from the divine constitution given to it by Christ and contribute to the attaining of its supernatural end, nevertheless that which lifts the Society of Christians far above the whole natural order is the Spirit of our Redeemer who penetrates and fills every part of the Church’s being and is active within it until the end of time as the source of every grace and every gift and every miraculous power. just as our composite mortal body, although it is a marvelous work of the Creator, falls far short of the eminent dignity of our soul, so the social structure of the Christian community, though it proclaims the wisdom of its divine Architect, still remains something inferior when compared to the spiritual gifts which give it beauty and life, and to the divine source whence they flow.
64. From what We have thus far written and explained, Venerable Brethren, it is clear, We think, how grievously they err who arbitrarily claim that the Church is something hidden and invisible, as they also do who look upon her as a mere human institution possessing a certain disciplinary code and external ritual, but lacking power to communicate supernatural life. On the contrary, as Christ, Head and Exemplar of the Church "is not complete, if only His visible human nature is considered, or if only His divine, invisible nature, but He is one through the union of both and one in both so is it with His Mystical Body" since the Word of God took unto Himself a human nature liable to sufferings, so th