Mystici Corporis – A mystery for Easter
By Br Albert Elias Robertson | This post is the first of a series on the teaching magisterium of Pope Pius XII whose sixtieth anniversary of death occurs this year. His writings cover a vast range of topics, from international politics to the Mystery of the Church, from the Rosary to the use of sacred music. Over the coming months, we’ll be offering short reflections on some of these texts.
This post is the first of a series on the teaching magisterium of Pope Pius XII whose sixtieth anniversary of death occurs this year. His writings cover a vast range of topics, from international politics to the Mystery of the Church, from the Rosary to the use of sacred music. Over the coming months, we’ll be offering short reflections on some of these texts. Mystici Corporis was written in the fifth year of the reign of Pius XII, and addresses the mystery of the Church, the body of Christ. It seeks to give a proper understanding of the mystery of the Church, correcting two errors – one which over-spiritualises the Church so as to make its visible manifestation of no consequence, and another which does almost the opposite by focusing too much on the institutional Church.
The greatest mystery of the Christian faith is the will of God to become incarnate, and to suffer and die for us, so as to lead us to Salvation. St Maximus of Turin summed up the mystery beautifully when he said ‘in Christ our own flesh loves us’ (Sermon XXIX). The Church is left to us as the way to our salvation, but just as in Christ our own flesh loves us, so also in the Church our fellow man mirrors the love of Christ for each soul, whether it be by the sacramental action where Christ works through the priest, or through the charity shown to each other: Christ loves us through the Church.
The document spends a good deal of time explaining how Christ acts as head of the Church, but as Pope Pius points out, just because Christ holds such an eminent position, one must not think that he does not require the help of the Body. It is clear that we cannot do anything without the help of God, for He has said, “Without me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5), but Christ has need of His members. This does not show any kind of weakness on the part of Christ, but rather shows the greater glory He wished His spotless Spouse to possess.
The Church was brought forth from the side of Christ on the Cross, and dying on the Cross, Christ left His Church an immense treasury to which we contribute nothing, but when it comes to the distribution of these graces, it is not only that we share in the work of sanctification with Christ, but that in some way it is due to our actions (Mystici Corporis, §44). This makes Mystici Corporis ideal Easter reading, for just as we have celebrated sacramentally the great mystery of our Salvation through the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter, now we must set about, like the Apostles we read about in the Acts of the Apostles each day at Holy Mass, dispensing this grace to other through our lives, in cooperation with Christ our Redeemer.