The Spirit of the Lord, §9: Corpus Christi

The ekklesia is the corporate body of Christ, the communal fellowship of those who participate in the historical being of God in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:23). As the “body of Christ,” we are then called to “bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4). The church, according to Paul, is the “body of Christ” not because the distinction between Christ’s body and our body has been eclipsed—in fact, just the opposite. The particular body of Christ and the universal body of Christ are as strictly differentiated as the particular mission of Christ and the universal mission of the church: Jesus the Messiah completed in his particular body the unique and exclusive event of reconciliation, which then frees humanity to become the universal body of those reconciled to God. The ekklesia is in no way an extension of the incarnation; rather, the ekklesia depends wholly upon the unassimilable event of divine grace made manifest in the incarnate Son of God. The church is the corpus Christi only as those who receive their embodied identity as the communio sanctorum from the risen Lord.

We are the “body of Christ” only because Christ alone gave up his body “for us and for our salvation.” We are new creatures, because in Christ, God bore our old identity and bore it away on the cross. We pray with confidence, because Christ is the gracious mediator between us and the Father (Heb. 7:25). We “go on toward perfection” (Heb. 6:1), because Christ has already gone ahead of us and been perfected as the source of our salvation (Heb. 5:9). Only because Jesus Christ is the salvator mundi—the savior of the world—can the world rest in the assurance of its salvation. Only because Jesus was raised from the dead can we now have hope for our own resurrection. Only because Jesus Christ is the “one who sanctifies” are we able to be “those who are sanctified” in the power of the Spirit (Heb. 2:11). Only because the Crucified One “is our peace” (Eph. 2:14) can we become the cruciform community of peace. Only because God elected in Jesus Christ to be rejected in our place are we free from God’s rejection of us. Only because God elected in Jesus Christ to be accepted in our place are we free for God’s acceptance of us and for our response of faithful obedience. Out of this divine event of election—in which the Son elects the cross for himself and the covenant for humanity—the church arises as the covenantal community. Out of the crucified and resurrected body of Christ, the church emerges as the cruciform body of believers, the pilgrim people seeking the resurrectional renewal of all things, the ekklesia of those awakened to “the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6). The eschatological communion of saints is thus set apart by God to embody the messianic mission through word and sacrament, to take on the sanctified shape of God’s elect in the covenant of grace.

Comments

Mykel G. Larson said…
See, I personally like these little insights into the nature and dimension(s) of the Divine (specifically God, Jesus and Holy Spirit) and how they have manifested themselves in time, in our physical world. I find it fascinating to read how the human consciousness can perceive and distill out from the physical, and mystical presence of God, in all things, especially in Jesus, God's manifestation of Himself, morsels of Divine Wisdom that will hopefully lead us to a closeness with God that is unfathomably awesome, beautiful, and loving.

But at the same time, while there is this quickening in the intellect that arouses greater understanding of this wisdom, there is the frustration of actually enacting it - actually walking the path with faith.

I think St. John of the Cross said it best:

"It must be known, then, that the soul, after it has been definitely converted to the service of God, is, as a rule, spiritually nurtured and caressed by God, even as is the tender child by its loving mother, who warms it with the heat of her bosom and nurtures it with sweet milk and soft and pleasant food, and carries it and caresses it in her arms; but, as the child grows bigger, the mother gradually ceases caressing it, and, hiding her tender love, puts bitter aloes upon her sweet breast, sets down the child from her arms and makes it walk upon its feet, so that it may lose the habits of a child and betake itself to more important and substantial occupations. The loving mother is like the grace of God, for, as soon as the soul is regenerated by its new warmth and fervour for the service of God, He treats it in the same way; He makes it to find spiritual milk, sweet and delectable, in all the things of God, without any labour of its own, and also great pleasure in spiritual exercises, for here God is giving to it the breast of His tender love, even as to a tender child."

- Dark Night of the Soul, Chapter I, 2.
(pardon my unacademic referencing technique.)
Shane said…
Corpus Christi celebrates the eucharist.
Halden said…
David, what is "the messianic mission" which we embody through word and sacrament? It seems like "messianic mission" is pretty vauge. Messianic in what sense? What does this mission entail?
D.W. Congdon said…
The problem with this series is that each post is meant to be read with all the others; they are not autonomous units. So I explain the messianic mission a little more explicitly in this earlier post. I will also say more about it in upcoming posts. Essentially, I understand the mission of the Messiah to be one of liberation of the captives (Isa. 61) and the mission of the messianic community to be one of proclamation and witness which entails a concrete embodiment of what Christ accomplished in our communal life.

And yes, Shane, the eucharist is important, though I will not touch the eucharist until near the end of this series.