The Mystical Body of Christ unites the faithful with Christ, their Head

From Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (1943):

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 definitely the many current errors with regard to this matter.

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.”6 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,7 and we were all “children of wrath.”8 But the all-merciful God “so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son,”9 and the Word of the Eternal Father with the same divine love assumed human nature from the race of Adam – but as 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.10 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

6 Rom., V, 20.
7 Cf. II Peter, I, 4.
8 Eph., II, 3.
9 John, III, 16.
10 Cf. John, I, 12.
11 Cf. [First] Vat. Council, Const. de Eccl., prol.

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False rationalism and false mysticism both distort the Faith

From Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (1943):

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.

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 [First] 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 forms its proper object.”5

5 Sessio III; Const. de fide cath., c. 4.

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Increasing interest in the Faith and in liturgy brings cautious optimism

From Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (1943):

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. At 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 cornerstone, which is Christ, and are built together into a holy temple, far surpassing any temple built by hands, into a habitation of God in the Spirit.4

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.

4 Cf. Eph., II, 21-22; I Peter, II, 5.

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The Mystical Body unites Catholics in charity under the protection of the Holy Father

From Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (1943):

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 toward 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.

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 defence of truth, justice and charity.

Mystici Corporis Christi 5-6

Fr. Guilbeau to offer Dominican Rite Mass Sunday at Silver Spring

A Low Mass in the Traditional Dominican Rite will be offered Sunday, June 25, at the Traditional Latin Mass Congregation of Silver Spring, Maryland. The celebrant of the Mass of the Third Sunday after Pentecost will be Reverend Father Aquinas Guilbeau op, Instructor in Moral Theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington.

Holy Mass will begin at 8:00 am. Confessions will be heard from 7:30 to 7:55 am. A second collection will be taken up for the Holy Father (Peter’s Pence).

Silver Spring TLM Congregation meets at the Historic Church of St. John the Evangelist, 9700 Rosensteel Avenue, Forest Glen. Ample free parking is available.

The present calamities of the Church and of souls resemble those of Christ

From Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (1943):

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 and 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.

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 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.*

Mystici Corporis Christi 3-4

* Pope Pius issued this document during the Second World War.

Christ purchased the Church, His Mystical Body, with His Precious Blood

A traditional descriptor of the Church is that She is the Mystical Body of Christ, in which are united Our Lord as Head and the faithful as members. This unity is what we make reference to when we profess in the Creed that the Church is One and Catholic. It is also how we may distinguish true ecumenism (which seeks to resolve the causes of doctrinal division, most particularly between Catholicism and Orthodoxy) from false ecumenism (which seeks to minimize or dismiss the substantive doctrinal differences between Catholicism and non-Catholic creeds).

As the specters of false ecumenism and self-destruction loomed over Christendom and the world in the middle of the twentieth century, Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi in 1943 to address the doctrine of the Mystical Body and its implications. We reproduce excerpts from that encyclical beginning today, and ask the intercession of Our Lady, Help of Christians, that the division and confusion now rampant in Christ’s Body and in the world may be healed.

The doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church,1 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.

For We intend to speak of the riches stored up in this Church which Christ purchased with His own Blood,2 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

1 Cf. Col. I, 24.
2 Acts, XX, 28.
3 Cf. I Peter, IV, 13.

Mystici Corporis Christi 1-2

* It is customary for a Pope to refer to himself in the first person plural, out of respect for the continuity and grave dignity of the Petrine office.

True development unites the human family in charity and trust in God our Father

The conclusion of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009):

D evelopment needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love. Development requires attention to the spiritual life, a serious consideration of the experiences of trust in God, spiritual fellowship in Christ, reliance upon God’s providence and mercy, love and forgiveness, self-denial, acceptance of others, justice and peace. All this is essential if “hearts of stone” are to be transformed into “hearts of flesh” (Ezek 36:26), rendering life on earth “divine” and thus more worthy of humanity. All this is of man, because man is the subject of his own existence; and at the same time it is of God, because God is at the beginning and end of all that is good, all that leads to salvation: “the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours; and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s” (1 Cor 3:22-23). Christians long for the entire human family to call upon God as “Our Father!” In union with the only-begotten Son, may all people learn to pray to the Father and to ask him, in the words that Jesus himself taught us, for the grace to glorify him by living according to his will, to receive the daily bread that we need, to be understanding and generous towards our debtors, not to be tempted beyond our limits, and to be delivered from evil (cf. Mt 6:9-13).

At the conclusion of the Pauline Year, I gladly express this hope in the Apostle’s own words, taken from the Letter to the Romans: “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honour” (Rom 12:9-10). May the Virgin Mary — proclaimed Mater Ecclesiae by Paul VI and honoured by Christians as Speculum Iustitiæ and Regina Pacis — protect us and obtain for us, through her heavenly intercession, the strength, hope and joy necessary to continue to dedicate ourselves with generosity to the task of bringing about the “development of the whole man and of all men.159

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 29 June, the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, in the year 2009, the fifth of my Pontificate.

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

159 Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 42: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 59 (1967), 278.

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God, our greatest hope, strengthens us in the face of discouragement

From Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical Caritas in Veritate (2009):

Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20). As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done, we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice. Paul VI recalled in Populorum Progressio that man cannot bring about his own progress unaided, because by himself he cannot establish an authentic humanism. Only if we are aware of our calling, as individuals and as a community, to be part of God’s family as his sons and daughters, will we be able to generate a new vision and muster new energy in the service of a truly integral humanism. The greatest service to development, then, is a Christian humanism157 that enkindles charity and takes its lead from truth, accepting both as a lasting gift from God. Openness to God makes us open towards our brothers and sisters and towards an understanding of life as a joyful task to be accomplished in a spirit of solidarity. On the other hand, ideological rejection of God and an atheism of indifference, oblivious to the Creator and at risk of becoming equally oblivious to human values, constitute some of the chief obstacles to development today. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment. Awareness of God’s undying love sustains us in our laborious and stimulating work for justice and the development of peoples, amid successes and failures, in the ceaseless pursuit of a just ordering of human affairs. God’s love calls us to move beyond the limited and the ephemeral, it gives us the courage to continue seeking and working for the benefit of all, even if this cannot be achieved immediately and if what we are able to achieve, alongside political authorities and those working in the field of economics, is always less than we might wish.158 God gives us the strength to fight and to suffer for love of the common good, because he is our All, our greatest hope.

157 Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 42: Acta Apostolicæ Sedis 59 (1967), 278.
158 Cf. Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 35.

Caritas in Veritate 78

Fr. Carr to offer feast day TLMs Friday afternoon, Saturday morning

The Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) will be offered on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning of this week by Reverend Father Richard Carr at St. Michael Church, 7401 St. Michael’s Lane, Annandale.

On Friday afternoon, June 23, Low Mass of the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be offered at 4:30 pm. Low Mass of the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist will be offered at 7:00 am on Saturday morning, June 24.

Please note that these Masses are scheduled at the discretion of the celebrant, and are not part of the parish’s published Mass calendar. These Masses have been added to our seven-day schedule.