Mystical Body Foreword
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1. Mystical Body Foreword

Biblical Concept

"The Mystical Body of Christ" gives us a useful, challenging devotional overview and fundamental Biblical and theological concept of the Mystical Body writes Bishop Blackwell in this Mystical Body Foreword. Here we have a variety of lenses by which we can gain a new and focused view of God in Christ, ourselves, others, the Church, and the culture in which we live." C S Lewis (1898-1963), the British novelist, poet, and Christian apologist at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, reminds us in one of his letters, written over fifty years ago. 'The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion, for the Church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities, but the Body of Christ. In this body, all members, however different, (and God rejoices in the differences and by no means wishes to iron them out), must share the common life, complementing and helping one another, precisely by their differences.' The Mystical Body of Christ is a study book. It contains helpful questions for personal and group reflection. I am glad that it reminds us of the scope, the grandeur, the vitality, and the saving dynamics of "The Mystical Body of Christ."

On Earth and In Heaven

Thanks to our friend and colleague, The Rt. Rev. Douglas C. Blackwell, former Bishop of Trent-Durham, in the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, who wrote this foreword in 1998. Ron dedicates it to his late wife Audrey Kathleen Meacock (June 3rd, 1948 - January 19th, 1993) and all other Mystical Body members on Earth and Heaven.

Mystical Body Christ

The UniverseThe mystical body of Christ is an exciting and vital concept for the Christian. It contains many emanations at multiple levels of the early church model. Today, the church struggles to find its place in a new age. It casts around looking for a model to enable it not just to survive but to grow gracefully. Rather than tinkering with the institutional church's mechanics, we might be better looking at the Early Church model of the Mystical Body of Christ. Saint Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12.27, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." Each Christian is a vital part of the cumulative mystical Body of Christ. The Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) writes of "the spiritual Body, which is the holy Church." In the early third century, classical Greek philosophy and literature influenced Clement, but essentially he agreed with the words of Saint Paul. The French theologian William of Auxerre (1145-1231 AD) was possibly the first to distinguish "the natural Body of Christ" from "the Mystical and gratuitous Body of Christ." The word "gratuitous" or "free of charge" refers to the grace of God. Belonging to the Body of Christ is the gift and unmerited favor of God. The mystical body of Christ is vital and relevant for Christians today.

Many Emanations

Mechanical EngineThere are about twenty references to the "Body of Christ" in the New Testament. For example, Saint Paul writes in Romans 7.4, "So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, so that we might bear fruit for God." Belonging to the Body of Christ is a way of producing spiritual fruit for God. Referring to the Holy Communion, Saint Paul emphasizes our oneness in the Boby of Christ. He writes in 1 Corinthians 10.16, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?" The negative side of 1 Corinthians 11.29 is, "For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves."

Mystical Reality

Stained Glass Baptism FontTherefore, this mystical reality propels small groups, institutions, and even denominations toward the grand vision of the universal, global, and Heavenly Body of Christ. Our role as Christians, in the words of Ephesians 4.12, is "to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up." The Body of Christ quietly energizes today's leadership, clergy, lay leaders, and ordinary Christian men and women. In the Mystical Body of Christ, we rediscover a church's vision no longer burdened with buildings set free to be God's hands and feet in the world. David Watson (1933-1984 AD), the British evangelist and author, wrote, "Two thousand years ago, it was the person of Christ that was compellingly attractive, not the individual disciples with all their blemishes. Today, it is the Body of Christ, when deeply united in love, and not individual Christians, that can most of all make one hungry for God." His words still ring true today! Understanding the relationship of today's church and Christ's Church Body is vitally essential to the Christian and the local community. There are probably many questions concerning Christ's Church Body. What is it (better and more accurately the feminine "she"), and what does she do? Is "the Body" the same as the congregation we attend on Sunday, or is there something more or even less? What does Christ's Body have to do with the man named Jesus, who lived in 30 AD? What does Christ's Body have to do with the Christian today? What is the Mystical Body of Christ, anyway?

Real Church

Human ArmOur mistake today is to imagine that our church is the same as the New Testament Church. Saint Paul explains how the Early Church worked as a single unit in 1 Corinthians 12.12-14, "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit to form one body — whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free — and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so, the body is not made up of one part but of many." The phrase "baptized by one Spirit" means "baptized with or in one Spirit." The Body of Christ indicated the church to the early Christian community. The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 1.24-27, "for the sake of his (Christ's) body, the church." For the first three centuries after Christ, there were very few church buildings as we would know them, and most of these are lost today. In most instances, intimate family groups nourished faith in the sanctity of their own homes. Church, as we now describe it, is several times removed from the original Early Church model of Christ's Body. "Can you describe Christ's Church Body in your own words?"

Female Body Christ

Girl with Plant in Handsthe Greek New Testament describes the body of Christ with the female term "her." This fact gives special meaning and characteristics both in the New Testament and today. The word Church is typically used today for a building where Christians meet. It is, in fact, more appropriate for a group of people called apart to worship the Lord. The New Testament Greek word for church is "ecclesia." The term "ecclesia" has two parts, "ek," meaning "out of" and "klesis," meaning "a calling." These combine to make "church" an assembly "called apart to the Lord." It translates an older Hebrew word, "kahal," meaning "assembly." These words for "church" are feminine, and it is entirely appropriate to describe the church as the female body of Christ and use the word "she." Many people today still wrongly refer to the church as "it." In New Testament writings, "the church" is invariably a small local worshipping group of Christians rather than a building. The body of Christ is, however, the ideal ministry model. She was the New Testament church before buildings for worship and is also God's choice in the Twenty-First Century for our church. When rediscovered, this body will provide what we now call "our church" with a clear and focused vision. We shall see what we can be.✞

Human Body Christ

Girl kissing SphinxWe can examine the human Body of Christ and its male, female, human and non-human, and non-gender aspects in detail. Though this comes as a surprise to many people, God has chosen the human female form to describe the Body of Christ's ideal faith community. The New Testament sometimes calls this female entity "the bride of Christ," and Saint Paul considered her female. He wrote, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word." Though the Bible generally describes the Body of Christ as female, this does not limit her. Like God, the Body of Christ is not strictly speaking a human entity except that she is as close as we can understand God from our perspective. The Body of Christ may exhibit other male, female, or non-human characteristics too. The human Body of Christ bears masculine features because her head is none other than Christ himself. The Body of Christ exists in many different forms today. Christ's Body in the sacramental elements of the bread and wine at the holy table is neither masculine nor feminine but of vegetable origin. We may see the body of Christ as a microscopic fertilized egg or as a gigantic heavenly chorus. She is the most complex and best-kept secret in the Universe!

"Mystical Body Foreword"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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