Henri de Lubac, a Roman Catholic theologian, writes about the 3 bodies of Christ in Christian theology.
First, the literal, physical body of Jesus of Nazareth. The bod that was wounded, pierced, buried in a tomb, and resurrected on the 3rd day.
Second, the body of Jesus that is passed and celebrated during worship through the Eucharist. Jesus said, “this is my body… this is my blood.” The body of Christ is shared among one another, thinking back to Christ’s death as we await his appearing, colliding past, present, and future into a single moment in time.
Third, the body of Christ as the Church. Paul, among others, uses different imagery to communicate the Church as Jesus’ body, re-presenting him on the earth through the announcement that the tomb is empty and that Jesus is Lord.
David Fitch has noted that among the 2nd and 3rd bodies of Christ, one will be a “literal” body of Christ and the other will be “invisible” body of Christ. During the Medieval period, the “literal” body of Christ was emphasized in the Eucharist and the “invisible” body of Christ to the Church. This translated into an idea of, “We know Christ is here among us as we worship, but we are not sure where he is at among the dark world around us.”
In my mind, this idea runs parallel to something I’ve mentioned before about the “shadow” of the Reformation description of “church”, where the word is properly preached and sacraments and church discipline are properly administered. Though this was not the Reformation’s intent, it became assumed that all of God’s business happens in the Church. Therefore, Christ is present among us as we worship on Sundays and we are “kinda” on our own throughout the week until we can gather again.
Sounds familiar. Isn’t this a common issue in our church climate today?
One of the worthwhile tasks of the Church today could be to rediscover Christ’s literal presence in God’s world. Where is Jesus? What is he up to? God is a sent God and a sending God (missio dei– John 20:21); we have to believe that God is working in us and in spite of us in his own world.
CJ, a good friend of mine, mentioned during one of our early Sunday morning caffeinated beverage conversations about the wild idea of corporate worship only being “an appetizer” to the week of God’s people, rather than the main (or only) meal. One of the primary needs for this idea is to stress again the literal body of Christ that is scattered among us, as God’s people scatter between Sundays. I wonder what amazing things God would do if we realized that his business is done everywhere, even in the places the steeple shadow does not touch.