When the Head and members are despised, then the whole Christ is despised, for the whole Christ, Head and body, is that just man against whom deceitful lips speak iniquity.
What does the Scripture mean when it tells us of the body of one man so extended in space that all can kill him? We must understand these words of ourselves, of our Church, or the body of Christ. For Jesus Christ is one man, having a Head and a body. The Saviour of the body and the members of the body are two in one flesh, and in one voice, and in one passion, and, when iniquity shall have passed away, in one repose. And so the passion of Christ is not in Christ alone; and yet the passion of Christ is in Christ alone. For if in Christ you consider both the Head and the body, the Christs passion is in Christ alone; but if by Christ you mean only the Head, then Christs passion is not in Christ alone.... Hence if you are in the members of Christ, all you who hear me, and even you who hear me not (though you do hear, if you are united with the members of Christ), whatever you suffer at the hands of those who are no among the members of Christ, was lacking to the sufferings of Christ. It is added precisely because it was lacking. You fill up the measure; you do not cause it to overflow. You will suffer just so much as must be added of your sufferings to the complete passion of Christ, who suffered as our Head and who continues to suffer in His members, that is, in us. Into this common treasury each pays what he owes, and according to each ones ability we all contribute our share of suffering. The full measure of the Passion will not be attained until the end of the world.
The Apostle says: I make up in my flesh what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24). I make up, he tells us, not what is lacking to my sufferings, but what is lacking to the sufferings of Christ; not in Christs flesh, but in mine. not in Christ's flesh, but in mine. Christ is still suffering, not in His own flesh which He took with Him into heaven, but in my flesh, which is still suffering on earth.
Christs whole body groans in pain. Until the end of the world, when pain will pass away, this man groans and cries to God. And each one of us has part in the cry of that whole body. Thou didst cry out in thy day, and thy days have passed away; another took thy place and cried out in his day. Thou here, he there, and another there. The body of Christ ceases not to cry out all the day, one member replacing the other whose voice is hushed. Thus there is but one man who reaches unto the end of time, and those that cry are always His members.
No greater gift could God bestow on men than to give them as their Head His Word, by whom He made all things, and to unite them as members to that Head. Thus the Word became both Son of God and Son of man: one God with the Father, one Man with men. Hence, when we offer our petitions to God, let it not detach itself from its Head. Let it be He, the sole Saviour of His body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us, who prays in us, and who is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our Priest; He prays in us as our Head; He is prayed to by us as our God. Let us therefore hear both our words in Him and His words in us.... We pray to Him in the form of God; He prays in the form of the slave. There He is the Creator; here He is in the creature. He changes not, but takes the creature and transforms it into Himself, making us one man, head and body, with Himself. We pray therefore to Him, and through Him, and in Him. We pray with Him, and He with us; we recite this prayer of the Psalm in Him, and He recites it in us.
Therefore, on hearing His words let no one say either: "These are not Christ's words," or "These are not my words." On the contrary, if he knows that he is in the body of Christ, let him say: "These are both Christ's words and my words." Say nothing without Him, and He will say nothing without thee. We must not consider ourselves as strangers to Christ, or look upon ourselves as other than Himself.
Certainly He says this for me, for thee, for this other man, since He bears His body, the Church. Unless you imagine, brethren, that when He said: My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me (Matt. 26:39), it was the Lord that feared to die. . . . But Paul longed to die, that he might be with Christ. What? The Apostle desires to die, and Christ Himself should fear death? What can this mean, except that He bore our infirmity in Himself, and uttered these words for those who are in His body and still fear death? It is from these that the voice came; it was the voice of His members, not of the Head. When He said, My soul is sorrowful unto death (Matt. 26:38), He manifested Himself in thee, and thee in Himself. And when He said, My God, my God, why has Thou forsaken Me? (Matt. 27:46), the words He uttered on the cross were not His own, but ours.
On the words of Ps. 21:3: "O My God, I shall cry day by day, and Thou wilt not hear".
He who disdained not to assume us unto Himself, did not disdain to take our place and speak our words, in order that we might speak His words.
He no more wished to speak alone than He wished to exist alone, since He says: Behold, I am with you all days, unto the consummation of the world (Matt. 28:20). If He is with us, then He speaks in us, He speaks of us, and He speaks through us; and we too speak in Him.
Though absent from our eyes, Christ our Head is bound to us by love. Since the whole Christ is Head and body, let us so listen to the voice of the Head that we may also hear the body speak.
What has the Church done to thee, that thou shouldst wish to decapitate her? Thou wouldst take away her Head, and believe in the Head alone, despising the body. Vain is thy service, and false thy devotion to the Head. For to sever it from the body is an injury to both Head and body.
Christ Himself has said: They are no longer two, but they are one flesh (Matt. 19:6). Is it strange then, if they are one flesh, that they should have one tongue and should say the same words, since they are one flesh, Head and body? Let us therefore hear them as one. But let us listen to the Head speaking as Head, and to the body speaking as the body. We do not separate the two realities, but two different dignities; for the Head saves, and the body is saved.
In order to understand the Scriptures, it is absolutely necessary to know the whole, complete Christ, that is, Head and members. For sometimes Christ speaks in the name of the Head alone ... sometimes in the name of His body, which is the holy Church spread over the entire earth. And we are in His body ... and we hear ourselves speaking in it, for the Apostle tells us: We are members of His body (Eph. 5:30). In many places does the Apostle tell us this.
Let us rejoice and give thanks. Not only are we become Christians, but we are become Christ. My brothers, do you understand the grace of God that is given us? Wonder, rejoice, for we are made Christ! If He is the Head, and we the members, then together He and we are the whole man.... This would be foolish pride on our part, were it not a gift of his bounty. But this is what He promised by the mouth of the Apostle: You are the body of Christ, and severally His members