associated with his sufferings as the body with its head, suffering
with him, that with him we may be glorified.”
Christ provides for our growth:
to make us grow toward him,
he provides in his Body, the Church, the gifts and
assistance by which we help one another along the way of salvation.
Christ and his Church thus together make up the “whole
). The Church is one with Christ. The saints
are acutely aware of this unity:
Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not
only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and
grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice:
we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the
members; he and we together are the whole man. . . . The
fullness of Christ then is the head and the members. But what
does “head and members” mean? Christ and the Church.
Our redeemer has shown himself to be one person with the
holy Church whom he has taken to himself.
Head and members form as it were one and the same mys-
A reply of St. Joan of Arc to her judges sums up the faith of
the holy doctors and the good sense of the believer: “About
Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one
thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”
The Church is the Bride of Christ
The unity of Christ and the Church, head and members of
one Body, also implies the distinction of the two within a personal
relationship. This aspect is often expressed by the image of bride-
groomand bride. The theme of Christ as Bridegroomof the Church
was prepared for by the prophets and announced by John the
The Lord referred to himself as the “bridegroom.”
The Apostle speaks of the whole Church and of each of the faithful,
members of his Body, as a bride “betrothed” to Christ the Lord so
as to become but one spirit with him.
The Church is the spotless
7 § 4; cf.
230 St. Augustine,
In Jo. ev.
21, 8: PL 35, 1568.
231 Pope St. Gregory the Great,
Moralia in Job, præf.
, 14: PL 75, 525A.
232 St. Thomas Aquinas,
III, 48, 2.
233 Acts of the Trial of Joan of Arc.