It seems there is becoming more and more confusion between the "Body of Christ", and the "body of Christ". The modern tendency to exalt man to an equal with God, has resulted in a teaching that is becoming more and more common: that the "mystical body of Christ" is no different than the "Eucharistic Body of Christ."
It was not until I was confronted - in confession - by a modernist theologian who attempted to persuade me that there is actually no difference between the Eucharist and a soul that is in the state of grace, that I really began to think about it. He very confidently informed me that "Jesus is just as present in you as He is in the Eucharist." Although I knew there was a difference between myself and God, I was not quite sure how to put my finger on the error. This began much thought on my part, and it was not until about a year or so later that I was finally able to bring clarity to the ambiguity.
Just yesterday, I heard someone call into a Catholic radio show and ask the host for help in answering this confusing question, which had been bothering the caller for some time: what is the difference between God and a soul who is in the state of grace. He said that a friend was trying to convince him that through baptism, confirmation, and communion, man becomes Divine and, as it were, equal to God. The caller sounded very troubled and confused. He stated that he had been reading the new Catechism and John Paul II's writings on the "theology of the body", as well as several other post-Vatican II encyclicals, but was not able to clarify the issue, and asked for their help. Since I had put much thought into this matter, I listened attentively to the response.
The host answered correctly, by stating that there is a difference between a person in the state of grace, and God, but did not explain what the difference was. The caller sounded relieved, not so much because the confusion was clarified, but rather because the host of the show agreed with what he knew was right. The host said that, while it is true that we possess, as the Scriptures say, "the divine nature," we do not become God. But she did not fully answer the question: If Jesus possessed the Divine Nature, and we possess the Divine Nature, how is different, or above, us? Is it that Jesus possessed more of the Divine Nature? If so, could a perfect person become equal to Jesus by possessing an equal amount of the Divine Nature; and if Mary was conceived without original sin and full of grace, would that make her equal to Jesus?
And what are we to think of St. Augustine's words, when he said: "God has become man so that man can become God." And in The Dialogue of Saint Catherine of Siena, God the Father told her: "taking your humanity, and, freeing you from the servitude of the devil, I made you free. And if you examine, you will see that man has become God, and God has become man, through the union of the divine with the human nature." If man has become "God" does this mean that man is equal to God. Our Lord Himself said: "Is it not written in your law: I said you are gods." (John 10:34)
For me, the matter became a little confusing. While I knew that Jesus was God, and that He was far above a soul in the state of grace, I was not quite sure how to distinguish theologically. It was kind of like something that I knew, but could not explain; and the questions I posed to myself to try to clarify the matter, only brought more confusion.
I will list the questions that I began to ponder as well as thoughts that proceeded from these questions.
Question 1) How is the Divine presence in the Eucharist different from the Divine presence in a person who is in the state of grace and who has been "made a partaker of the Divine Nature" (2 Peter 1:4)?
In my attempt to answer that question, I began to consider the next:
Question 2) What is the difference between the hypostatic union (the humanity of Jesus hypostatically united to the Trinity) and that of a person who is in the state of grace? That is to say, if the Divinity is united to the humanity of Jesus via the Hypostatic Union, how is that different than the Divinity of God united to our humanity via the state of sanctifying grace? In both cases we have a human nature united to the Divine.
A) From this question flows the question I posed above: If Jesus possessed the Divine Nature, and we possess the Divine Nature, how is Jesus above us? Did He merely possess more of the Divine Nature? If so, could a perfect person become equal to Jesus by possessing an equal amount of the Divine Nature; and if Mary was conceived without original sin and "full of grace", would that make her equal to Jesus?
B) The answer to question #2 would also help to bring clarity to both the Arian heresy of the past and the Jehovah's Witnesses of today.
Question 3) If the Eucharist is the "Body of Christ" and the Church is the "Body of Christ", what is the difference between the two? Are they equal?
A) This would answer the question raised by Cardinal Roger Mahony: "What does it mean when the Body of Christ comes forward to receive the Body of Christ"?
Question 4) If the state of grace is a participation in the Divine Nature, how is the Eucharist different than bread possessing sanctifying grace?
A) The answer to this question would bring light to many heresies regarding the Eucharist.
These are the questions that I began to ponder in the hope of bringing clarity to what has become a very ambiguous question in our day. There are more and more people who now believe that communion is nothing more than a union with other members of the mystical body - who, they believe - have become God, having undergone a type of "transubstantiation". They no longer look at communion as a union of their soul with God, but merely a union of themselves with each other.
The Question Answered:
For approximately one year I pondered the matter and got nowhere. Each new question seemed to cause more confusion. Then, one day the answer came to me with great clarity; what had been very confusing became crystal clear.
Grace flows from God as from its source. The members of the Church - who are in the state of grace - merely participate in that which flows from God; they do not become its source. The Human nature of Jesus is united to God in such a way that He is the very source of grace; He does not merely receive that which proceeds from God. Jesus is true God and true man because His humanity is united to the Divinity (Hypostatic Union) in the same way that the three persons of the Trinity are united to each other (Hypostasis); therefore Jesus becomes - with the Trinity - the actual cause of, and source of, grace.
When a human person is in the state of grace, he merely "participates" in that which flows from God, as from its source. The sun is the source of light which illuminates the earth, but the earth does not become the sun by participation in its light; in the same way, God is the source of Grace which "illuminates" man, but man does not become God by his participation in Divine grace.
The Eucharist - being Jesus - is the source of grace; therefore, we receive the Eucharist not merely to be in union with "each other" but to be in union with the Source of grace - Jesus. We do not have our participation in grace from a union that proceeds from our "brothers in Christ", but from a union that proceeds from the Source. The union with our "brothers in Christ" is merely a secondary effect of our Union with Christ.
If two light bulbs are being illuminated by the power generated by one battery, they share the same power source; the power is not derived from a union between the two light bulbs, but rather by the light bulbs union with the Battery. Both light bulbs participate in the power generated by the battery, but they do not, therefore, become the battery. In the same way, we merely participate in the grace that flows from God as from its source, and just as the light bulb can be cut off from the power of the battery, we too can be cut off from grace.
Answers to the Above Questions:
Answer 1) The Divine presence in the Eucharist is different than a person in the state of grace in that the Eucharist is the Source of grace while the person is the mere recipient.
Answer 2) The hypostatic union of the Humanity of Jesus with the Trinity is the same union as that which exists between the three persons of the Trinity, while a person in the state of grace is united to the Trinity as a recipient of that "gratuitous gift" which flows from its source. The two natures of Jesus are united in such a way that Jesus becomes - with the Trinity - the actual source of grace.
A) Jesus is above a soul in the state of grace because He is the Source of grace while we are merely participants in the "gratuitous gift" which flows from Him. The most perfect person, even if they possessed all grace would still only be a participant of that which flows from God, and thus of themselves nothing.
Answer 3) The answer is virtually the same: Those in the state of grace are living members of the Body of Christ as a recipient of that which flows from its head. The difference is that the members do not become the source. Therefore, the two are not equal.
A) In answer to Cardinal Mahony's question: When the Body of Christ comes forward to receive the Body of Christ it means the mystical Body of Christ - which is the living mystical Body of Christ by its participation in sanctifying grace - comes forward to receive the very Source of grace by which the mystical Body lives; this communion of the two - the physical Body with the mystical body - unites the two and gives the mystical a greater participation in the Divine by way of its union with the Source.
Answer 4) The Eucharist - being Jesus - is the Source of Grace and not a recipient of that which flows from its source.
The distinction between the cause of grace and the recipient of grace clarifies the matter. Both possess the same Divine life, this is true, but one is merely the recipient of the "gift" that flows from the Other, while the Other is the Source of the gift, which is Divine Life.