One Flesh Union - Christ and the Church

De Maria's picture

What is the One Flesh Union concerning Christ and the Church?

I have posted a version of this question in the Biblical Studies because I believe it is a beautiful question to ponder. And another version in the interdenominational Discussions to see how we view this mystery as expressed in the Sacrament of Matrimony differently.

But I have really been waiting patiently and anxiously for quite a long time to post this particular question on this forum because in another discussion here, the Catholic view of the One Flesh Union between Christ and the Church was called blasphemous. Specifically this teaching from the Catechism.

795 Christ and his Church thus together make up the "whole Christ" (Christus totus). 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 mystical person.

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."

Our understanding of the One Flesh Union between Christ and the Church is based upon this verse.
Ephesians 5:
30For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
31For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Now, it seems to me that our understanding lines up pretty well with Scripture.

And so, I posted this particular thread to see how your views contrast with the Catholic view of this greatest and most wonderful of mysteries.


De Maria

De Maria's picture

re: Not really wanting to change


Thank you for another well thought out response,

Not really wanting to change the subject. The thought was that perhaps our understanding of the Oneness of the Godhead would help us understand our oneness with Christ; as His body.

Understandable and it makes sense. It is the Trinitarian Godhead which is the basis of all doctrines.

No. I find none of those verses offensive. But I interpret them according to an understanding based upon other scriptural passages and the reasoning powers God has given to every man. I am not influenced by the CCC statement cited earlier.

I wonder why then, you don't interpret the CCC by the same scriptural passages and reasoning powers God has given every man?

Since Christ Himself says that we are Christ (Acts 9:4), what indication is there in that CCC passage that we are interpreting His Word any different than He is?

No. But the doctrine of the Trinity may help us understand the subject at hand. It sounds like you disagree with my assessment of our relationship to the mystery of Christ's body. Therefore, let me offer a bit more explanation for why I answered as I did.

I understand that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith.

So do we. Or does that statement in the Catechism somehow deny this doctrine?

Paul has already made this very clear earlier in Ephesians before he made his comments on the mystery of Christ and the church in chapter 5. We should consider this statement carefully as we try to understand the 5th chapter.

14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father,

15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,

16 that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man;

17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

18 may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

19 and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.

Eph 3:14-19 (ASV)

That is a very good passage. But St. Paul has made clear much more than that. I draw your attention to the very last sentence of that verse.
that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.

And in the very same epistle, St. Paul says:
Ephesians 5:30
For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

And since St. Paul has also said:
19 and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,

Yet you are offended because we accept all these Scriptures. In other words, Christ says we are His body and so we believe. Scripture says the fulness of God resides in us and we believe.

I don't see anything to be offended about. Especially since we are not asking you to believe thus. We are simply explaining our faith.

Pantheism believes that God is in everything: the trees, the flowers, the plants, the animals, and therefore, man himself. But this is not a correct view.

Catholicism rejected the heresy of Pantheism centuries ago.

However, Scripture says:
Acts 17:28
For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.

And we do not interpret that as Pantheism.

God's spirit is pervasive but He does not take possession of our bodies as we believe is the case with demon possession.

I believe it is Calvinism which teaches that doctrine in opposition to the Catholic doctrine of free will.

31 So the devils besought him, saying, If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.

32 And he said unto them, Go. And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.

Matt 8:31-32 (KJV)

God works with our wills to help us desire and to do His good pleasure.


12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Phil 2:12-15 (KJV)

But God does not move in literally and take possession of our lives. His spirit guides us but we must willingly follow. God does not force our obedience, He wins it.


Philippians speaks of "work" and "doing" and "shining." There is an element there of our taking action which definitely suggest that we retain our freedom to choose--because we are urged to get up and do. Doesn't this align well with the Catholic concept of faith and works?


Whereas, the Protestant concept aligns more properly with the idea that Christ indwells us in that they say the works follow the faith and are a direct result of faith.

Which aligns very well with the Catholic idea of our being Christ.

I'd like to make a clarification here. This Protestant doctrine is not false. It is true. It is simply not true enough.

How is it not true enough? Because Protestantism throws to the wayside the concept of God's Majesty. As though God had nothing to do with us before we were converted (i.e. justified, born again).

The subject of this idea is really merit before justification. We agree that Christ does not indwell us before justification which we pinpoint as occurring at Baptism. While some Protestants agree but others pinpoint the time of being "born again."

It is that period before justification which is here disputed. We believe that God's grace leads us to faith. And that we must cooperate with that grace by faith and works. Scripture says:
Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

James 2:24
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Therefore we believe that without works there is no faith and without faith we will not be justified. Note that this faith and works must be present before one is justified.

I will say more along these lines if it becomes apparent that your argument involves the notion of a literal possession of our bodies by Christ.

It is APPARENT to you ALONE. Since I see nothing in that verse or in any Catholic doctrine which says that God somehow casts our free wills aside and takes over our bodies.

CCC#1730 God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. "God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him."

Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.


De Maria