The Body of Christ is a common, yet complex term used in the Christian faith. Some may initially think we are talking about the physical body of Christ, as in His human form on earth. But the term "Body of Christ" actually refers to the members of His church, throughout history. Who or what is the body of Christ? The body of Christ is the Church, made up of all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Each Christian, then, is a part of the body of Christ.
The first biblical reference to this body was made by Jesus during the last supper. Mark 14:22 says, "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.'" This symbolic act is the beginning of the communion service which Christians accept as a remembrance that they are a part of the body of Jesus Christ, due to Jesus' death on the cross.
The Nicene Creed was written centuries ago to help Christians remember the important beliefs of the faith. In the Nicene Creed we identify the four marks of the Church. The four marks of the Church are not characteristics that the Church creates or develops or learns. They are qualities that Jesus Christ shares with his Church through the Holy Spirit. The four marks of the Church are that it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.
The Church Is One
Just as God is one in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so also is the Church one. The founder of the Church is Jesus Christ, who brought us back to God and made us into the family of God. The Church is one in the Holy Spirit, who dwells in those who believe.
The Church Is Holy
The Church is holy because the Church lives in union with Jesus Christ, the source of holiness. Through the Holy Spirit the Church leads others to holiness. The holiness of the Church is seen in the love that the members of the Church have toward one another and the many sacrifices they make for the sake of the world.
The Church Is Catholic
Catholic means “universal.” The Church is universal in two ways. First, the Church is catholic because all baptized people are part of the Church and the Church possesses the means of salvation. Second, the mission of the Church is universal because the Church has been sent to proclaim Christ to the entire human race.
The Church Is Apostolic
The Church traces its tradition directly from the apostles; therefore, the Church is considered apostolic. With the Holy Spirit the Church preserves and continues the teaching of the apostles. The pope and bishops are the successors of the apostles.
Loyola Press, 2016.
Lumen Gentium* rightly calls the Church “the universal sacrament of salvation” since Christ, who “is continually active in the world,” leads all people to the Church so that He may “join them more closely to Himself.” Through the Holy Spirit, Christ’s mission of salvation “continues in the Church in which, through our faith, we learn the meaning of our earthly life, while we bring to term, with hope of future good, the task allotted to us in the world by the Father, and so work out our salvation.”
The Catholic Thing, 2016.
*Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, is one of the principal documents of the Second Vatican Council.