Allocutio June 2004
THE LEGION AND THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST
“GOD, OUR FATHER. YOU INSPIRED YOUR SERVANT FRANK DUFF WITH A PROFOUND INSIGHT INTO THE MYSTERY OF YOUR CHURCH, THE BODY OF CHRIST, AND THE PLACE OF THE MOTHER OF JESUS IN THIS MYSTERY. IN HIS IMMENSE DESIRE TO SHARE WITH OTHERS AND IN FILIAL DEPENDENCE ON MARY HE FORMED HER LEGION TO BE A SIGN OF HER MATERNAL LOVE FOR THE WORLD AND A MEANS OF ENLISTING ALL HER CHILDREN IN THE CHURCH’S EVANGELISING WORK. WE THANK YOU FATHER, FOR THE GRACES CONFERRED ON HIM AND FOR THE BENEFITS ACCRUING TO THE CHURCH FROM HIS COURAGEOUS AND SHINING FAITH.
( THE PRAYER FOR FRANK DUFF”S BEATIFICATION )
In my allocutio last month I spoke of Pope John Paul’s desire at the dawn of the new millennium for the Church to contemplate the face of Christ with Mary: “summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with enthusiasm of the new evangelisation.” I then invited you to do so, contemplating with Mary the institution of the Eucharist, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Today I invite you to contemplate with Mary the beginning of the early Church, the Body of Christ. Jesus said at the Last Supper :”I will not leave you orphans, I am coming to you.” (In 14:18 ). And “I am with you until the end of the age.” That Church was born from the pierced side of Christ Jesus who gave himself up “in the Holy Spirit”. The Spirit with Mary at the time of the Annunciation brought Jesus into the world. The Spirit with Mary was present when Jesus side was pierced with the soldier’s lance and the Church, the Body of Christ was born. The infant Church was very conscious of Jesus’ indwelling in the Church. This was seen in a marvelous way in the conversion of Saul, the future St. Paul .
After the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the Church developed rapidly. 3000 were baptized on the day. Shortly after the number rose to 5000. When the first deacons were chosen with Stephen at their head, he was arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin. Filled with the Holy Spirit he spoke boldly to its members accusing them of the murder of Jesus. In their anger they hustled him out and stoned him to death. They laid down his garments at the feet of a young man Saul, and Saul was consenting to this death.
Saul was a well educated man from Tarsus in Asia Minor ; a zealous Jew who was determined to wipe out the Church entirely, “ravaging the church by entering house after house, dragging off both men and women he committed them to prison. Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letter to the synagogues at Damascus that he might bring them bound to Jerusalem .” (Acts 9:1-2)
“Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus , suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked “Who are you, Lord ? The reply came,” I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were wide open, he could see nothing; so they took him by the hand and brought him to Damascus . For three days he was without sight and neither ate not drank.” (Acts 9:3-9). The whole experience and the words of Jesus burned into his soul. Jesus sent Ananias, a disciple to him. He received back his eyesight, and then preached in the synagogue that” Jesus is the Son of God”. Then begin his years of followed, preaching the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, the “Whole Christ” to use the words of St. Augustine .
The Handbook of the Legion in Section nine develops “The Legionary and the Mystical Body of Christ -that legionary service is based on this doctrine.”(p,5l-58). I invite you to carefully read and study those pages again. As the opening prayer states: “God, our Father, you inspired your servant Frank Duff with a profound insight into the mystery of the Church, the Body of Christ, and the place of the Mother of Jesus in this mystery”. Christ is the Head of this Body, the Holy Spirit is its Soul, and Mary is its Heart. Frank Duff has these words for legionaries engaged in the apostolate. (p.55):
To appreciate what form of service ought to characterise legionaries in the life of the Mystical Body we look to Our Lady. She has been described as its very heart. Her role, like that of the heart in the human body is to send the blood of Christ coursing through the veins and arteries of the Mystical Body, bringing life and growth with it. It is above all a work of love. Legionaries then, as they carry out their apostolate in union with Mary are called to be one with her in her vital role as the heart of the Mystical Body. The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I have no need of you. ‘(l.Cor 12:21). Out of this let the legionary learn the importance of his share in the apostolate. Not only is he one body with Christ and dependent on Christ, but likewise Christ ,who is the Head, is in a true sense dependent on him; so that even Christ ,Our Lord, must say to the legionary: II I need your help in my work of saving and sanctifying souls. I It is to this dependence of the head on the body that St .Paul refers when he speaks of filling up in his own flesh what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ.(Col 1:24). This striking expression does not suggest that Christ’s work was in any way imperfect, but simply emphasizes the principle that each member of the body must give what it can towards the working out of its own salvation and that of others.” (Phil 2:12 ).(Handbook, p 55)
As Mary looked down with a mother’s love on the newly born infant Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem , so now she looked down with a mother’s love on the newly born Church, the Body of Christ. In the first case she contemplated the events following the birth of Christ : : the shepherds’ homage to the Child; the coming of the Wise Men from the East; the flight into Egypt and the murder of the innocents by Herod; their time in exile; the return to Nazareth and her life as mother to Jesus and as wife to Joseph.
Now she contemplated the events that concerned the Infant Church: the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; the rapid conversions that followed; the miracles performed by the Apostles; the first Masses said in the homes and her receiving her Son in Holy Communion; the persecution that came down on the Church; the stoning to death of Stephen and the beheading of James; the flight of the Christians under persecution, only to see them spreading the new Gospel at Antioch; the vision of Jesus to Saul and his miraculous conversion to become the great apostle of the Gentiles -perhaps in answer to Mary’s powerful prayers. As once she had delighted in watching the face of Christ, now she saw the face of the same Christ in the Christians. As the Seat of Wisdom she counselled the apostles and the Church until the time of her own Assumption into heaven.
As we of this New Millennium contemplate the Face of Christ in our times let us do so with the eyes and heart of Mary. It will reveal the Cross at times, and that is the way for the Body of Christ. We make up in our bodies things that are wanting in the suffering of Christ.
But Pope John Paul has promised us that “God is preparing a beautiful new springtime for Christianity and it has already begun”. In the meantime he ask us: “To contemplate the face of Christ, and to contemplate it with Mary, this is the “programme” which I have set before the Church at the dawn of the new millennium. summoning her to put out into the deep on the sea of history with enthusiasm of the new evangelisation.” (On the Eucharist in Relationship to the Church, n.6, p.8)
Fr. Joachim O’Brien OFM, Spiritual Director, Senatus.