212 Chicago Studies
sacramenti) St. Thomas tells us that it is the unity of the mystical body ( ST 3, 73, 3). Accordingly, an individualistic conception of the Eucharist as a private affair between Christ and the Christian is seen to be woefully inadequate, if not altogether false. Hence we should look upon the Eucharist as the sacrament of the Church, effecting a true community of free persons and building up the body of Christ. The mystical body of Christ is an intimate community of persons brought into being and ultimately brought to fulfillment through the paschal mystery as communicated in the sacraments. A member of this body never performs an act without a social dimension, i.e., an act which does not have repercussions on the whole community. In all things then the individual is drawn out of the narrow confines of selfÂˇinterest and made to consult for the good of the whole body of which he is a member. If one is drawn ever more deeply into the life of this community of persons through the Eucharist, it is through baptism that he is originally incorporated into it. THE SACRAMENTAL ROAD TO COMMUNITY
Baptism in its very symbolism (especially in the early Church) clearly dramatizes the paschal mystery. Baptism is no empty representation but an efficacious dramatic action through which Christ reaches us and takes us up into the mystery of his death and resurrection. The catechumen in the primitive Church first descended into a pool of water which represented death; he then ascended from the water, thereby symbolizing resurrection from the dead. Through this ritual ceremony the catechumen is incorporated into the Christian community, the body of Christ. He has passed from the isolation of a life of sin to a new life in Christ and in the Spirit, a life of community. Baptism which is the sacrament of initiation is also the pattern for the whole dialectic of Christian existence and experience. For the whole of Christian life consists in a continual death to isolation, which opens the person to an ever fuller participation in the life of the Christian community. The Christian life is never merely negative; it never consists simply in death.