Exhortation to the Corinthians, Part 1
THE GOSPEL AND SOPHISM
It was in the spring of the year 57 that Paul dictated his last letter to the Corinthians and attacked all the evils of schism, immorality and pagan customs from which they were suffering. Always the outstanding advocate and martyr for unity and catholicity, Paul first of all stigmatizes the divisions among them and implores the faithful to be of one mind, to say the same things in doctrine, to have one spirit, and to be always of one sentiment. . . . It is almost certain that even in Corinth where sophists and others addicted to lofty speculations, intellectual tricksters, faddists in the use of words, were so numerous, there were some who must have distinguished the difference between unity and uniformity, and they must have injured unity on the pretext of turning away from division.
Paul was on fire with indignation and alarm. "Each of you is saying, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, and I am of Christ. Is Christ torn to pieces? Was Paul, perhaps, crucified for you? He who tears the Church tears Christ. The schismatic and the heretic is a crucifier; and even worse; although, alas! (sadly does the writer remark it) there must needs be heresies, so that the truth may appear: as Judas was necessary, so that Christ might redeem us with His Blood." 6
Corinth was a Greek city, at that time the capital, and displayed some air of culture. There were many men devoted to syllogisms while lecturers prospered; many who had no political ambitions or activity spent their energies in splitting in four the thread of some concept; reasoning merely for the love of it, and discoursing in an elaborate diction but without any force of spirit or sincerity for truth. So-called philosophy, espoused to rhetoric, was a profession and a pastime. It brought in money and some glory. It gathered under its wings a caste both quarrelsome and proud.
The sophists, the orators and lovers of distinction, had mingled with, and penetrated into the life of the Christians. In the midst of the faithful these took pleasure in trying to remake the simple evangelical doctrine: showing a more or less open contempt for the uncultured Apostle who alternated his Apostolate with coarse manual work. So the aristocracy of intellectualism, like a fungus growth, sprouted in the midst of the simple souls of the faithful. The parasite of sophistry was climbing up the trunk of the vine of Christ. A disease of the intelligence was developing, in which fantasy was mistaken for speculation and a false pretense of knowledge was substituted for faith.
In this way a new enemy was presenting itself to the Apostle, the intelligentsia of rationalism, which stood like a stone wall to shut out the spirit. Since the wall was thick and solid (he had experienced it at Athens), Paul did not attempt to walk around it but assailed it directly in front with vehement blows, without compromise, crudely exposing the contrasts of intellectualism to the simple doctrine of the Gospel.
To the pseudo-philosophers and the distillers of the Gospel the message of the Cross was foolishness; Christianity would end either in prison or on the gibbet. These great intellectuals were trying to rectify this but only succeeded in destroying it by their syllogisms. Alas! they only lost their way. "Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolishness?" the Apostle asked. . . . God, Who was identified with a Wisdom far removed from that of the schools and the marketplaces.
The Christian revolution destroyed many of the opinions then in vogue about culture and subordinated culture to sanctity. Paul held high, not academic decorations, but the naked arms of a Cross. He made men see that salvation is not made known by fine speakers nor by the most learned rhetoricians, but by modest, humble workers enlightened by God; and because there are such, they are in themselves the most convincing confutation of wisdom in high places. In other words there existed this apparent absurdity: the so-called ignorant were the really wise; and the so-called wise were the really ignorant. The wisdom of the world is ignorance to God.
The Corinthians were still carnal men, hardly beginning to know or understand the true doctrine; they were like infants fed at the breast with milk: that is, with the first rudiments in the science of God, namely, theology. The fullness of theology is possessed by spiritual men, who on that account may be called perfect. These have progressed in their knowledge of the mysteries, and in the practice of virtue, for the achievement of which they needed the Spirit of God and not the wisdom of the world.
To understand the things of God, one needs the Spirit of God. To understand Christianity, one needs the sense of Christ; but the "carnal" man stops at appearances, at the bodily senses; and the merely intellectual man stops at philology, at history, at human philosophy, going no further, and so these men never catch the knowledge of the Spirit. They remain in a different and limited order of things.
To study the things of God with the Spirit of God is a great good. To study with the spirit of the world is useless labor, if one wishes to attain a knowledge of the things of God. Therefore a poor old coal vender in Rome may possess more of the wisdom of God than a "Pasteur" who knows only the science of the world. The worldly wise do not reach Christ. These leaders in the world, who attend only to earthly science, such as Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, and other magistrates-----such as these condemn the Lord of Glory.
From the very first, Paul stood in opposition to those who sought to make a philosophy out of religion, as the tendency of the time was to make philosophy into a religion. Paul took his position against worldly science, not because it was science but as a pretended revelation of the mysteries of God that can be reached only by faith; and finally, he opposed those first symptoms of a criticism that would substitute Paulism for Paul, and the message of Christ for a professorial thesis.
In such a world, the Gospel proceeded by paradoxes, breaking down the systems of thought no less than the systems of caste. The Jews asked for miracles; the Gentiles wanted doctrine; and the Christians preached Christ crucified, a horror for the formalism of the one and the aestheticism of the latter, because the cross was the instrument of death, a punishment most degrading and most horrible.
Medical science has explained the awful complex of pain in the human body, by crucifixion, thought out and devised by a cruelty which is always the science of a godless world. Neither the Jews nor the Gentiles could reconcile the idea of the Redemption with that horrible instrument of death reserved for the scum of society. Even its name (which Cicero remarks) was never to be uttered, much less thought, and the majority of Roman citizens were careful never to see or hear this word, reserved for slaves and highway brigands. On this infamous Cross Christ had taken the place of a thief, Barabbas. Such a fact did violence to the ancient way of thinking and to the consciences of men. And yet it was this very fact that Paul presented to them . . .
Paul, always so direct and precise, could not accept their empty activity of words and ideas, through which a simple truth was rendered unrecognizable by dint of stretching, pulling apart, and dissecting. He had a just intuition of the havoc which the learned would make of the Gospel (from the beginning, even to the present times), and of the preaching that would be called "Pauline." It was for Paul a sort of crucifixion at the hands of the learned professors and exegetes.
He saw already that at Corinth they had substituted Paulism, Petrism, and Apollonism for Christianity. For this reason he insisted on recalling to them that God chooses the foolish to confound the worldly wise, and the weak to confound the strong. The new Christian life ascends from below, works from the interior to the exterior, and has to do with all those things of the spirit which the world despises but which are of fundamental importance in the work of the Church. This is so, that all may see that the Church's work is the work of God, Who does not need the power of men, or their worldly wealth, or their nobility of blood.
Christianity is a revolution that takes place in the depths of the souls of men, and which brings about an essential human and social revolution. In this new system of cause and effect, men in rags, the weak, the rejected of society can become, if God chooses them and if they are willing, co-partners with God in a Divine task. They are the outposts in the battles of the Eternal.
They will constitute the aristocracy in the Kingdom of God, to which the noble, the rich and the great of the earth can also belong, if they become inwardly humble, poor in spirit, and servants of Christ. The learned of this world must make themselves foolish in order to become wise. They must put away the pride that has entangled them as if caught in the midst of thorns. All glory must return to God through Christ, Who is true Wisdom. Therefore he who will glory let him glory in the Lord.
It is easy to understand what all this leads to. If all glory belongs to the Lord, then men have no reason to be proud, to believe themselves superior to their brethren; he who believes himself superior separates himself from them.
Sublime reasoning power is not necessary to an Apostle. It is out of place in the Apostolate because the art of employing words makes void the efficacy of the Cross of Christ. The voice and the words of the Holy Spirit are most suitable for a true Apostle of Christ. All he needs is the wisdom of Christ, and Christ crucified. The Apostle has this wisdom and he has the mind of Christ, both being the gift of God. In Corinth Paul had planted, Apollos watered, but He Who gave the increase was God. Such a restoration of merit to God as being the only One to Whom it is rightfully due had a tendency to bring about a certain relaxation and was also an incentive to sloth. Some men said that if all is done by Christ, then men, even in relation to the work of the Church, have nothing to do. This is not so, says the Apostle, who meets the objections of the sophists as soon as they are born. The voice and words of the Holy Spirit are the same today as then and will be the same tomorrow. God acts, but we must act in union with Him. Men are not mere spectators of God's work; they are helpers and auxiliaries in the construction of His Church, co-workers with God.
Consequently, those who have been reduced to nothing in human evaluation, now become men whose lives have a Divine value. As mere men, they were nothing; as Apostles, they are raised near to God. This sublime and admirable association with God in His Divine activities, which is a communication of the Divine nature, is a gift from God. He rewards us in proportion to the contribution and co-operation each one gives to Him.
Paul hammered all these truths into the Corinthians in brief and concise phrases. They diminished considerably the inflated pride to which the Corinthians were always easily inclined. As a people they were rather vain and thought themselves strong and honorable; their ears were full of pompous phrases. So much the more so now that the old vigor of Hellenistic intellectualism was nearing its end.
But many of the old human traits still lived and the old leaven fermented in their ranks. Once more Paul spoke of himself, giving them the example of a man who had completely lost himself in Christ; who sought only the glory of God. He was careless and wasteful of the judgments of men, whose salvation (the one and only matter of essential value) depended, not on men, but on the judgment of God.
In a realistic manner, vigorous and ironical, he pulls the Corinthians down from their mountain of pride and makes them sit in the depths of their nothingness. He contrasts their vain glory, sustained by elaborate discourses, to the sufferings of the Apostles, who, to save souls, had become the refuse of the world and the dregs of all mankind. And while he exhorts them, he also threatens them. In his next visit he will use his authority against them and will judge them not on their words but on their actions. This is a sign that it was not an easy matter in those days to impose the new Christian values and standards on men. The Corinthians, having heard Apollos, an orator naturally more brilliant and erudite, were in danger of putting form above substance and of placing the authority of the Apostle above that of the Church.
It was also a sign that the Church was acting as a visible society, in which the Apostle Paul ruled with an authority that came to him not from below, that is, from those who composed the Church, but from God through Christ. We now behold him exercising this authority in a concrete case. The foundations of morality among the Christians were endangered by tolerating the presence of an incestuous man in their midst, a thing the pagans would not tolerate. The Apostle, present with them in spirit, gave a terrifying example of his Divine authority, of the power of the Church spiritually assembled for the deliberation of this very matter: he expelled the sinner from the Community of the Christians in Corinth.
The excommunication was the more terrible in that it abandoned the sinner to Satan to be tormented in the flesh, so that, through suffering physical pain, his soul might be saved; and being deprived of the Sacraments, detached from the life of the Mystical Body, he had less resistance against the Prince of Evil, who could more easily take possession of him and obsess him. In this way Satan could completely destroy him.
In dealing with the case of this man, it is clear that the Apostle had to do much of his pastoral work in Christian formation by letter. In the first letter, now lost, he had written, "Have nothing to do with fornicators." Some critics have given these words too extensive and abnormal a meaning; they should be understood in the same sense as the rest of Paul's teaching. Some, however, understood fornicators to mean a class which comprised all sinners and all pagans. By doing this they reduced the Church to an exclusive life, to an enclosed circle, drawing odium to itself and closing the door on all charity. If contact with the pagans was forbidden, all chance of converting would be lost. It would be a return to Pharisaical sectarianism, and to caste. "If you act like that," explains the Apostle, "you will have to leave the world altogether." "But now I write to you not to associate with one who is called a brother, if he is immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or evil-tongued, or a drunkard, or greedy; with such a one not even to take food." This was to prevent evil from fermenting within the Community of the Saints.
The quarrelsome Corinthians, even after Baptism, dragged their brethren before a pagan tribunal, when Christian love should have softened the spirit of contention, or at any rate the dispute should have been settled by some of their own wiser brethren. In themselves, the disputes were such trifles that the most ordinary of the brethren could have settled them. Brothers-----members of the same family, the Church-----cannot oppose one another without harming the whole body as well as themselves. . . .
The worst of it all was that they tried to justify their sin according to Christian doctrine. Some thought that when a person was Baptised and his soul purified, his body might be allowed to become soiled; and that it was the spirit and not the body that must be kept pure. "All is licit," they were saying. In this way they were accepting again the principle of division and not of unity. This amounted to an attack on the principle of Catholicity which includes body and soul, Heaven and earth, time and eternity. The Corinthians were not the first ones to try that convenient deception by means of which the currents of Persian dualism were spread around by soldiers and merchants from the Orient.
The danger was a serious one. It wounded Christian morality on the one hand, while Mosaism wounded it on the other hand, and both aimed at rendering null and void the Incarnation and the death of the Lord, that is, the Redemption that had taken place in His Flesh. St. Paul reminds us that the body also shares in the work of sanctification. It has been created by the Lord, consequently it is sacred and through the Lord it is made a Temple of the Holy Spirit. It was bought at a great price, the price of Blood, and is destined by Christ to be glorified in the Resurrection. The body is a member of Christ, to Whom it is united Sacramentally, and it must not be united to a harlot by sin.
Thus Paul in a few bold strokes! enumerates some of the works of the New Law; lifts to a high spiritual level, severe but pure, that body of flesh which, as an evil thing, far too many dragged through halls and houses of ill fame. He makes of it an instrument for the glorification of God and the Apostolate. The body becomes a "Christopher," that is, a Christ-bearer.
PROBLEMS OF THE CORINTHIANS
So much for the preface. Now Paul passes to the questions put to him by the Corinthians in the letter they had sent. The first question concerned matters relating to marriage and the state of virginity. The Apostle stresses the duties of the conjugal state; the necessity for unity, and the indissolubility of the marriage bond. He also exalts the advantages of celibacy as being more perfect and more pleasing to God when observed in religious life. This gives him the opportunity of recalling to their minds the relative value of the things of this world and eternal things, for the things of this world pass away so quickly.
The second question concerned the use of meats sacrificed to idols. The Corinthians boasted of knowing all about this matter. They said that since idols were vain things, represented merely by words, the meats offered to them could not be contaminated. The Apostle replied that those who attribute to idols power and reality had contaminated their consciences; and also they must have recognized the bad influence that their example would have upon the weaker brethren, who, not knowing how to discriminate, might receive scandal and fall into sin.
Besides the reason (that of giving scandal) there was the great obligation of charity. Here was a reason that touched the very essence and substance of God, since offerings made to idols were given to a power that usurped the rights of Divinity. It was, then, a way of offering tribute to the devils, and in this, Paul was but repeating what the prophets had taught before him. He who eats of the victim, enters into communion with the one to whom the offering was made; you cannot drink the Chalice of the Lord, and also the chalice of the demon; you cannot participate in the Eucharistic banquet, and also in the idolatrous banquets.
Paul's answer, unfolding gradually, moving from a rational concession to a theological condemnation, breaks down the tendency towards syncretism and the weakness of indifferentism; he opposes to these the observances of the decrees of the Council at Jerusalem. He strikes at the very root of the cult of idolatry, and separates the true religion from the false. Some modern exegetes have accused Paul of making use of idolatrous mysteries. This is not true; from the very beginning, he condemns them, and puts a problem before the syncretists: choose either idolatry or the Cross of Christ.
It would have been difficult for Christians living in a pagan city, surrounded by friends and relatives who were pagans, to abstain altogether from the banquets of the idolaters. The Apostle is understanding and practical; where the banquet is not a religious rite, but only an occasion for food, he leaves the Christians quite free to mingle with the pagans on a social plane. "If you are invited to eat in pagan homes, you may go and eat what is put before you without too much examination; but if you are told beforehand that there is meat that has been offered to idols, then, having regard for the consciences of others, abstain from taking it." Thus in the end charity solves this and all such problems.
The third question concerned gossip started by the Mosaists and some of the superficial brethren, to the effect that Paul asked to be served and supported by the Community, and that sometimes he lived like a Jew, and at other times like the pagans. The accusations implied that he lived on the substance of the Christians like a parasite and that his manner of living was illogical. This placed him in great contrast to the other Apostles, for it could be recognized that they were the true Apostles and that he was not. It can easily be seen that the Judaizers everywhere were trying to uproot his authority, and to undo his work by the old scheme of throwing discredit on it and by defaming him. One can readily understand how criticism and contention must have abounded in the conversations of many of the first disciples.
Paul sweeps away all this gossip and idle talk. "Am I not an Apostle like the others?" he dryly replies. "Have I not seen the Lord Jesus Christ? And if I am not an Apostle like the others, at least I am for you Corinthians." So much for the first point.
Now for the second point which concerned his board and lodging. It is obvious that he who preaches the Gospel has the right to live by the Gospel; the minister has a right to live by his ministry, as every laborer lives from the fruits of his labor. It is a right of strict justice which Moses had established and Christ had confirmed. And yet Paul had not made use of the right, preferring to work with his own hands and to earn his own living. He had in this way kept himself independent of all. This was another one of those aspects of freedom of which he was the herald; freedom from sin, freedom from the Mosaic legalities, and freedom from man, in order that he might the better serve God and his brethren.
It was by this spirit of independence that he could become a Jew with the Jews, to gain those of his own nation to Christ. He practiced the Law, although he did not deem its observances necessary; he disregarded the Law with those who had no Law; he was weak with the weak, all things to all, and solely for the sake of the Gospel in order to have a part in it. In his mission Paul was like one striving for a prize in the Isthmian games held in Corinth, but he was not running at random, not as one merely beating the air.
CHURCH GATHERINGS IN CORINTH
Paul was obliged to establish a few rules of a disciplinary character for the gatherings of the Christians of the Church in Corinth. Some disorders had occurred which were due to a wrong interpretation of these rules. The Gospel had brought about an entirely new emancipation, an equality before God for the souls of men and women. It had pulled down those philosophical and political systems which had made women the slaves of men. Some women, understanding themselves to be now equal with men, pretended to aspire to the same offices in the church assemblies and even adopted the manners of the other sex, as if a mannish manner gave women equality with men. This only resulted in more disorder. No, moral equality does not change the social order which the Law of God has established in the order of nature.
In the social level of life each needs the other. Man is the head, and not the woman; neither does man exist without woman, nor woman exist without man. Masculine dignity and decorum requires that a man appear in the assemblies with uncovered head. A woman, because she is subject to man who is head of the family, holds a lesser place in the social order of government and should appear with her head veiled. It will be the men and not the women who will teach, prophesy, recite hymns and prayers in the Church. Women should be silent, and if more instruction is needed let the husband give it at home. "It is not becoming for a woman to speak in Church," said St. Paul. It would give rise to gossip, envies and jealousies, and cause religion to become fantastic and sentimental.
Another disorder had been introduced into the evening meal which preceded the celebration of the Eucharist. As always it was due to the prevailing selfishness in human nature. That meal was meant to be a manifestation of charity and a preparation, through charity, for the Divine Supper of the Lord. It was an imitation of the Last Supper in the Cenacle and was called the "Agape" meaning "love." The faithful brought and shared in common the bread, wine and other things they had, so that the poor could benefit by the offerings of the rich. All was to be done in Christian love and affection.
Instead, the very opposite was happening; each one, forgetting the precept of charity, sat down before his own basket and ate alone and aloof, so that those who had plenty were satisfied while the poor were left alone to look on. The meaning and purpose of the Agape was lost; supernatural solidarity had died with a full stomach. The Agape, since it consisted in sharing a meal in common, made a bond of union which was more perfectly realized later in Holy Communion. Once it lost that character, it became a profanation of the Eucharist and showed contempt for others in the Church of God. Such conduct was an expression of an overflowing egotism and was, therefore, a contrast to the Eucharistic Communion which unites souls in Christ.
To cut short such abuses and to mortify the egotists, Paul could think of no better way than to relate once more the story of the institution of the Divine Eucharist, the very heart of the Church. "For I received from the Lord (what I also delivered to you), that the Lord Jesus, on the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks broke it, and said, 'This is My Body which shall be given up for you; do this in remembrance of Me.' In like manner also the cup, after He had supped, saying, 'This chalice is the New Testament in My Blood; do this as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' " In fact, continues St. Paul, "For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until He comes." Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord. Let every man make himself worthy, and then let him eat of that Bread and drink of that Chalice, for he who eats and drinks unworthily, eats and drinks his own judgment, not distinguishing the Body and Blood of the Lord from ordinary food.
Behold the Divine Eucharistic meal, the new Sacrifice which will announce the death of Christ until the end of time; behold the New Alliance between Heaven and earth sealed by this Bread and Chalice which are Christ Himself, true God and true Man. By feeding on this Bread and drinking of this Chalice, man is "Christified" and "Deified," and the Blood of the Lord runs in his poor veins, giving him Life. But if this sacred food is consumed unworthily, the Divine virtue does not act, and the guilty Christian falls into spiritual anemia and lethargy. "This is why many among you are infirm and weak, and many sleep." The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and the miracle of love; and the Corinthians, who had violated both unity and charity by their dissensions and selfishness, were greatly in need of receiving It worthily.
Finally, in order to give further rules regarding the meetings, Paul recalls to their knowledge that all the gifts and graces, from that of the gift of tongues to that of curing diseases, from prophecy to miracles, are all given by one and the same Spirit of God Who confers them on each one according as He pleases. Therefore there must be no rivalry; the various gifts must work harmoniously in the life of the Body of Christ.
He who speaks, cannot pretend to be using a language which neither he nor the brethren can understand, for such a gift would have only a sterile effect in the Church and edification would be lost; it would be equally useless from the viewpoint of charity, in whose light every act is to be judged. A gift that does not serve others, that has no social function in the ecclesiastical society of the Church is worth very little. He who speaks with divers tongues may edify himself but he does not help to edify or build up the Church. If there is to be diversity of unknown tongues someone will be required to interpret them, to translate them for the use and enlightenment of the Church and Community. Therefore, the gift of prophecy is preferable, because it requires neither interpretation nor translation, and it edifies.
More than one Corinthian Christian would have liked to possess all the Gifts en bloc, or at least the most showy ones; and no doubt all wanted to be Apostles, Prophets, Healers, Speakers of Tongues, and Interpreters; a beautiful ambition, but not at all possible. In the Church, all could not be Apostles or Prophets and so on, just as in the human body all the members cannot be eyes, or all ears, or all mouth. There is, however, a more excellent way which the Apostle recommends, a way which is open to all, through which all can reach to a high degree in the royal way of Christianity. The Apostle then unveils its vivifying beauty with the ardor of an inspired poet, observing how completely every form of decadence among the Corinthians springs from the utter want of the regenerating spirit. This regenerating spirit is charity, outside of which all values are lost; whereas, all the Gifts live by it, and converge towards it.
"If I should speak with the tongues of men and Angels, but have not charity, I have become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And if I have prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, yet do not have charity, I am nothing. And if I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.
"Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil, does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth; bears with all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never fails, whereas prophecies will disappear, and tongues will cease, and knowledge will be destroyed. For we know partially, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will be done away with.
"We see now through a mirror in an obscure manner, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I have been known. So there abide faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
It is a theological exposition. And yet it sounds like a glorious lyric; to such a point was dogma aflame with the Light of Life in Paul's soul.
Finally there was the matter of the resurrection of the dead which the Corinthians shrank from accepting. Their reluctance was a relic of Hellenic spiritualism in which an exaggerated contempt for the body went so far as to regard sins of impurity as of no consequence; therefore, according to their way of thinking, there could be no resurrection of the flesh.
On the contrary, says St. Paul in his letter, Christ is risen, and so men will rise again. One resurrection is the guarantee of the other. If Christ were not risen, then faith would be useless, the Apostolate would be in vain, Christ's suffering of no avail. There would be no Redemption, and sin would still be as closely knit into the consciences of men as a slab riveted onto a tomb. Also, virtue would be useless; all would fall a prey to death, and the pagan would be right in singing, "Let us eat and drink today, for tomorrow we die." If the dead do not rise, then neither is Christ risen; but all men will rise as the Man Christ rose. As all are dead in Adam, so all will be reborn again in Christ.
No one rises who has not first died. The manner resembles the process of the seed which, in order to bring forth fruit, must first die in the earth. It is sown a corruptible body and it rises an incorruptible body; ignoble and helpless, it rises glorious and strong; first animal and then spiritual. The last enemy to be vanquished will be death, which wounds us with the sting of sin.
Paul closes his letter by recommending a collection for the Church at Jerusalem and suggests the way to conduct it. That letter sprang from his great intellect and from his affections; it was inspired by his: love for Christ. As he dictated it, he seemed to tear it word for word from his heart; deeply moved, with the tears falling from his tired eyes, he pondered on those accusations made against him, those sad deflections, so much impurity. Now he had explained everything by way of morals and theology; he had caressed them, and he had threatened them, in order to rebuild their Christian life.
The letter gives us a fundamental teaching on Christ and the Church, "the fullness of Christ." It is a letter Christo-centric in substance, because all is centered in Christ; all is seen under the aspect of Christ, for Christ is all in all. It is Christ Who instituted the Eucharist; Christ Who is the Head of the Church in His Mystical Body. It teaches that one's neighbor is not to be offended or scandalized, since Christ died for him. Christ being in all men makes them all sacred, and it is He Who determines our duties towards our fellow men.
To offend the brethren is to attack the work of Christ and to offend Christ; therefore, he who sins against the brethren sins against Christ; The great duty for all men is that of charity. Since Baptism makes us all one in the Body of Christ, for a brother to sin against a brother is really to sin against oneself; it is an act of spiritual suicide. "If any man does not love our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema." 7
Paul had spoken of the Church and had enumerated those great theological truths concerning it, so beautiful and so glorious; he had: pointed out the admirable applications of those truths in social life; then at the close, he adds in his own hand a final salutation in Christ to the brethren. It was like the last touch the workman gives to a work which has been both arduous and difficult. He felt that he had reached the end of a hard mission and that he had fought it on hard grounds. In his salutations he unites the Churches of Asia to those in Achaia, which in his own heart, as in the heart of Christ, form but one in love. "My love is with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen." 8
6. 1 Cor. 1:10-13.
7. 1 Cor. 16:21.
8. 1 Cor. 16:24.