The Church: Extension of the Incarnation
The CHURCH -- Extension of the Incarnation
The community of the Church is not just a human community like any other, not even like any other religious community, which is the way sociology considers things, i.e., with reason only prescinding completely from the reality of the Divine. If one considers the Church just as an historical phenomenon from that pov, one doesn't even have to be a believer and one will understand nothing important about the Church as it really is.
The reality of the Church is already completely present in cause in the Incarnation. The Divine Word unites humanity to Himself in a qualitative sense and is the True Adam of the human race. He extends this redeemed personal humanity, i.e., extends Himself as Incarnate at Pentecost into the New Creation of the Church objectively infused with His own Divine Trinitarian Life of the Holy Spirit, making it His Mystical Body so as to form one Mystical Person. In this objective infusion of the Holy Spirit, He simultaneously infuses the Holy Spirit into human subjects, but as united with one another, not as isolated individuals. These are the Twelve around the Blessed Mother and about 120 others. This is a visible Communion that is a supernatural organism with a variety of powers and roles, a hierarchic society from the get-go. This body expands by incorporating individuals into the Christ life through Baptism, as the 3,000 converts of Jews that day attests. Later (not even much later) when some individuals lose this infusion of the Holy Spirit through immorality or sins against faith (heresy) the supernatural, objective presence of Christ by the Holy Spirit is not lost thereby. That is because Christ won't let it happen, since He married His Bride supernaturally in the New and Eternal Covenant in His Blood, far surpassing the first covenant with the Jews which was temporary and leading to an indissoluble union between humanity and Himself - in Himself extended.
Thus the Church is that same historically continuous visible communion, the supernatural organism of the Apostolic community with Peter as the head of Christ objectively extended and subjectively present in individuals by the grace of the Holy Spirit. When, therefore, any individual personally departs in his actions and beliefs from Christ (like rejecting the Perpetual Virginity of Christ's Holy Mother, e.g.) such a person is not acting as a member of the Church but on his own, because the Church is none other than God the Son Incarnate extended organically in the Catholic Communion. The objective extensions of Christ into this Body of His He will not withdraw: namely, preservation of Revealed Truth with the gift of infallibility, indefectibility of the Sacraments, hierarchical communion, the reality of sanctity and charity, moral truth, the mission to reach all nations, communion with the Saints in heaven and the souls in Purgatory, the power to sanctify human society.
Now we can not expect a non-Catholic to see things this way, since they don't have the supernatural power of Divine Faith infused into the mind by grace with its laser-like vision that gets to the supernatural reality in the Church, but one can expect Catholics to, especially when this supernatural vision of the Church is explained to them. If then they don't accept this understanding of the Church, it is simply lack of faith, a defect due to their own sinfulness or due to their psychological hang-ups (like emotionalism, rationalism, sensuality, worldliness, pride hidden to themselves, insecurity and inability to trust, immaturity, isolated individualism), faulty education hostile to higher values of the spirit, etc., etc.. The sooner they recognize the fault lies with them the better the chance to remedy their separation from the Christ Mystery and reestablish full communion with It.
No true believer would have difficulty in accepting that Christ has everything in His own Incarnate, victorious Person, and that He is the cause and sharer of His own fulness with His Body which is simply the extension of Himself in both objective and subjective ways, which are always - of course - less in the participator than in Christ Himself. The Church is incorporated into Him. And in such an incorporation He is not changed in an essential way by the incorporation; He is not rewritten so as to be digestible to modern peoples, so that He is incorporated into them.
In sum, it is vital to see that in fallible, sinful humans there is the wisdom and life that comes by grace from Christ while at the same time another (sinful, erroneous, imprudent) "approach" to life that does not, and the part that does not is thus not of the Church's being or activity, which must always mean incorporated and related to Christ; thus when the individual sins, the Church in him does not! Now to the outsider considering by reason alone the Church as a societal phenomenon like any other social group, those without this "knowledge of faith" simply do not see the reality of Christ-Church as supernatural in nature and source and go by appearances and conclude the Church erred, the Church persecuted, etc.. But that is not the Truth. The individual erred, persecuted; the administrators of the Church did such and such not stemming from Christ and so not stemming from the Church. That's how intimate the nature of the reality of the Church is. And the sin and error in individuals and to some degree in social structures of human (not divine) origin inhibit the Church from spreading, manifesting its true nature (as infallibly joined to Christ in a Mystical, i.e., supernatural, Marriage that is indissoluble) and hinder its mission.
"Having spoken of the transposition of vision into faith, and of Christ's time into our time, we have already said some fundamental things about the way the Church issues from, and is set on her way by, him who is the Mediator between heaven and earth. The Church is the prolongation of Christ's mediatorial nature and work and possesses a knowledge that comes by faith; she lives objectively (in her institution and her sacraments) and subjectively (in her saints and, fundamentally, in all her members) in the interchange between heaven and earth. Her life comes from heaven and extends to earth, and extends from earth to heaven," Theodrama Vi, "The Last Act", p. 131, Hans Urs von Balthasar.