The Body of Christ, Source of the Spirit
We do well to ask what this means and to ponder the mystery of the Eucharist in which Christ is made present among us for all time by the working of the Holy Spirit whom He has sent. A Carthusian, giving a set of novice conferences, has had his reflections collated in From Advent to Pentecost. In this book, he shares the fruit of his contemplation on this matter:
"Only the glorified Christ dispenses the Spirit (cf Jn 7:39). The bodily humanity of Christ is the source of the Spirit, it is the spiritual rock of the desert (1 Cor 10:4), but it must be struck with the rod of the Cross, so that the rivers of living water may gush forth from it (Origen). St John, and the Fathers after him, saw the symbolic realisation of that promise in the flow of blood and water from the pierced body of Christ on the Cross (Jn 19:34). The water symbolises the Spirit; the blood, the humanity of Christ which bleeds in the Passion. Through the blood poured out, we receive the Spirit.
Note well the realistic idea of St John. He places the source of the Spirit, 'spiritual' reality par excellence, in the body of Christ. But that cannot come about without a radical transformation of Christ's humanity: unless, according to the terminology of St Paul, the last Adam becomes a 'life-giving spirit' (1 Cor 15:45).
So that the man Jesus can give us the Spirit and thus bring us into the Kingdom of God, he must return to the Father. The Father has to give him that divine glory he had in the presence of the Father before the world existed (Jn 17:5). His humanity must be transformed by the divine light of the Word, embraced by the flame of the Spirit, must become 'spiritual' to the point of becoming the source of the Holy Spirit for those who touch it through faith and the sacraments.
For Christ's flesh is not replaced by a purely spiritual presence of God. It remains the point of contact; the Incarnation remains forever. Only its way of being present and acting is more universal and more interior; the sensible presence is effected through the sacraments of the faith, by which the glorified Christ touches us and infuses the Spirit into our hearts. Think of that sometimes at the moment of Communion during Mass; at that moment, our lips press against the open side of the Crucified and we drink deep of incorruptible Love. 'Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life' (Jn 6:54). "
O sacred banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory given to us, alleluia!
The engraving above is from an 1864 Book of Epistles and Gospels.
ADDENDUM (Updated 10:12am on 23/05): Fr Austin Milner, OP preaches at the Torch.op.org on this idea of Christ's abiding presence in the Church and the world; do read his homily and others by the English Dominicans on that site.