"Love! Do you know the meaning of the word?" 'How should I not?' said the Lady, 'I am in love...in Love Himself.'
~C.S. Lewis
The Great Divorce

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On the Mystery of the Eucharist

I was a bystander to a conversation today on the "Black Rubric". For uninformed Anglicans and the rest of Christendom, this is the rubric at the end of the Anglican Liturgy which categorically denies a physical or corporeal presence in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. It is a verification of sorts of the 39 Articles which also state that a physical presence is not to be understood. One person in the conversation was upholding and agreeing with the fairly clear understanding of these two "documents". This person is someone whose opinion I hold in very high regard. Therefore, it is with some trepidation that I write this in dissension.

The black rubric teaches that Christ's Body is physically in heaven and that it can't be in two or more places at once, by nature. Christ is omnipresent by the power of his Spirit, not physically. So Anglicans generally hold that Christ is spiritually present in the elements (or in the reception of the elements.) There is a logic to this which I will not deny. But what frustrates me about it is that it attempts to put the Eucharist in a box. (I was tempted to say Tabernacle, but I digress...) Just as Rome will not admit of an understanding which does not involve a substantial change in the consecrated creatures, England will not recognize a view that includes the corporeal presnce of the Lord.

I don't use mystery as an excuse for ignorance or belief in that which violates the divinely ordained rules of nature. But I do think that the Church as a whole would be better off leaving some things unsaid. Jesus said "I am the bread of life". Jesus said "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood there is no life in you." Jesus said "This is my Body." Can this be defined by Aristotelian and Thomistic philosophy? What about Protestant Nominalism? Why not just say what Jesus says? In some mysterious fashion, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord make their humble residence in Bread and Wine on Altars around the world.

Brighter minds than mine have and will give their opinion on this matter. England and Rome will not be chaging their positions. But the English view limits some of the mystery while the Roman one tries too hard to expound the exact manner of Christ's presence. The Christian faith is one of mystery and paradox. We should not shy away from that. Rather, it should be embraced in all of its holiness and beauty.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Beginning of Lent

Tommorrow is Ash Wednesday. As with all of the major holy days of the Church, this day is steeped in meaning and has a number of different aspects on which to reflect.

While I certainly have attended a fair number of funerals, none of them quite have the same effect on me that Ash Wednesday does. At both you hear the words, "dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return." But on Ash Wednesday, when the priest utters these words while signing your forehead with the cross in ashes, it becomes very personal. I am going to die. The commination which is read prior to this tells me why. I was born in sin and am an actual sinner.

It is for this reason that Lent exists. For 40 days, Christians are called on to exercise special discipline on themselves, in the hope that a habit of detachment from earthly things/sinful things with be made. This won't change the fact that death will come. But because of the cross with which we are signed, a holy life and death are possible. The power of the grave is overcome. Nevertheless, death is still a door through which we must all pass. As such, it is extremely moving to be reminded in such a poignant way. May we all remember how fragile we are and that we are only supported and held together by the power of God. And may we all take seriously the fact that this world is only the beginning. Growing attached to anything in it is silly. May we find our joy and sufficiency in Christ and in his cross.