Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reflections on Eucharist

I feel lucky to be a Catholic, because we have this wonderful supernatural approach to everyday interactions with God. The sacraments are real for us, not symbolic. The most important sacrament is the reenactment of Jesus's last supper, called "Communion" or "Eucharist", from the Greek word for thanksgiving. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, when the priest repeats Christ's words over the bread: "take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my body, which was given up for you", for us, the bread really becomes the body of Christ, and the wine is His blood. It does not symbolize it, it is it. We take quite literally Jesus's words "this is my body", and when He says "do this is memory of me" we take it the way Paul seems to have done (1 Cor 11:23-29): that in reenacting this last supper of Christ, we must really recognize the body of Christ in what we eat and drink. He means to sacrifice Himself for us all over again, day after day. The implications are endless, and I mean to touch on only a few that struck me this morning at Mass.

You are what you eat. I received God this morning as food, and as that holy food entered my body, every drop of blood, every cell in my body, every nerve and synapse became infused with the divine. He became me, and I became Him. Our natures were joined, as His body was incorporated into mine. He is incarnate again, in me. Just as He did in Jesus the son of Mary, God fuses His divine nature with my human nature, in order to divinize my human nature. I am suffused with divinity, I, in all my humanity, am divine.

With that comes all God's power and grace. Today I can do anything! I am limitless, I am possessed by God! And I'm sitting in a church full of people who have also partaken in the Eucharist, and all together we are God, and in communion with each other also, that God who has suffused every cell of each of our mortal bodies is one, transcending our separateness and uniting us in Christ-ness. We are all, together, the one body of Christ. And how much more power and grace there is in that! The church fairly glows with the magnified presence of God! And there are millions around the world who have received the living God today, and we are all together His body, and our separate humanity is charged with His indivisible divinity.

The consummation of a marriage. The Bible is all shot through with imagery of a marriage between God and His people. For someone like me, who has flirted throughout her life with a calling to monastic life, that imagery is more personal. I am a bride of Christ, He is my spouse. When I receive Him in the Eucharist, it is an intensely intimate, humbling gift. He has sacrificed Himself, for no other reason than love for me. He came down from glory to this hard life, He chose hunger and cold and exhaustion, pain and opression, betrayal and violence and death, because this is where I was, and He didn't want me to go through it alone. He knows that love is the only thing that makes suffering bearable, and He loves me with an aching love, like a mother loves her child, like a man loves a woman. He chose me, and He speaks to my heart.

He instituted the daily sacrifice of the Mass so that I would have ever before me the reminder of just how much He loves me. He makes Himself small and humble, a little scrap of unleavened bread, and invites me to consume it. He is broken. His total gift of self is totally humbling. This is my Love I am taking in my hand, in my mouth, who makes Himself one with me. The only possible response is a total gift of self in return -- I'm incapable of that, but He keeps calling me to give more, by giving me everything, His whole self. Body and soul, mind and emotions. Will and all. He surrenders everything to me, for me, and that love is what demands that I surrender everything to Him, to His love, to His care.


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