Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Friendship of Christ, Chapter Five: Christ in the Eucharist

 Erin writes about "Christ in the Eucharist":

When I opened my book to read the chapter, I expected it to be a chapter about encountering Christ in the reception of Holy Communion.  In fact I began taking notes speculating about the usefulness of this chapter to people who, for one reason or another, may not receive:  the very young, those living where access to Communion is restricted, those in irregular marriages or other situations which preclude reception of the sacrament, and even those who are not Catholics.  Especially when I encountered the paragraph:

Jesus Christ, then, dwells in our tabernacles to-day as surely as he dwelt in Nazareth, and in the very same Human Nature; and He dwells there, largely, for this very purpose—that he may make himself accessible to all who know him interiorly and desire to know him more perfectly.

You see, that adjective:  "accessible!"  I thought I had found an objection.  In the act of Holy Communion, Jesus is most assuredly not accessible to all, at least not immediately. 

But in fact the chapter is not really about Communion.  It is divided into three parts, according to which Benson treats of three different ways which human beings may know Jesus our Friend in the Eucharist.  (Consuming Him not, in fact, being necessary to the knowledge!)  And those three different modes of knowing our Friend are as material object, the work of human hands; as Sacrificed Victim; and as Food.

We may know Him in these forms merely by contemplating the Eucharist itself, or by contemplating the behavior of believers:  our design of churches and chapels with the Tabernacle at the focal point, our reverential handling of the matter, the words of consecration, our adoration, our processions, our hymnody, our careful attention to how one must prepare to receive... even, maybe, in the pastoral barriers that keep some people from reception of the Eucharist.  It is our treatment of the Eucharist that communicates its meaning to the curious onlooker.  


"It is this Presence which causes that astounding difference of atmosphere, confessed even by Non-Catholics, between Catholic churches and all others. So marked is this difference that a thousand explanations have to be framed to account for it. It is the suggestiveness of the single point of light burning there! It is the preternatural artistic skill with which the churches are ordered! It is the smell of ancient incense! It is anything and everything except that which we Catholics know it to be -- the actual bodily Presence of the Fairest of the children of men, drawing His friends to Himself!"

Today is January 22, the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and hence a day of prayer for all lives lost to abortion. At St. Joseph Cathedral in Columbus, as in so many churches in so many cities, a Pro-life Mass was held today, celebrated by the bishop and attended by many people, including families with small children, all peacefully praying. I know many families who were there.

And then a pack of "reproduction rights activists" stormed in with signs, got up in front of the altar, and screamed at women and children about the church teaching hate.

The Catholic Church is not the only religious organization in America that stands against abortion. So why not invade the Baptist pro-life memorial prayer service? The Anglican service? The Methodist service?

Because of the Eucharist.

The one who absorbed their hate was Jesus, the dweller in the tabernacle. In the Eucharist, he makes himself utterly defenseless, completely vulnerable to being chewed up by our outrage, our contempt, our self-righteousness. Anyone can kick him. He can be stolen, trampled on, spat out, spat on. His humility is bizarre, offensive, outrageous. Why doesn't he fight back? Why doesn't he take care of himself? If he's God, why doesn't he come off that cross?

And yet he doesn't. He remains, small, consumable, completely Divine. "I am the Bread of Life," Jesus tells us, and that life draws those who love him and those who hate him. And day after day he allows us to grind him up as bread, whether in obedience to his command to take and eat, or in wailing and gnashing of teeth. 


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