An outlet for my thoughts. It was either start a blog or get a goldfish.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Can we please talk about the Eucharist? The readings for the last few weeks have been from John 6, and I love every minute of it.
Here's the thing about the Eucharist. I feel that if you are Catholic and you have never struggled with this concept at some point, either you've never thought about it at all, or you have absolutely no grasp of what is going on. My own personal questions were not whether or not it was true. The readings of John 6 are too overt for me to question: "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life... for My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink."
My questions came down to why? My Lord and my God, why, why, why would You ask me to eat Your flesh and drink Your blood? You are God. You want me to eat You? I don't understand.
It makes sense to me why someone would prefer that this be symbolic. Symbolically, it's kind of neat imagery. To take it literally is crazy. Who would eat their God? Yet, the Jews, His followers, not just His enemies, clearly took Him literally. It was so over the top that they left. Have you noticed the number of times in the Gospels that Jesus' followers misunderstand Him? Normally He clarifies for them what He really meant. This time, He didn't. Instead, He simply asked His apostles if they were going to leave, too.
Notice Peter didn't say, "Of course, we're not going anywhere. That's Your coolest teaching yet! It makes perfect sense." Rather, he says "Where else would we go?" He implies that this is a difficult teaching for the apostles as well, but they have come to the point that they understand that Jesus is the Messiah, so they will do as He tells them, even if they don't understand it.
I remember being at that point myself. I remember a time when I would receive the Eucharist, believing it was Christ, doing so because He had asked it, but the whole time the "Why?" was bouncing around in my head.
My sister mentioned that she once went to Communion and was asking Jesus why as well. Why did you come to earth? Why do You come to us in the Eucharist in this way? Why would You do this for us? The prayer after Communion "happened" to be John 10:10 "I came that you might have life and have it abundantly."
Jesus is Life itself, and He gives that Life to us in a very substantial way in the Eucharist. Cyril of Alexandria (about mid-400's AD) explains it this way: "So Christ gave his own body for the life of all, and makes it the channel through which life flows once more into us. How he does this I will explain to the best of my ability. When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption."