This is a tough one for a lot of people. The idea that a piece of bread and a portion of wine and water can be transformed into something Divine, something that is more, is a hard concept because it goes contrary to what we know as materialistic and scientific facts. We tend to want to assert that this is simply a ritual, simply an act that uses substances to symbolically represent how we are now closer to God, through the symbolic presence of the Eucharist being Jesus. The bread being His body and the wine and water being His blood.
Things don’t transform like that except in fairy tales. Its the same principle as Santa Claus, the tooth fairy. Its a delusion that is performed as a means of asserting the validity of another delusion.
But things do transform. Seeds become plants. Plants become food. The process that allows this to occur is measured by hypothesis that are observable in repeatable conditions. Scientific principles require an act of faith every time they are observed: faith that the results will be predictable, and the same.
People transform, sometimes so radically and so improbably that the people around them hardly are able to believe it. A few years ago, I was so gripped by anxiety and depression that the people closest to me did not believe that I was going to be able to pull myself out of it. And yet, almost overnight, my depression and anxiety were shrunk to manageable proportions.
So is it unreasonable to believe that the Eucharist, the bread and wine, is the actual physical presence of Jesus Christ?
Of course its not unreasonable to believe this!
We exist in a society that is full of flash and bang. When something quiet approaches us, it’s hard to be able to hear, or to even listen continually because we are taught to be impatient. If it’s not something that can be tangible or explained in 30 seconds, it must not be real–not because it can’t be explained or be tangible in less than 30 seconds, but because we don’t have the patience to wait, to think, to reason.
The Eucharist teaches us to be patient. It teaches us to listen, to be silent, to be comfortable with the uncomfortableness of that silence. It teaches us to go inward, to be mindful of God’s presence within us. It links us through time and space to every single Christian celebration of the Lord’s Supper, draws us to the upper room the night before the crucifixion, and links us directly to Christ not only in history, but in the present.
Reverence for the Eucharist is reverence not only for tradition, it is reverence for the actual presence: Jesus is present in the bread and wine–Jesus is present within us when we consume the bread and wine. But more importantly, Jesus is present in every other human being that we meet on the face of the planet; including people we would hope with all out hearts to not find Him in! So the political leaders who drive us crazy, the activists who might be too far right or left on the scale of politically correct for our tastes, the atheist and the agnostic, the ultra poor and the ultra rich: Christ is there.
For me, as a Eucharistic Catholic, this means that I’m currently only able to receive the sacraments when I travel to Toronto. It was brought up recently by a colleague that it shouldn’t be a problem to receive sacraments in a Roman Catholic church: the problem I have with that is this. In 99.9% of all Roman Catholic instances, being an actively queer person isn’t copacetic with Roman Catholic dogmatic belief. For me to receive sacraments in a Roman Catholic setting would require me to effectively be receiving the body and blood while not being in a state of grace (meaning, not being in the best condition spiritually/mentally/emotionally to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ). In order for me to receive the sacrament in full honesty, in full communion, it’s got to be in a setting where I’m open about who and what I am.
But this then opens up the question: What’s the Divine attitude towards people who are queer? And can one be sufficiently reverent towards the Eucharist while being fully engaged in queer culture?
I think this is a great topic for a future blog post. Stay tuned.
*This is part of a series of a year long journey through the book, “Franciscan Virtues Through the Year“. If you’d like more information on Old/Independent Catholicism, or would like more information on my denomination, or feel called to a vocation, click here!