>“Eat of my Flesh” or “Who’s afraid of the Real Presense?"

Posted: 29/11/2008 in devotions

Graduate school and prayer life at a Catholic school influences one’s devotional life. I have been following in the footsteps of the School’s patron Saint, Ignatius Loyola, for several weeks. I pray regularly in one of the school’s many chapels. Recently, I had an epiphany about Eucharist. This epiphany halted my usual tendency towards self-deception –otherwise known as “bad faith.”

Catholics and Lutherans (and many others) do not see the Communion wafer (bread) and the wine as only reminders and symbols of the last supper. Yes, Jesus was a sacrificial lamb. Certainly, communion should be understood in its Jewish context, but it does not stop there. Jesus said, “unless you eat of my flesh and drink of my blood you shall not have life within you” and this is taken far more literally by the aforementioned groups than it is by most evangelicals. For Catholics, Lutherans, and indeed a huge number of many other Christians, the bread and the wine are not merely symbolic bread and wine, but are mystically inhabited by Christ. Thus, they are understood as Christ’s body. This is a hard thing to accept. Even many of Jesus’ own disciples did not understand it.

During certain services and times of prayer, Catholics use something called “the Exposition.” This is when the Communion wafer, which is normally hidden away, is placed within a large gold cross. It is then placed on the altar. People come before it and pray, meditate, and even kneel. Why? Because this is Christ’s body. God becomes present not in some ethereal, vaporous, “spiritual” way, but is present in the same way that he was when incarnate. Christ, thus God, is present physically, tangibly, and visibly.

I had one such experience with God through the exposition. One evening, I came into the chapel to pray, but was already in “bad faith.” Like everyone, I have a great ability to deceive myself about what I am really thinking, feeling, desiring and such. This bad faith is nothing but a deliberating self-deception, but we all do it to protect our feelings or our pride. To my surprise, the Exposition was on the altar that night. I had no idea why, and it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I vividly felt, and saw, the presence of God. This was incredibly disarming. After all, I can lie myself all I want to, but do I want to do this when God is around? Do I want to fool myself and expect Him to be fooled too? Moments of this kind of clarity are rare for me.

Out of all the things I’ve posted, I sometimes think that this will be one of the more controversial ones. I have asserted a doctrine that may sound bizarre to most people reading this. It was bizarre to me to. Because of this, I do not expect people to follow this kind of devotion. I would never look down on anyone who does not. Nonetheless, I thought it was worth sharing.

Thanks [insert your name here] for reading!

  1. Horizon says:

    >I’ve always thought that if Jesus’ body became literally, physically present in Communion bread, then that would be easy to verify scientifically. Nobody seems to take my suggestion seriously.

  2. Daniel says:

    >I’ve never felt the Biblical attention to this topic was “conclusive”. I’ve heard arguments on both sides, but neither have really swayed me. I’ve not had an experience like yours, and because I was not raised to believe in transubstantiation, I tend not to. I don’t think I’d really be surprised if it was the case, but I also think of how often Jesus used metaphoric language, so I’m just not sure for myself…

  3. Cameron says:

    >I just happened across this blog–I just up and decided to follow the link in your signature from Theologyweb, on a whim–and I’m glad I did. It was a good thing to just run across, when there has been a lot of bad theology abounding regarding the doctrines surrounding the Eucharist, and I think you did a great job of approaching it. My husband often serves at Benediction and Exposition, and we used to go to adoration weekly (praying before the exposed Eucharist) and it does inspire a much different response, much more personal, than regular prayer anywhere else in the world. Whether you believe in it or not, it’s profound what the physical presence of Christ can mean when you kneel in prayer.By the way Horizon, there is a book out, Eucharistic Miracles, by Joan Carroll Cruz, that is a really good read. Those tests have been done on miraculous hosts, down to what tissue type and blood type is involved. If i remember right, one such miracle was tested to reveal striated heart muscle, which could be seen to have undergone intense physical stress (namely from the Crucifixion, but you can’t really test for that) and I think blood type AB positive? A good book, worth looking into if that’s a curiosity for you.

  4. >the Assemblies of God would be ashamed…We talked about this on Thursday at my philosophy group. I (sadly) flippantly said “yeah, it’s a symbol, I’ not Lutheran or Catholic or whatever, if any of us believed in transubstantion wouldn’t we be going to one of those churches?”Reading what you wrote and knowing you personally made me think more about it. I have never had access to the eucharist the way you had at that point, so I can’t say what I think. I do know it is rare for you to have that kind of thing happen, so when you say something like that happened, I truly believe it. In fact, it sort of sways me to rethink my theology. Which I always appreciate.

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