Tuesday, September 22, 2015

skandalon and moría

The Crucified One is wisdom, for He truly shows who God is, that is, a force of love which went even as far as the Cross to save men and women.
--Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 29th, 2008

Catholicism is a wacky project. We have weird phrases like Militia Immaculata, Trinity, and Eucharist and believe them.

I have seen too many teachers of the faith attempt to make the Catholic Faith, particularly the Sacraments, palatable to the skeptical mind.
But the sacraments are not mostly about "remembering the last supper" "the call to create justice in the world" "to create community" or "to forgive others and receive forgiveness."

And yes, yes, those are all aspects of the Sacraments.
But no.

The Eucharist is not primarily an intellectual exercise in remembering the story of salvation; it is not a meditative ritual of nostalgia. The Eucharist is a concrete participation in reality, transforming the substance through the ancient words of institution. An actual transformation takes place: in the bread, now body, which enters our bodies and transform us into Christ. This transformation compels us to go forth into the world and work to bring about His goodness, to strive for justice, to create beauty.

Baptism is not just a welcome ceremony into a community; it is not a glorified bid day for a sorority pledge. Baptism immerses us into the Paschal Mystery of death and Resurrection with Christ, so that we enter into the new life of Resurrection that Christ has opened up to us. It fundamentally transforms our very core of being, so that we are living in an entirely different dimension: that of a redeemed child of God. That is what it means to be a member of the Church, of the Body of Christ. It is a very grave matter. We don't think of the most important moment of our life occurring when we were a crying infant, wrapped in undignified infant baptismal clothes and diapers. But, for all of us who were baptized by their good Christian parents soon after our birth, it did. Whatever great acts of glory we achieve in our life, whatever great leaps of transformation transpire within us, nothing will ever amount to the great moment that completely transformed our souls when we were but a few months old.

The world is not a low-stakes enterprise. Living is not a mundane and stolid exercise. Life and death are on the line.

And one of the reasons I so dearly love the Sacraments is that they are a stumbling block and foolishness. If they are not deadly, gloriously, terrifyingly real, then they are utterly impotent. There is no comfortable middle ground of soothing sentiment or placating platitudes. There is no way to approach these sacraments with a facade of coolness, or a blase, aloof demeanor. Our guard must be broken down.

We are either creatures bowing in constant adoration before our Redeemer, Lord, our Origin and Life, and most beloved friend; Or else we are the most ridiculous idiots kneeling before a piece of bread. Either way, we are stripped of our garments, and must approach this sacrament unarmed, disrobed of our public edifice.

This is truly a stumbling block and foolishness; but its foolish wisdom exposes all of our frantic attempts at composure for the foolish frauds they are. Religion is not full of comfort; it is extremely uncomfortable. Nothing about it is soporific (except perhaps, a bad sermon--but again! not comfortable). All of it sharpens the senses, whets the appetite, grapples with the imagination. Religion is not full of comfort; it is full of consolation.


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