Friday, January 19, 2018

disclaimer: this is not eucharistic theology

“Doesn’t that hurt?” asked the child. He was referring to God's trick of disguising himself in the outward appearance of bread, which his mother had explained to him. Doesn't it hurt Jesus to constrict himself to a small circle of bread?
His question witnesses to an effortless, oceanic faith in a mustard-seed-sized human. The real honesty of his question is bound up in its pathos. His question is not the question of Mary: how can this be? Nor is it the question of Zechariah: How will I know that this is so? How is this possible? Nor does his belong to medieval philosophers: Are both the species and the substances transformed?
The child's first question is not epistemological but empathetic. His first concern is not technical, but personal. Such is the power of a child’s imagination, which accepts trustingly, and conducts its inquiries with such honesty. Such is the power of an imagination and a faith which can so sanguinely accept the “if” and confidently step into the “then.”

Doesn’t that hurt?—to contain oneself in the small molecules of wheat and wine?
He sees through to the strange truth of the familiar ritual so clearly, and asks the question no adults have the answer to. He is willing to accept the truth so completely, that he allows the mystery a deep reality beyond playing pretend.
Who can say whether the Eucharistic Lord is in pain? And what adult could comfort this child, by daring to claim he is not? If there’s anything we know about Incarnation, it is certainly that it brought its subject pain. The title we give him: “the man born to die” points directly to that suffering which is at the heart of his identity. Isn't the cross is at the center of Incarnation? And cruciform paschal offering is surely at the heart of the Eucharistic feast.

But so is resurrection.
The pain of self-gift of the cross is not complete without the glory of resurrection.
But doesn't resurrection hurt as well?
Christ's wounds still puncture his hands, feet, and side, even on the brighter side of the grave.
Doesn't that hurt? I wonder.

The answer, of course, is that love always hurts, which is why fear is always the easier option. But the growing plant has no option but either to weather the elements or die. Nature demonstrates so clearly to us, her wayward and stubborn constituents, that our only other alternative to growth is rot.
It might seem that the greatest pain is the nails in your palm and the most suffocating casket is the small round wafer. Perhaps, without love, they would be. Perhaps, without love, the marks in his side would be eternal torture, and his residence in unleavened bread would be punishingly painful. Why then, would some one submit themselves to wounds which will not heal and crush themselves into bread to feed unworthy hearts and stomachs? Doesn't that hurt?

No answer, of course, but the cross, which speaks its eloquence in silence.
No answer but the bread that fills my hands and tongue.
To be loved in such a way shakes my soul (my hands shake too). Derrida would say that there is no genuine gift possible in relationship. But perhaps there does exist a gratitude beyond obligation to the Other—which one could call love.
The sort of love I catch in glimpses, and myself incarnate half-heartedly, caught in the crosshairs flowering and rot.
A gratuitous, wholly gracious love, which can turn a prison of bread into gift.

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