John Chuchman wrote very little of his reflection today. In fact all he wrote was the question: "How did we come to believe and/or behave as though God is more present in the bread and wine than in each and every one of us?". The rest of the reflection are the responses he received from his readers.
How did we come to believe and/or behave as though
God is more present in the bread and wine
than in each and every one of us?
Ever wonder why the hierarchy perpetuates such an idea?
(I posed these Questions and received the following responses)
Well, if it's power you're after,
then what more than to have the sole ability to "confect the species"
in other words, at the words of consecration (or in the east...epiclesis)
God becomes present in the bread and wine.
No one else can do this, so who has the power?
Of course, in the beginning it was the apostles and the elders
who did this without any "official" sanctions.
Hell, there weren't any "officials" to issue the sanctions.
Sometimes it was the head of the family or community leader,
perhaps even a woman or two.
Huh? what? Oh, my!
To protect the sanctity of their closed society
with fear and intimidation
and ensure they are men/gods of property, power and pleasure.
St John Chrysostom made many comments that touch on this matter.
Those who fail to recognize Christ in the beggar at the church door
will not find him in the chalice.
My question for many years.
How easy it is to adore a piece of bread, make it a crime to destroy it,
and totally ignore the person sitting next to you.
Matthew 25: Whatsoever you do to the least of my sisters and brothers,
that you do unto me.
Gary Wills in his book "Papal Sin" attributes to Augustine,
Receive who you are, the body/blood of Christ.
The only thing that is/can be transformed in the Eucharist
is the hearts of those in attendance.
Historically, Church hierarchy were not able to control mystics
who had gained quite a following.
So, the hierarchy emphasized the role of priests
and their amazing power/magic of the Eucharist,
which even the mystics did not possess,
elevating the role of priests who were subject to control by the hierarchy.
I believe they perpetuate the myth because they fear the alternative.
I finally came to the conclusion some time ago that transubstantiation is a hoax.
It's about control and power.
As long as the people need the intermediary with the magical powers,
they are dependent upon the clergy.
In my community, for many years now,
the people have said the prayer of thanksgiving, realizing we are gathered together rediscovering our identity as the people of God on a mission to world
and in our communion we break the boundary between the sacred and the profane
and for a fleeting moment experience some transcendence.
It is not magical, but mysterious how a gathering of people of love and justice,
with some great music, stories and good words, prayer, silence, and communion
can break our limited boundaries to transcend our lives,
sense our deep connections with each other and the world, and sense grace.
Sometimes it is so mundane, it is ordinary and filled with doubt and skepticism.
Sometimes it is so profound and moving, it is extraordinary and scary.
And doubt fads into grace.
But then, the mission remains and we must go back into life for justice's sake.
The clergy are afraid of that experience of hope and power,
so they try to keep control.
Jesus was the consummate psychologist.
He knew that if we didn't have a focus we would forget it all.
What is implicit in receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus
is that we start to digest Him, His Life and everything He represents,
not just what we want.
This is a process, a journey, not a fait accompli.
God in His Revelation, Christ, the Word, and through Creation, is omnipresent.
Our awareness of that Presence can begin in many places,
but the Eucharist is a celebration (not an object)
of a particular aspect of revelation
into which we are continually being invited (the biblical narrative, the Word).
The Orthodox refuse to allow Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The reduction of the Presence of God to an object makes no sense to them.
Theologically, the Presence of God is also in the People.
Personally I quit going to communion years ago
as a protest against the politicalization of church teachings by the Bishops of America.
The pulpit is a place for enumeration of our Lord's life and teachings,
not a place to further America's evangelical political agenda.
Could it be clericalism?
How present is God in the scriptures,
or wherever two or three are gathered in His (Jesus') name?
Is there really a belief in the universal priesthood of believers?
The Last Supper was a Stag Party!?
They perpetuate it because they control by advocating a Sin-Based Christianity,
Grace-Based Christianity makes them obsolete and irrelevant.
It's a terrible idea.
We humans always mess up everything,
but it means a lot to me to acknowledge the Real Presence in the spiritual food and drink. God is really present in you and me, but the sacrament confirms it.
It's the pointed, concentrated, uncomplicated metaphor of Emanuel, God-with-us.
If we don't have any love for another, it's an empty metaphor.
The officials of religion are like the materialists:
if they can't see it objectively, they can't believe it.
Hopefully, we will follow the Christ who did not want institutions or hierarchy.
All he wanted from us is to love one another.
It is so simple, but so hard for so many to understand.
We continue to pray.
The hierarchy would find a way to 'hem and haw'
around your very pointed question.
They always do.
I believe that Jesus came to be as close as possible to us
by feeding us, like a Mother.
But I also believe that
Jesus did not intend for us to believe that God couldn't be in our hearts.
Christ stated that where two or three are gathered in his name,
he is in the midst of them.
Putting on Christ, as St. Paul states, is not only imitating him
but reflecting him in what we do and say.
I go to Mass just about every day and receive Communion.
But I don't believe that Christ had daily Mass as part of his intention.
I do believe that the early Christians had it right
with celebrating "the Meal" on Sundays.
More important than receiving Christ in Communion
is BEING CHRIST to others.
Fortunately, most of us have grown out of that belief.
It relates to Mathew Fox's observation
that the church is like a family with an alcoholic father
where no one speaks the truth because of fear,
an instinctive reaction that has always held people back
from spiritual freedom.
You know the answer, it is for power & control purposes!
It was, and is, all about power.
I think it perpetuates that idea
in order to preserve the priesthood
as the sole source of access to God.
I suspect that it's because it is much easier than dealing with messy humans.
Why? Well . . . for them to be the "exclusive conduit" that's why!
This is precisely the theology of Teillard de Chardin
that illumined Vatican II
but it seems to be derailed
as it "downgrades" the intercessory/superior aspect of the ordained priesthood.
When the person distributing 'Communion' makes a statement:
"The Body of Christ; The Blood of Christ"
we make the wrong affirmation.
So, some of us respond instead, "Indeed we are!"
Because we believe that is the only important and relevant statement.
Really, what does the physical/'real'/ whatever composition of the bread and wine matter
if we are not committed to recognizing and acting as the Body of Christ
(the body, blood, eyes, ears, hands, etc.)?
This leaves aside the question
of how our understanding of the way the material world works (physics, chemistry, etc.) differs from the scientific understanding
of those who came up with this statement/affirmation hundreds of years ago.
To my mind, those differences in scientific understanding do not matter,
because the only point that makes sense
is that in the Eucharist we recognize and affirm that
we join with Christ in a Body of life, love and service.
Consubstantiation works only on bread and wine
and only at the hands of those in power,
not on poor humans.
It's called control.
Every ordained clergy elevates Eucharist to such extraordinary heights
that nothing can compare
not even all the good deeds done in HIs name.
The more I ponder our Roman Catholic religious practices,
the more I wonder "why" and "when was this decided upon?".
I hate to think it was just to keep the 'peasants' in line, in the Middle Ages,
but perhaps even the hierarchy was not too well educated, either.
How we came to accept some of those teachings is baffling.
We need to be upbeat and compassionate towards the hierarchy
if we are going to bring them into the equation.
The real question is
why have we, the people of God, not "perpetuated such an idea"
of the Eucharist that Karl Rahner expounds in Foundations of Christian Faith pp.424-427.
Some of his thoughts:
In the celebration of the liturgy
the incarnation, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus become present.
At this meal with Jesus the ideas of community is constitutive,
that is the union of Jesus with his friends
and the foundation of the community of these friends among themselves.
The Church "actualizes her thankful response to God's offer of grace,
namely his self-communication.
Hence this self-communication is the most intense self-communication.
Since starting our little community and praying the Mass sans priest,
I'm really coming to understand that this problem has to do with
the "power of the priesthood".
I think now it is the baptismal right of every Christian
to celebrate the perfect "mime" (Richard Rohr's word) of praying the Eucharistic Prayer holding the bread and wine as a sign of his or her life shared through Jesus with others.
(Of course this means we take turns within small communities
and we need some preparation, but these should not be obstacles.)
It is ALSO the baptismal right of every Christian
to minister/offer communion to brothers and sisters
gathered around a banquet table which foreshadows the Parousia
as Jesus taught and invited us to do.
No more "altar tables of sacrifice",
ordained priesthood or elements separated from the actions of the gathered community!!! Vatican II wisely taught that we should no longer offer Eucharist with the words
"THIS IS the body/blood of Christ",
but by simply saying "The body/blood of Christ"
to indicate that it is the ACTIVITIES or WORK of "blessing, breaking and sharing"
these elements in community that effects the transubstantiation/real presence
Dear John, Thanks for brightening my Christmas with your good humor and insights.
I loved it. Laughing keeps us Spirit-filled, and the Spirit inspires us
to commit ourselves to a model of community and communion that Jesus invited us to,
a friendship with all.
I really appreciate your ministries, John--and sharing your poetic wisdom!
My story would be too long to share right now, but, in short,
our adult faith-sharing group has had to meet off church property, for one,
and secondly, the new pastor has contracted with the diocese for its Web site
no longer in need of my volunteer services as its web-master!
I think it was the resource links that I recommended that instigated his disapproval!
He actually expected our group to limit our reading list
to books with an imprimatur and nihil obstat!
Love, John Chuchman
This reflection is also published on John Chuchman's blog.
The background used to support John Chuchman's reflection has been sourced from stock.xchng one of the sources for free images on the net provided by people who voluntarily upload their work for others to share. Daniel Cubillas who is located in Spain provided today's image. A gallery of Daniel's freely available images can be found at: www.sxc.hu/gallery/dcubillas. The Sparrow image used in the headline has been sourced from stock.xchng also and is adapted from a vector art illustration by Radoslava Todorova in Sofia, Bulgaria: www.sxc.hu/photo/1375691
John's latest book, I AM because LOVE IS: God as VERB, is now available in paperback from Amazon. Click the image for more information. Kindle edition to come.
John Chuchman is a bereavement counsellor. He is a graduate of John Carroll University and former Ford Motor Company executive (1959-1992). He has been a Hospice volunteer since 1990. John has received Pastoral Bereavement Counselor certification and a Certificate in Spirituality (Kino Institute of Phoenix, Arizona.) In 2000, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministries from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. His website provides information about his regular retreats and information about his books. he also writes a "Poetman" blog which you can find on the website or via this link: [Visit John's blog] | [Visit John's website]
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