Though we are one in the Body of Christ, we are not Christ!
Recently, the Deputy Editor of the "New Oxford Review" attended a Mass where a visiting priest insisted, at the Sign of Peace, that everyone turn to the others in their pew and "shake hands with the Christ next to you." What was he, or anyone, supposed to say? "The peace of You be with you"? Wouldn't it be more appropriate to fall down in Adoration and exclaim "My Lord and my God!!" (Needless to say, this might put the other person in a bit of a spot)
Also recently, in a Catholic Community Message Board, the topic of Eucharistic reverence came up. How we seem to have lost it. Someone then posted that, indeed, Eucharistic reverence is not in decline, but, in that we have a greater increase in caring for and being concerned for our fellow man, it's actually increasing. Now what, you may ask (as I did), did that have to do with the reverence of the Eucharist? Simply put, in that the people of God are His Body, the people of God (and I guess anyone else) is the Eucharist. This is just the normal extension of the community as God idea. Of course with this notion, I guess parishes with Perpetual Adoration could make giant monstrances that, instead of holding the Blessed Sacrament, could hold one or more people for us to 'adore'. In fact, some even claim that Perpetual Adoration should be halted. The fellow above said that he read that Fr. Benedict Groeschel (often seen on EWTN) spoke about how we needed to get away from adoring Christ in the Eucharist.
Now, this makes no sense since, as many who have read or heard him can attest, Fr. Groeschel is very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament, having written and spoken extensively on It. Now, he 'may' have spoken on how some have seemingly replaced the Mass as central to our faith with Perpetual Adoration. This would make sense since it's the Mass which is central to our faith. And though Perpetual Adoration is a very good devotion, it comes in behind the Mass.
But this distortion of what Fr. Groeschel said is simply another example of the distortions often given to us as 'authentic' Church teaching. For example;
The Church, and Vatican II, teaches us that Christ is present in three ways in the Mass. The first, but not the greatest way, is in the Mass itself.
Referring to Matthew, Vatican II points out that 'where two or more are gathered in my name, I am among them.' They say that this is Scriptural proof that the community IS God, that where two or more are gathered in His name, He is there. But note, He says that He is 'amongst' them, not that He IS them. Of course it isn't a far stretch to go from God being the community in the Mass to God being the community in general. So, as above, we may hear that reverencing the Eucharist is reverencing mankind in general. However, not far from that is another extension, that is God is not just other people but nature, the earth, the universe, as a whole.
Though it can be twisted into a Catholic sounding idea, it is in fact nothing but New Age, eco-theology. Like the Gnostics of the early Church, they take Catholic ideas to cover essentially pagan notions. This is why, when speaking to many dissidents, the Scriptures are often passed over as irrelevant or disregarded all together.
We're taught to 'see' Christ in others in view of His teaching that whatsoever we do to the least, we do it to Him. It isn't that He IS that person, but to regard him as though he were Him. And though the Church is the Body of Christ, it isn't that it IS Christ, but that we're joined with Him in faith and other ways. It is the "Mystical Body of Christ." Yet so many leave out the word "mystical" and replace it with "literal." And though He made all things, it isn't that He IS all things, but that they are parts of Him in much the same way as the Sistine Chapel and the statue of David are parts of Michelangelo. His vision, His inspiration, heart and soul are in them, but they aren't Him. So it is with God and nature, the earth and the universe. We can praise God 'through' the works of His hands, but we cannot worship the works of His hands AS Him.
So, though Christ is present with us in the Mass, the community is not Him.
"because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator," (Romans 1:25).
In another way, God is present is in His word, the Scripture and Scripture readings. But it isn't as the Readings ARE Him. We can read Shakespeare, Hawthorne, or any author and say that he (or she) is speaking to us through their words. They aren't speaking to us directly but through their words, or even through the testimony of others. We made read or hear how Hawthorne gave inspiration to someone, or how Shakespeare expressed how they felt. Their words touch our hearts, our souls, just as God wishes to do with His words. But again, it isn't that God is His words, except in one way,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it……And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:1-5;14).
So, when we hear the word of God in the Mass, it isn't Jesus but His words. Jesus is the Word of God, His words aren't.
Of course, the idea that Jesus is present in His words leads to another extension. IF the word of God in the Scriptures is God, then isn't the person reading them acting in the persona of God? The word of God isn't just restricted to the Gospels, which the priest reads in his capacity of acting in the persona of Christ, but in every word of Scripture, including the Old Testament and the Epistles. That means the person who is Lectoring is also acting in the persona of Christ. This can lead us back to the above proposition and even to others. For if a woman can be a lector and act in the persona of Christ, can't she also then act in the persona of Christ as a priest?
But the lector doesn't act in the persona of Christ since the words of the Readings aren't the actual presence of Christ, no more than "Romeo and Juliet" is the actual presence of Shakespeare, nor the person reading it actually Shakespeare.
But there is one way in the Mass in which Christ is really, truly, and physically present. And that is in the Eucharist. But of the three ways in which Christ is present in the Mass, why is the Eucharist targeted to be lessened rather than strengthened? Why would Catholics increase the importance of the community, the Scriptures, over the Eucharist? The answer is obvious, they're no longer Catholics.
"Fundamentalist attacks on the Church always come around, as they must do, to the Eucharist. Keith Green devoted the first of his 'Catholic Chronicles' to what he acknowledged to be the core devotional doctrine of Catholics, and he was smart to do so. Bart Brewer, Donald F. Maconaghie, Jimmy Swaggart - they all zero in on the Eucharist.." (Catholicism and Fundamentalism; The Attack on 'Romanism' by 'Bible Christians'; Karl Keating, pg. 232)
It isn't that they've become Fundamentalists, as such. They'd be up in arms over Swaggart as the Pope. But the language they use is very similar. In fact, Bart Brewer was a Discalced Carmelite priest. After a 'romantic' encounter in the Philipines, his bishop sent him home, where, after becoming a secular priest found that his "psychological motivation for celibacy was decreasing rapidly" (Conversion of a Catholic Priest) So much so that when Vatican II didn't remove the discipline of religious celibacy he, "doubted the authority of my church, not in religious pride, but in true sincerity." (Ibid) Now isn't that a familiar line? And like many a present day dissident, he then "realized that to think and to reason on one's own, without the help of Mother Church, was not a sin." (Ibid) Again, a very familiar refrain of dissident Catholics.
Today, Brewer and his wife tour the country exposing the 'dark secrets' of the Catholic Church, complete with a chalice filled with 'Christ Cookies'. Sacrilege supreme!
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once remarked that, as a rule, the first thing to go is one's belief in the Real Presence. Today, it appears that unbelief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist is not only growing, but being taught. At least Brewer had the integrity to say that he was no longer a Catholic. There are Catholics, laity, theologians, priests, nuns, and bishops, who agree with Brewer in every way, but say that they're still Catholics.
It sad enough when some Catholics actually believe this because they were taught it, or because it was put in such pleasing wrappings. But what is particularly sad and disturbing is that it so openly opposes authentic Church teaching and no one, from parish pastors to bishops, seem concerned or do anything about it.
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst….. This is the Bread which comes down from Heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the Living Bread which came down from Heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh….. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him'" (John 6: 35; 50-51; 53-56).
"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body.' And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26: 26-28).
Consider what Paul said:
"For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, 'This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.' For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself" (1 Corinthians 11: 23-29).
And finally from St. Francis of Assisi we are reminded of the essence of the Holy Sacrifice and why we believe:
"Every day He humbles Himself just as He did when He came from His Heavenly throne (Wisdom 18:15) into the Virgin's womb; every day He comes to us and lets us see Him in abjection, when He descends from the bosom of the Father into the hands of the priest at the altar. He shows Himself to us in this sacred bread just as He once appeared to His Apostles in real flesh. With their own eyes they saw only His flesh, but they believed that He was God, because they contemplated Him with the eyes of the Spirit. We, too, with our own eyes, see only bread and wine, but we must see further and firmly believe that this is His most Holy Body and Blood, living and true." (Admonitions; St. Francis of Assisi)
"We should beware especially of the malice and wiles of satan; his only desire is to prevent man from raising his mind and heart to his Lord and God. He goes about, longing to steal man's heart away under the pretext of some good and useful interest, and obliterate the words and commandments of God from his memory." (Rule of 1221, Chap. 22; St. Francis of Assisi)
This is exactly what is happening today as the modernists seek to erode the very foundation of our Faith. What are we going to do about it?
For past columns by Pat Ludwa, see VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives
February 12, 2001
volume 12, no. 43
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW column