Christ’s Body and Blood

In Catholic, Christianity on April 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm

In proclaiming Christianity Richly, nothing compares with the richness of Christ’s body and blood offered to the twelve at The Last Supper—and still offered to us today.  This is “the source and summit” of our Christian experience.  I was reminded of this today, while reading Fr. Peter John Cameron’s editorial opening Magnificat‘s Holy Week volume.

Writing about this takes us into deep waters, of course.  The challenge stems from the immensity of Christ’s declaration in John 6:53: “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  The implications of that statement push us into the depths of denominational differences.  Yet without ignoring the force of Christ’s words (we’ll come back to them), surely even the most restricted definition of what takes place at The Lord’s Table must nevertheless rank among our richest moments of communion with the Lord.

Let’s survey three traditions.  In our differences, we still see brilliant glimpses of the richness of life in Christ.  For a Baptist, the meal is a solemn memorial, to be joined only after carefully examining oneself.  For a Presbyterian, it is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, dependent upon the work of the Spirit and the word of institution. For the Lutheran, it is the true body and blood of Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine.  None of these celebrations are insignificant occasions.

The Catholic Christian affirms each of those highlighted phrases, and then underscores (based on John 6 and 1 Corinthians 11) that the bread and wine truly become the body and blood—the Real Presence—of our savior Jesus Christ.  Described in this way, perhaps, a Catholic Christian’s joy in the richness of The Eucharist seems not only less strange or unfamiliar, but entirely scriptural, as well.   

Yes, the Real Presence stretches the finitude of our minds.  Yes, even when those following Christ heard the words “eat my flesh and drink my blood” from the Savior’s own lips, many of his disciples protested this was a “hard saying,” and they “turned back and no longer walked with Him.”  Yet Jesus didn’t allegorize or explain away what He had said.  And when Saint Paul tells the Corinthians, “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you,” then, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he simply repeats Christ’s words, saying . . . “This is my body, which is for you.”

This is My Body.  Source and summit.  Christianity Richly.

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