February 28, 2017
It may be asked whether the Eucharist becomes the real flesh and blood of Jesus Christ through transubstantiation, or whether it is merely a representation of Christ’s body and blood.
I have an uneasy feeling that this question distracts us for the point of Christ’s commandment that we eat his flesh and blood. Christ knew what he was asking was severe. It caused many of his followers to leave him. “This commandment is too difficult”, they said. But those who stayed, stayed with Peter. “Where else would we go?, said Peter to the Christ.
And that is just the point of the Eucharist: absolute union to Christ, and being as physically and spiritually close to him as is humanly and spiritually possible. This means consuming his flesh and blood, physically and spiritually, so that each perfect molecule of his body and blood becomes subsumed within our imperfect body and blood, and his perfect spirit within our imperfect spirit, that we may rise to his level of perfection in unity with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
But the question still remains, is the Eucharist to be taken as symbol, or as reality?
When you see the intelligence inside a child, it is there, even though it has not reached it full fruition and potential. The child’s talent, courage, virtue and potential is still there; it exists, but unless you believe it is truly there, not just as a symbol, then you will not see it, and it will be impossible to encourage it and to cultivate it. Yet it is truly there, but in order to unlock its potential, you must first believe it is there potentially. For a child who is encouraged and told he is intelligent becomes intelligent in his own way. And a child who is repeatedly told he is stupid will soon begin to act so. Believing in the child is required for the miracle of the child’s self-actualisation.
To put it differently, if you believe your child will be the best that she can be, one could argue that this best version of the child doesn’t really exist. But then you would be mad to encourage your child by saying how bright, or talented, or promising the child is. But no one is mad for doing so, for the brightness and talent and promise of the child does exist, though we cannot see it yet. By telling our children they are intelligent, they come to know the intelligence that is in them, and give it life, and become intelligent in their own right. A child who likewise is told over and over he is stupid, will end up believing it, and acting so.
It is a similar principle with the Eucharist. To truly consume Christ, and become as close to him as we can possibly be, we must suspend our perception of what we see, and choose to accept in the Eucharist the actual body and blood of Christ, as we see intelligence and promise in our children. By accepting the possibility that the body and blood of Christ are in the Eucharist, we allow the miracle of transubstantiation to take place, and with it, the miracle of our absolute communion with Christ.
But if we only see the Eucharist as a symbol, do we not then fall one step short of truly consuming and communing with him, making him part of us, and us a part of him? Not seeing a thing is not proof it doesn’t exist. For if it were true that not seeing a thing is proof it doesn’t exist, no parent would dare tell a child he is promising, or intelligent, and no person would dream of better things and pursue her dreams, for fear of not being factually correct. For it is in believing in the higher things that we make them possible.
Life is as much about creating ourselves as it is about discovering ourselves, and the creative force in life must always make use of our discoveries to advance life and flourishing. Otherwise, the realist will dampen his creative energies with what merely is, rather than infusing it with what ought to be.
Christ’s teachings and his life were shot through with this creative energy. He healed and he helped. He taught us that our neighbour is not merely he who is given to us as our neighbour, but he whom we treat as such. In other words, we create our neighbours. We create the world in which we wish to live. The fact it doesn’t “exist” in the scientific sense of the word has no bearing on the human capacity to create it. The Kingdom of God is likewise to be created by man’s capacity for love, first in his heart, and then in his midst. Man is to create the Kingdom of God. This was Christ’s commandment.
Is the Kingdom of God actual, or is it symbolic? The question misses the point. It is real for he who accepts it as real, and who thus unlocks the key to its creation and his salvation. Is the Eucharist actually or symbolically the body and blood of Christ? It is real for he who accepts it as real, and thus unlocks the key to its transubstantiation and his salvation.
Therefore, to me, the Eucharist is real. It is potential by my belief, and actual by the power of God, which is limitless. Just as a child’s talent and intelligence and promise are real, though we cannot yet see it in its totally developed form. But a total commitment to its reality is necessary for bringing it about. The point is not what can be perceived, but what can be created. We must submit the world and our senses to what we wish to create. We must perceive what it is we wish to create, before we can create it. If we are able to see the truth about our children, and help them thrive, then we are able to see the truth about our saviour, and commune with him.
It is on account of the power of the imagination, our creative force, that we access higher truths, and create the world we wish to inhabit. An imagined truth is not by that fact untrue. Life is about the creation of higher truths in concrete form. To be the love we want to see in the world, we must first conceive it clearly, and commit ourselves to its possibility, even if we find it is in scarce supply around us. It is the same with absolute communion with Christ; by suspending our senses and committing ourselves to the miracle of the transubstantiation of the Eucharist, we allow the possibility to become real, just as Christ commanded it.
Just as we take it on faith that love is possible between two people before experiencing that love, we must take it on faith that Christ inhabits the Eucharist, before we can allow him to inhabit in us in the most intimate way possible.