Awareness and reconciliation

We have just had the feast of the Ascension, the promise of Jesus-with-us who yet fills all in all; Pentecost, the feast of renewed presence in the Holy Spirit; and Trinity, the feast of relationality, and here we are at Corpus Christi, the realization in matter of this great string of feasts. Add the coming feast of the Sacred Heart, and between them all there is the whole trajectory of our life in God—where we come from, where we are going (as Julian says, into the blessed side of Christ) and the means by which we get there, our ordinary life made continually alive by Jesus himself in the Eucharist.

The Buddhist teacher Charlotte Joko Beck asks her students, “How do we place our cushions? How do we brush our teeth? How do we sweep the floor, or slice a carrot? We think that we are here to deal with more important issues, such as problems with our partners, our jobs, our health, and the like. We don’t want to bother with the little things, like how we hold our chopsticks, or where we place our spoons. Yet these acts are the stuff of our life, moment to moment. It’s not a question of importance, it’s a question of paying attention, being aware. Why? Because each moment in life is absolute in itself. That’s all there is.”

I’m quoting a Buddhist to speak about the Body of Christ because Beck gets so well at the truth that our awareness of the Incarnation of Jesus is meant to become pervasive, explicit to the point of realizing the totality of our life as saturated with the Divine. That is what this feast celebrates, God in Christ again and again humbly revealing God’s self in the most common of matter for the sake of love. This is why we live the shape of life that we do: the whole monastic project is focused on learning to discern this Body, finding and living Jesus in the midst of the ordinary.

What God most generously gives us in the Eucharist is not a symbol of the reality of this presence, of course, but the very reality itself. God has fixed it so that our salvation requires a relationship with common stuff, and relationship with other persons constituted by this stuff, the Body of Christ, the communion of saints. The love that feeds our bodies is meant to save, transform and possess them in their totality, but does so with such immense courtesy. As with the bread and the wine, the reality of Jesus overtakes but does not overwhelm that which contains him.

St Paul writes to a wounded church of the necessity of properly discerning the Body of Christ present in the common table fellowship of the Eucharist, and no less so in our brothers and sisters. The ministry of reconciliation demands that we go further still and discern the Body of Christ as he presents himself to us in every human being. Whether they advert to it explicitly or not, this is what our friends demonstrating in the streets these last weeks are getting at.

But the mercy of God is such that we get to cooperate in our own healing—what we do has something to say about what we become. So we have asked God to “grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves,” and within others, “the fruit of his redemption.”

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