For the Life of the World 9

Posted: November 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: For the Life of the World | Tags: , , , , , , , | Comments Off on For the Life of the World 9

This post looks at section 14 of the second chapter of For the Life of the World. Also, if you haven’t listened to it yet, here is the link to Deacon Michael Hyatt’s  podcast over sections 9-16.

It is the Holy Spirit who manifests the bread as the body and the wine as the blood of Christ.

Section 14 begins with the statement above. In some ways it seems obvious, yet the fact that it needs to be said indicates the confusion that often seems to reign. The Eucharist is not some bit of ritual sympathetic magic. It is a much deeper mystery flowing from the heart of the life of God into our life. It is the Spirit, not the words or act of institution that make the Eucharist what it is. In practical terms, after the epiclesis, the Orthodox treat the bread and wine as the body and blood of our Lord, but the theological point is nevertheless an important one to make.

It is to reveal the eschatological character of the sacrament. The Holy Spirit comes on the “last and great day” of Pentecost. He manifests the world to come. He inaugurates the Kingdom. He always takes us beyond. To be in the Spirit means to be in heaven, for the Kingdom of God is “joy and peace in the Holy Spirit.” And thus in the Eucharist it is He who seals and confirms our ascension into heaven, who transforms the Church into the body of Christ and — therefore — manifests the elements of our offering as communion in the Holy Spirit. This is the consecration.

Or maybe we are all just individually reflecting on the sacrifice and suffering of our Lord with no deeper reality or meaning. Maybe it was just a teaching of our Lord using bread and wine to make memorable a theological point.

Maybe.

But if that’s all it is, you only have to do it once or twice at most in your life to get the theological point — unless you’re particularly dense, of course. And while the individual reflection might often be maudlin, I’m not sure I see either what it is intended to accomplish or what it actually accomplishes. At any rate, if that’s all it is, then doing it four times a year might be too often. Hard to get overly sentimental about something you do every few months. Maybe we should just do it once a year when we observe (if we observe) Good Friday.

If those are the alternatives between which I have to choose, it’s really not a hard decision.


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