Sunday, December 12, 2010

Transubstantiation and Transmutation

She said tonight she loved the eucharist.
"It's so very sensual," she said, eyes sparkling in the candle light. "I mean, kneeling there, the priest, placing the wafer, in your palm, saying, "This is my body shed for you", the actual body. It's the sacrifice being enacted all over again. 2000 years later and I'm there on my knees being fed the body and blood of the Lord. It's all I can think of. He gave his life for me. God cares that much."
"Bloody cannibalism," I said. The waiter brought more coffee.
"Well yes, I know what Joseph Campbell said and it's really the way Robert Graves might approach it but God is holy. I can't be holy by myself. I'm quite the animal if the truth be told. God enters me and changes me. It's all God's doing. I just take the host and He does the rest."
I knew she was experiencing the real thing. For her there weren't any of the intellectual barriers that confound the many. Her passion spoke of his Passion. Earlier her husband had said grace, thanking God Almighty whose 'greatest was in the very mystery of his being' which we can only ask to be in relationship with. I loved reading Phillips book, "Your God is too Small". It's arrogance that would have a pot believe it could know the potter. Yet it's the nature of man's mind and certainly mine to want to contain and control and classify. God is beyond all that. The medieval mystic spoke of the "Cloud of Unknowing."
I know what she says. In the bending my knee and taking my place in the wall of humanity I too am there with Christ at the Last Supper hearing him say that the bread and wine are his body and blood. The blood of the lamb sacrificed for you. The ultimate sacrifice. The servant king. God dying that I might live.
So yes for me, like her, the bread and wine are the physical body of Christ. They don't just contain the physical body and blood. They're not just spiritually the body and blood unless spiritually is beyond dualism. In Christ's death he joined the father and God is all. The bread and wine aren't just representative of the body and blood. They are. Of course they are. They're all this and much much more.
"I feel alive again when I've gone to Eucharist. Cleansed and whole and with my Lord as one," she said.
And I knew what she meant. But knew that on bad days I'm just going through the motions, living in the worries of finances and future, thinking of disease and dying, feeling alone and self important. I walk in the herd and participate but I"m not all there. My mind is elsewhere. I don't trust God to care for me in everything and always. I'm trying to think myself out of some latest of holes I've fallen into. I'm there in the church. There's incense and music and even laughter. It's just that as I'm kneeling and the priest is giving me the host I'm just eating bread. Later kneeling at my pew I'm praying and thinking of God but it's sometimes so half hearted.
I look across at her flushed high cheek bones, vibrant eyes and see she is alive with the Lord. Looking at her husband beside her I see his steady eyes calmly watching me. Beside me my dearest friend is comfortable too in her relationship with Christ.
And all I can think of is how I kill him and betray him and that on those days I'm really not all there I am all that Joseph Campbell says I am, a cannibal participating in the carnage of animalism. There is the source of shame and fear.
It's just a moment as the conversation has moved on to a rather risque tale of camels and sex and the French foreign legion. Everyone is laughing. I can only promise myself to pay attention again and again and again. It's in the moment. It's in practicing of the presence of the Lord. It's the mystery. I have to stop going through the motions. Life is far too precious to be wasted with lies and deceit. God is everything or God is nothing.
Turning to her husband, she asked ,"What is the term for it, is it transmutation?"
He laughed, "I think you mean, Transubstantiation, dear. You'd have to ask the doctor here about transmutation."
And earlier I'd answered her, using the word, "transmutation" meaning "transubstantiation". Now I had to wonder if it was just a slip of the tongue. Certainly Freud would have a lot to say about my 'slip' in the choice of a word that reflected alienation. I trusted though that Dr. Carl Jung, son of a minister, would be more understanding.

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