Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breadcrumbs and Theosis

Labour not for the meat which perisheth , but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed . Then said they unto him, What shall we do , that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent . They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see , and believe thee? what dost thou work ? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written , He gave them bread from heaven to eat . Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, ever more give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger ; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst . But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing , but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Today's readings from Mattins (Exodus xvi.4-15 & St John vi.27-40) would probably be better suite to Corpus Christi rather than Mothering Sunday. Yet both tell of the origins of the Mass as we know it. To realise the importance of the Mass, sometimes it's a good exercise to perform a little ecstasy. No! I don't mean taking illicit and illegal substances, nor do I really mean working oneself up into such a frenzy so as to induce an altered state of consciousness. I do mean that sometimes we need to be like one outside the Church looking in.

Of course there are lots of people who look upon the Mass as being quite a bizarre spectacle, including some Christians. After all, Sunday by Sunday, ever-dwindling groups of people appear to be turning up to see a bloke dressed in robes hold up a little wafer of bread, solemnly declare it to be the "Body of Christ" and then promptly distribute it to the folk around them. More scandalous to them is the Rite of Benediction when this little wafer gets stuck in a carry-case for people to kneel at and do this obscene thing called "adoration". For atheists it's just silly. For Protestants it's a scandal. What scandalises the Atheists is that Christendom is divided over the issue of this little wafer, and who gets to wave their hands over it, and the resulting tribal warfare has indeed brought shame upon the Church.

It all appears to be an utterly ridiculous, foolish and irritating waste of time.

But it isn't - at least not for the Catholic.

It is very difficult to explain to those from the outside looking in why this is so important, especially when many of them (a) restrict the number of words you are allowed to use, (b) are not really asking out of interest but to confirm their own positions and (c) are not really out to experience the Catholic Church as a mother.

The long and the short of it is that Mass is the way a Catholic experiences the love of God acting like a mother in nourishing His children with food that will make us grow into what He wants us to be. This seems a little odd, particularly in Western Churches where the taste-buds are regaled with all kinds of wonderful sensations. However, it is clear that He is not nourishing us for this world but rather the world beyond.

I freely admit that I find this world hopeless in itself and simply cannot believe the Atheist claims that this is all there is, that we are all predetermined bits of dust that suddenly grab this little thing called consciousness only to discover our own meaninglessness before evaporating into oblivious clouds of atoms into the far wastes of a cold dark universe. You may call my reticence a flight from reality, but it's just not the way that I understand not only the integrity of my own being as an amalgam of biological machine with a rational soul, but the integrity of every other person in this universe. It doesn't make any sense that I should become conscious, meet people, teach some of the most inspirational young folk, only for me, and they, these bright young things, just to wink out of existence in a few score orbits of a clod of matter orbiting a ball of burning gas. If atheists choose to believe that, fine, I'm not going to stop them, but how do they live life without meaning. Why is meaning important to a human being in the first place?

Of course, I believe in God, so I must concede that He wanted to create me and further, that He wishes to save me from the consequences of the fact that I can choose not to follow Him. If Christ is indeed right and that He is the key to some form of life beyond this one then it stands to reason that I am being invited to participate in this "other" life. While I admit that this could conceivably be a con by a supposedly evil deity, nonetheless I content myself to trust in what He wants is my good. The alternative is just as bad as the eternal bleakness of a cold, dead, Godless universe. So, not only do I believe in God, I also believe Him.

St John does tell us that one day we Christians shall be like him because we shall see Him as He really is. Again, we are given another promise that somehow we will have put on ourselves a new being. This is a gradual process in our lives and we must look and see how this process occurs. If we become like Him, then we have somehow to take into ourselves something of what He is and allow that to build up, transforming our flimsy, atomic being into something far more substantial and indivisible. In St john's Gospel, we hear Christ say very specifically "I am the bread of life" He also tells us that unless we eat of the flesh of the Son of Man and drink of His blood we cannot share that Divine manner of living, we cannot somehow possess within ourselves the substance of our Creator. We have to choose to become like Him!

Our Lord Jesus as St Thomas Aquinas' self-wounding pelican, that mother bird who in legend feeds its young on its own self exhibits characteristics of motherhood in providing Divinity of Himself to those who seek Him, but not for those who seek Divinity apart from Him. He does this via the sacrament of the Mass. In receiving breadcrumbs, God Himself. We can't get crumbs of God, because God is indivisible, so we receive Him into ourselves as He is by our own choice.

Of course, it would all seem rather incongruous, even ridiculous, to those outside, but there is perfect reasonable sense here which has its origin in believing what the Lord Jesus tells us in the Gospels. Of course, one is free to discount the evidence of the Gospels and wander one's own sweet way in life, but it seems quite clear that one can only gain anything of Eternity from the being of God Himself. A single breadcrumb can be worth more than the entire universe itself because it contains the very being of God.

Do I have a shred of evidence to back up what I'm saying? The only evidence I have is that which many discount as being inadmissible because it conflicts with their idea of the universe. I suspect that I may well be guilty of the same, but I do live in a universe which is filled with hope and meaning that can't readily be scrutinised by any who refuse to use Divine light to see.

We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is, now in the Host where He may be adored in Benediction, then face to face as we grow into Him.

If this doesn't appeal to you, how do you find your hope in this universe?

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