Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Corpus Christi

Jan Davidz de Heem, The Sacrament, 17th century

I confess to being a deeply closeted fan of the Feast of Corpus Christi.  All of my Protestant instincts cry out "NOOOOO!" but I can't help it.  It's not about the cookie or all the white magic hocus pocus that surrounds the Sacrament for some people.  It's about the idea at the heart of the whole thing, that our human nature and our flesh, and by extension the whole natural world, are now part of God.  God is with us and we are with God in our very substance.  No more flesh and spirit dualism.  The two are bound up together.  The spirit illumines the flesh and the flesh informs the spirit.

Our old friend in Brazil, Luiz Coelho (now Fr. Luiz) turns out to have had a conversion experience with Corpus Christi.  From a recent Facebook post:

A few days ago, we celebrated Corpus Christi, a feast that is held as a commemoration in most Anglican/Episcopal calendars. This has always been a very dear holiday to me, since one of my many conversion experiences happened while attending an Evening Prayer and Benediction service at an Episcopal church years ago. I used to be a quasi-atheist turned into a liberal Christian who defied all dogma. Thanks to a series of mystical experiences that drew me closer to God "who is beyond all understanding" I felt called to a closer walk with God who is Trinity, God who is present in the Blessed Sacrament, God who is transcendent and does not follow our logic. This is a God who is beyond what makes sense to me and, as such, can be compassionate and forgiving, even knowing we commit so many faults.

This is why Benediction is very important to me. That mystical encounter with God amongst clouds of incense and a consecrated host - the Body of Christ - in a monstrance was one of the many turning points of my life. Now we don't do that very often at my parish church. This year, I think we did it only twice. Once, during Lent, after a service of Stations of the Cross and now, right after Corpus Christi Mass and procession. Both occasions were very special though.

I firmly believe we must not live in fear. And because I'm very proud of my church community and the wonderful work we've been doing in the neighborhood of Méier, Rio de Janeiro, I posted (and will continue posting) pictures of Corpus Christi. I have no reason to hide this very special moment which really was a blessing in the midst of one of the most terrible weeks of my life. Plus, around the world, many Roman Catholic and Anglican churches were doing the same stuff, so why hide it?

Sadly, I noticed that these pictures can be very offensive to some of the people who can see my wall. Either they are progressive minded and find the whole thing medieval and backwards or they are Evangelicals who accuse me of idolatry. I can relate to that. I've been there. And, to be frank, I see lots of things I find weird, silly or against my beliefs here on facebook. But I just don't feel like pointing that out because, maybe, I'm wrong and, mostly, because I do not have time for long arguments on facebook anymore.

So, that's it. If you post something irrelevant to me, it will be deleted. If you are interested in real engaging theological discussions, send me a message or e-mail and I'll try to reply as soon as possible, but without hordes of random people turning it into a huge debate which I do not have time to follow. But, most importantly, remember I'm still a human being who deserves respect and acceptance. Thanks.


JCF said...

I'm (shock!) ambivalent.

The doing of Corpus Christi (procession, benediction), I like.

The painting of cookies---the singing of songs specifically TO cookies---I don't get. Why not paint the Last Supper, or the Crucifixion? Why not just sing TO GOD, in the (Real) presence of the cookie?

I definitely feel closer to God---closer than most times&places---praying in the Presence of the Sacrament.

Still the Roman *hammering* (and yammering, on EWTN) that the cookie is *identical* to God ("Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity") seems designed to offend (much in the way the past couple of centuries of Papally-proclaimed dogmas have been: chief among them, Papal Infallibility!). As if, "you can't be one of us, until you overcome your instinct AND rationality which says 'this is nuts'".

Yes, yes, yes: John 6. Heard it, got it. Whatever the various interpretations of that text, I don't think the lesson for the CHURCH should be, "push people away/wait till they grovel in submission". The Sacrament of Christ's Body & Blood shouldn't be a weapon (or electified fence!).

Counterlight said...

Fortunately, I don't watch EWTN. I prefer the Cartoon Network.
Maybe it's up to us Episcopal Anglo-Catholics to rescue the Sacrament from royalist and hierarchical agendas.

Counterlight said...

A friend of mine, a former resident of Paris, says that the Sacrament is on permanent display at Sacre Couer, that big marble apology for the Commune, the Revolution, and for everything by the French Third Republic that looks like a Byzantine church designed by a gay wedding cake maker. He says that there is an inscription in French in the church that says "Hear Our Lord pleading with us through the Sacrament..."
To which my friend answers, "Let me out!"