Tuesday, January 03, 2006

When is God Present?

Over the past few days I've been suffering from a vague dis-ease about the whole Christmas thing. While I tried to retain as much of the religious content as possible, it feels flat in my memory. Someone somewhere said he was going to embrace the commercialism even more in coming years because he liked going shopping and buying things for people he loves. Maybe that is a more appropriate way to celebrate. At least there's some joy to it which may be what's missing in my own approach.

It almost feels in retrospect as if God was not even present.

But I also know that God's sovereignty means just that -- He is present regardless of what we do. That's why ritual and sacrament are so important. In behavioural terms, feelings follow actions, not the other way around. If we continue to pray and have our devotions, and go to communion, God is present, and eventually our feelings will catch up.

I am reading in the Magnificat devotions that my friend Janine gave me a few months ago, and Father Richard Veras writes that the Mass is centred around the Presence of Christ. If I find myself distracted during Mass, does that stop Christ from coming? No!

Although I'm Anglican, I do believe in Jesus's presence at Communion. What form He takes is beyond my comprehension. I cannot say that He isn't in the bread, although I prefer to think of Him as beside, around, above me. Perhaps ingesting Jesus isn't such a bad idea after all. I think it was Janine who once said that taking Communion was a little like being pregnant -- it's inside you and changes you but it has a life of its own.

How you approach the Eucharist, though, doesn't limit whether God is present or not. If I do not have a complete understanding (given my metaphysical-philosophical shortcomings) of His presence, I am assured that He is there, nonetheless.

That is why I cannot countenance the Catholic claim that only during Catholic mass is Jesus present, really and truly. If that is so, then presence would depend on our abilities, and not His grace. If that's so, then you have to throw out infant baptism -- and baptising the mentally challenged -- because those baptised aren't cognizant of God's presence.

I just now checked today's quotations (www.lists.gospelcom.net) and see it's about this topic of the body and blood. It's amazing how often I will be struggling with something and have the cquod pop up with an insight or two along the same lines.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (ESV)

And a comment by Evelyn Underhill:

Two movements merge in the real act of communion. First, the creature's profound sense of need, of incompleteness: its steadfast desire... Next, a humble and loving acceptance of God’s answer to that prayer of desire, however startling, disappointing, and unappetizing it may be.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I'm an Anglican and I believe in Real Presence, and that Jesus is materially present in the bread and wine, as well as spiritually present as He always is...especially whenever two or three gather together in His name.

By the way, thanks for the great comment over at my blog in response to the swingers. If you do a longer entry here on it, let me know, because you have struck on something that would be worth a story. I'd like to develop more this idea you raised about consent.