If we just talked about the initial importance of Catholic cannibalism, maybe now we can bring up the real reason I want to talk Eucharist: to discuss just what this doctrine represents to the crazy, Catholic brain. Other than once overhearing someone discussing a piece of Eucharistic bread that had sat in the tabernacle too long and saying that “Jesus grew fur” (yes, Catholics have a sense of humor), “re-present” is, in fact, both the important and technical term to be discussed here. It’s the one that USCCB (United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, which I’ve heard is a lot like the Illuminati only with better wine and Apostolic decent)*, claims defines the Eucharist and its importance.
In other words, the Eucharist re-presents or “makes present” the sacrifice of Christ in a real and constitutive way, to which everyone but the Eastern Orthodox, some Anglicans, and a few Lutherans say, “Oh, come on….” In other words, we’re claiming that, in the Eucharistic mass, we are entering into and participating in the very divine itself. In the Eucharist, we meet God through the Incarnation in a mediated but nonetheless full divinity, and in the consumption of the body and blood, we come to exist within the peace of the divine life as the infinite comes down and touches the finite. We then extend this infinite love back to the world, or at least in our best moments are supposed to.
And, if we mean all this, it says something plain rad about God. Here’s why.
We Catholics like old-timey crap. That’s why when most of us look at process notions of God, we say, “sorry, Tripp, but I’m good.” I want to be clear: we can incorporate some of the relational language of process thought, and I’d encourage us to do so, but not at the expense of divine simplicity or divine Intellect. Check out why I argue this way in Chapter 4 “Sifting the Beer from the Suds” of my book, The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to God. You won’t be sorry.
So, Catholics tend to affirm the eternality of God, meaning that God is as God has always been and will ever be. God is changeless and simple and, combined with this doctrine of re-presentation things get interesting.
The first thing that the generally Catholic doctrine of God combined with re-presentation says about God is that God is the one who has eternally identified with the crucified and resurrected Jesus. What this doesn’t imply is that God is the one who has been eternally wrathful, deciding to crucify his Son instead of us. I love you Anselm, but I think the theologies of the cross that came after you kinda suck, including many Catholic ones. Nope. Jesus abhorred violence for the most part. He seems to have seen what violence and its draw into the nothingness of death did to the world, and he stood against it during every part of his ministry, eventually yielding himself to these principalities non-violently on the cross. He shows that God stands against, undermines, and re-works violence in all its manifestations and not that God used violence to beat us into adopted submission.
Again, check out chapter 9, “God Did not Look like a Norwegian Hippie” of my book.
What God’s eternal identification with Christ, however, does imply is that God has always been the one who would decide to enter into death for God’s creation—that God, in the ever-present being of God’s simple existence, is the act of overturning the powers and principalities of violence and nothingness for the sake of everlasting relationship with us. We—persons, animal, plant, and the whole of creation—are the ones who God has decided, in both God’s and our freedom, to related with eternally and lovingly.
Through the concept of re-presentation and the doctrine of transubstantiation, what we Catholics do is eat a little Jesus so as to enter into the eternal being of God. And this God is none other than the one who draws us into the eternal peace of the Lord that’s manifesting itself in creation, slowly—too slowly in my book—like yeast does in bread.
That’s why Eucharist rules.
*The USCCB is nothing like the Illuminati. I’m just trying to play on Protestant fears in the hopes that we’ll start an Ecclesial war that must be solved by way of a dance off.