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eucharist

If Christ's intent in the Incarnation is to share with thinking creatures the self-aware love and joy of the Trinity, the purpose of the sacrament of the Eucharist is to recreate that sharing in our daily lives. The healing and recommitment that the Eucharist both signifies and causes is the way that the effects of the Incarnation are spread out in space and time to all of us every day.

The Eucharist, for Aquinas, is where everything comes together: the essential mystery of God, the happy self-awareness of God as described by the Trinity, the joining of this to a human being in the Incarnation, and the chance for reasoning creatures to enjoy this happiness as well, with the healing and recommitment of the grace of the sacrament as the means.

presence

How does this happen? In a simple act of healing presence. Most all good things in life involve the presence of something beloved. It's great to love Mozart, but it's even better to actually hear him performed; it's great to love your kids or your friends or your spouse but even better to have them right before you. When we react to great art, we react to the truth of the work as well as to the presence of the artist. Is Mozart really present when his music is performed? Not physically, but something of him certainly is, just as there is something of Michelangelo in his sculpture the Pieta or in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and just as the presence of those who have lived well outlasts their earthly lives in the ones they have touched, in a way that is so much more than "symbolic."

consecration

According to Aquinas, the act of consecration in the Mass brings about the actual presence of Christ. As Brian Davies says in his book The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (p. 373), "Anyone reading through the discussion of the Eucharist in the tertia pars of the Summa theologiae ought to see without much difficulty that Aquinas thinks of himself as talking about something which defies understanding. The Eucharist, for him, is a mystery in precisely the sense that God is a mystery—for the Eucharist, for him, is the presence of God." And the mysterious presence of the vulnerable Lamb of God is the thing that triggers our healing.

mystery

All this is mystery that defies understanding: the mystery of God, the mystery of consciousness, the mystery of presence, the mystery of a person who is both human and divine, the mystery of the vulnerable Lamp of God opening our hearts to the love of charity, and the mystery that we too may become divine and share in the self-aware love and joy of the Trinity. Fortunately for those of us who want a crack at the divine, the very fact of existence itself also defies understanding, so there you have it. I think of the Eucharist as the daily dose of mystery that helps unfold us and move us towards bliss.

By facing the mystery of existence, the mystery of the self-awareness of God in the Trinity, the human struggle to flourish, the model and grace of Christ to aid that flourishing, and the daily presence of Christ in the Eucharist, we make a claim about the essential nature of life. If we then act accordingly, we can move closer to enjoying the self-aware love and joy of God, which we experience as that mysterious, crack-your-heart-open, ecstatic oneness with life.

This is where we began and this where we end.

to close

We'll close with a quote from Chesterton in his book Saint Thomas Aquinas, p. 91, where he says:

Aquinas declares that "... life is a living story, with a great beginning and a great close; rooted in the primeval joy of God and finding its fruition in the final happiness of humanity."


 

 

 

 

“Everything that physical food and drink does for our bodily life - sustaining, building up, restoring and gladdening the heart - this sacrament does for our spirit.”
(3a, 79, 1)

 

”Christ’s presence is “bodily companionship on our pilgrimage.” And “it joins Christ to us in such friendly unity that it is our greatest sign of his love, and the raising of our hope.”
(3a, 75 ,1)

 
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