Amusement park theology

51ErBZc24ML._SY355_This is a repost of something I wrote two years ago. Call me a lazy blogger, it is true. That said, I am always interested in what I had to say before, because sometimes it does not ring quite a true as it did in my past. At other times, it rings more truly. This is post that reflects the latter.

For a long time I understood the Trinity as God the Father as an old man with a white beard, God the Son as Jesus who was blonde and blue eyed, and the Holy Spirit as a Dove. That was easy! Maybe not so fast…

The Trinity often gets watered down, expressed poorly, or worse. True enough we can’t so easily express what the Trinity is, and it is a bit too facile to keep saying that the Trinity is simply some mystery of God. Of course the Trinity *is* the mystery of God, but are we invited by God to dive deeper rather than walk away with a pat answer?

Perhaps the trap is to either get too heady or theological. I may have done so with my throwing in of the term perichoresis in the original post, but I will leave it, but it is about dynamic being held in dynamic movement in the end, not big words. Ultimately the invitation of God – of the Trinity – is into deeper and dynamic relationship. It can be like falling in love and it can be like a ride at the amusement park. Whatever God or Trinity is, constant motion, dynamism, and movement seem to be required. Now that speaks to me, that’s why I keep saying yes. That’s why I keep going “wheeeeee!” What a ride!

PlaylandParkway 136x93When I was a little girl, my father, loved to take us to a local amusement park, Playland. This old fashioned park was shown to the world in the Tom Hanks movie, Big. I can easily recall the excitement of seeing the Playland Parkway sign, letting us know that we were almost there! Wheeee! Let the fun begin!

When I was about 11 years old we headed there one day, to meet up with another family who had a daughter about my age. She wanted to go on a ride that terrified me. And no – I had never been on it, but just the thought of it sent me reeling! It was called the Round Up at that time. It iis the one where you stand up and hold on, but when the ride gets going, centrifugal force holds you in place. My dad liked this ride, but I would never go on it with him. However, not wanting to act like a baby in front of another kid, I Continue reading

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The Body and Blood of Christ – June 26, 2011

 The Last Supper – Before and After Restoration

What is good Eucharistic theology? 

When I made my First Holy Communion, as we said back in the day, in May of 1965 at Assumption Church in White Plains, NY, I knew all about kneeling, reverence and holiness. When I was not in the first or second pew fidgeting with my classmates, I did try hard to adopt all sorts of postures of holiness.

One thing I liked to do was to hold my the palms of my hands together so that all my fingers lined up and pointed to the sky. I thought that God liked the perfection of that. I also liked to have good posture when on the kneeler in the pew. Another important thing was how I knelt at the altar rail when I went to communion. I liked that it was red and smooth and just slightly plush, which cushioned my knees. I liked the feel of the cool marble of the altar rail if I were to even lean against or touch it accidentally. I also liked staring at my potential new boyfriend (who at the time I was sure that I would marry) Tommy Criscione. Tommy had that plum job as altar boy, wearing his red cassock and white surplice. I was so jealous but my crush on him overrode my feelings of envy.

Then there was the way that I felt – when the host melted I thought that Jesus was gone, not to return for another week! Panic would set in. Talk about panic – it would really set in when the white host would get stuck to the roof of my mouth. Uh-oh! While I liked the idea of Jesus hanging around a bit longer, I would get very upset. What if He got stuck there, like permanently? I would take my tongue and try to move Him around – gently and reverently of course – but what if I hurt him? I mean, did I not already hurt him enough with my 7 year old sinning? (And remember – I had a pleasant Catholic upbringing, this was from the not-hellfire-damnantion crowd!)

So much for reverence and holiness, the score so far:

  • Fran’s self-focus – 10, Jesus the Lord – 0.

Oh it makes my head spin to consider it all!

Here we are today and on this great feast, one in which we celebrate the very centrality of our Catholic Christian faith, and one in which I pray we can find one thing to agree on… We truly believe that Christ is presence in the bread and wine that we consume.

Can we please start there and maybe stay there?

OK, good… let’s see where that leads us. We agree that Christ is present to us in the bread and wine, Christ’s Body, Christ’s Blood.

We do not come to the table to have a linear experience of “Jesus ‘n me.” It is not about getting another bite that will allow us, if we are really good boys and girls, to stay out of hell for the next few days. Oh my gosh – what bad theology is that?

We do not come to the table to get a fix! We come to the table to be One in Christ.

We come to the table to not simply receive, but to give. It is Christ’s sacrifice for us but also our sacrifice for him. No, I’m not talking about some hand-wringing-I-suffer-for-Jesus personal piety, but rather the sacrifice of self-gift. Self-gift meaning, here I am Lord, I am broken for you and your people as you were broken for us. I am poured out for you and your people Jesus, as you poured yourself out for us.

And in this act of giving, rather than just receiving, to use the Doxology, “through Him, with Him, in Him,” we become One! One. One. One. Catholic. Universal. Unity. Communion. Common union. One. One. One.

If we could but start there and stay there, just rest awhile in that spot… No more fighting, just for a minute, OK?

Then we might remember that we are there to be transformed… not unlike the painting of the Last Supper. Renewed, revived. And when that happens we are given something and we can then give more to the world. Be transformed, transform the world! It is the dynamism of the Eucharist and what could be more exciting and more uniting than that?

I hope that we don’t continue to argue about whether to kneel or stand, whether to take communion in the hand or on the tongue, whether one is “worthy” to come to the altar or not. Aren’t we all unworthy, don’t we say that in one voice, “Lord,I am not worthy…” None of us are worthy, yet we are invited to the table, over and over again.

We are given the chance anew to be one each and every day. Let us look to this day in which we commemorate the Body of Christ by actually being the Body of Christ. Let us re-member Christ today and not dismember Christ today. Let us do that each day, every day and for always and forever, in the name of Christ who is our Lord.

Amen and amen and amen.

  • A homily from Pope Benedict the XVI on this feast in 2008 is here.
  • Deacon Greg Kandra’s fine homily from today is here.
  • It is not on the internet but Fr. Pat offered a fine homily which he refers to the restoration of the Michaelangelo’s Last Supper. What a fine metaphor for us all…. as the painting got cleaned and restored, it became clearer. Just like the Eucharist does for us, as we grow to be one in Christ.

There Will Be Eucharist

Community will grow if we let it be more natural and spontaneous, because the kingdom of heaven is like yeast. The yeast that comes to us most spontaneously is natural friendship. The grace of God is with us and we just need to let it work. But we are slow to believe this. Of course, sometimes it’s quite hard to believe that grace is with us, because there seems to be something in the system that wants to cage up the Holy Spirit. -Thomas Merton, Springs of Contemplation, (from The Merton Institute)

Today is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ.  We are what we eat – think on that for awhile. I find it exceedingly difficult myself.

It seems that each time we come to the Table, we are giving up ourselves. Or at least we are asked to… I feel like I do it so infrequently.

That’s why I like this quote; Merton makes something clear when he brings up yeast. It must be left to do its work.

I guess I keep wanting to fiddle with things, control things. Then I read Merton’s words and I recall being at someone’s home when they were making bread. It was the first time I had seen someone make bread and I was fascinated to see that it was left alone for quite some time in order to become what it is.

We become what we eat. That’s yeast, that’s grace. That is Eucharist.

Thanks be to God.

The Place of Dissent At The Table and The Challenge Of Unity

This weekend the Roman Catholic church celebrates the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, which is also known by the Latin, Corpus Christi.

One place my mind goes to as I ponder and pray about this essential feast is that the etymology of the word companion is literally, “bread fellow.” Please note the name of this blog and read (or re-read) the Henri Nouwen quote under the header!

In 1 Corinthians 12 we are ever reminded that we are many parts, one body. This is the challenge of our Christian lives – to become that One Body. I am ever aware of the notion that it is not “my” way nor “your” way, but one way… The Way of Christ. Now the real fun begins as we all have many different ideas about that!

We must, I think, envision a table where all gather in peace, unity and into integrity, which is the figurative and literal “re-membering” of the Body of Christ.

However, it is simplistic and frankly, dangerous to imagine a table with no dissenters.

What is the place of the dissent at the table? This morning I am doing my housework, paying some bills, considering the religious and practical elements of our weekend and thinking about these things.

I am reminded that all dissenters are not prophets… However, it seems to me that in some way or another, all prophets are dissenters.

How do we know the difference? And do we know the difference in our own time? Consider the many prophets, Jesus chief among them, who were rejected heartily, even unto death, in their own time.

This is why I am more a questions than answers person. The questions are the pathway, the answers are the portals, the portals lead to other pathways. I hope to always walk these pathways with my companions; sometimes even in dissent.

As an aside, as I conclude, the study of theology, something close to my heart represents this. Theology means, faith seeking understanding.

It is always seeking, moving. That, in and of itself, seems like a form of dissent. Being Roman Catholic is very much about being counter cultural.

What dissent even means deserves our thought and discussion.

Two recommended posts for today, both of which relate to this topic:

  • Fr. Austin Fleming, the Concord Pastor, reflects on the meaning of Eucharist here.
  • Mirror of Justice has a post about a Loyola University Chicago School of Law panel, sponsored by Lumen Christi, about the role of Catholics in public life today. Among the panelists was Melinda Henneberger, journalist, author, editor and Roman Catholic, whom I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting in the past year. 

Don’t feel like reading? Here is a song for you. Some people love it, others will find it abhorrent. I am in the former!