I'm pretty sure that the person wasn't trying to be offensive. I run into odd notions about Catholic beliefs fairly often. I suspect they're often rooted in America's endemic anti-catholicism. (January 6, 2013; February 29, 2012)
Besides: the person was quite right in this case.
Here's part of today's Gospel reading:
"Whoever eats 19 my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.After two millennia, that part of the Gospel may not seem as shocking as it did when my Lord told folks in Capernaum's synagogue. Not, at least, until we start thinking about it.
"For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink."
Some of the more fastidious versions of Christianity sidestep my Lord's indelicate comments, like the ones in John 6:55 and Matthew 26:26-28.
Folks who heard Jesus that day in Capernaum's synagogue understood what my Lord meant. Quite a few went back to their old way of life after their leader said 'eat me.' (John 6:60-66)
I can see why, since the what Jesus said was more like "...whoever gnaws my flesh...."
Translations from one language to another can be tricky, since words with nearly the same 'dictionary' meaning can be associated with very different feelings. More about this bit from John:
"Eats: the verb used in these verses is not the classical Greek verb used of human eating, but that of animal eating: 'munch,' 'gnaw.' This may be part of John's emphasis on the reality of the flesh and blood of Jesus (cf ⇒ John 6:55), but the same verb eventually became the ordinary verb in Greek meaning 'eat.' "
Jesus said, 'I am God,' and made the claim stick. (John 8:58; John 14:9-11; Luke 24) Since I believe that, it's like Peter said: my options are limited.
"Jesus then said to the Twelve, 'Do you also want to leave?'I didn't become a Catholic just because I read those verses, and that's another topic.
"Simon Peter answered him, 'Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
"We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.' "
Discussing who Jesus is and why this is a big day for Catholics doesn't demand words like hypostatic union and transubstantiation, but I'm a recovering English teacher and an adult convert to Catholicism. Feel free to skip to the next heading (Baldachins, Halos, and Diversity in Unity): or check out World Cup trivia.
Since I'm a Catholic, I acknowledge that Jesus is human and divine. The Son of God is one person: "eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father...," as it says in the Nicene Creed.
I don't understand how that works, not in detail. But we've got a word for it: hypostatic union.
"HYPOSTATIC UNION: The union of the divine and human natures in the one divine Person (Greek: hypostasis) of the Son of God, Jesus Christ (252, 468).Some folks who accept the idea that Jesus is divine have had trouble believing that Jesus is really human. Occasionally someone decides that my Lord couldn't, or shouldn't, have been both human and divine. Their names for the workarounds vary, but these alternatives to reality fall into one of three groups: or four, depending on how you split them up. (May 4, 2014)
"The Chalcedonian Definition agreed with Theodore that there were two natures in the Incarnation. However, the Council of Chalcedon also insisted that hypostasis be used as it was in the Trinitarian definition: to indicate the person and not the nature as with Apollinarius."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary)
What we're celebrating today involves transubstantiation. It's why that person asked me if I knew that Catholics are cannibals.
"TRANSUBSTANTIATION: The scholastic term used to designate the unique change of the Eucharistic bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. 'Transubstantiation' indicates that through the consecration of the bread and the wine there occurs the change of the entire substance of the bread into the substance of the Body of Christ, and of the entire substance of the wine into the Blood of Christ—even though the appearances or 'species' of bread and wine remain (1376).""Substance," and "appearances" or "species," in this case are philosophical terms. What they mean is that the unleavened bread doesn't look or taste any different; and the wine is still wine, as far as my physical senses can tell. But under, or behind, or beyond, what my senses tell me: my Lord is there: actually present; not a symbol; really, unequivocally, there.
Eucharistic miracles happen, when we're able to perceive the change with our senses: but these events are very few and far between. The highest-profile one I can remember offhand is the Miracle of Lanciano, about 1,300 years back.
What happened in Lanciano, Italy, isn't the sort of 'I saw the face of [whoever] in a jar of peanut butter' thing. The Church methodically checks out claims of miraculous happenings, and that's yet another topic. (December 8, 2010)
Where was I? Who Jesus is, The Body and Blood of Christ, and why today is special. Right.
Weather permitting,we'll do a Corpus Christi procession from Our Lady of Angels to St. Paul's. I'm hoping that we can have the procession: maybe between thunderstorms. This will be the last one we'll have with Father Statz. He revived the tradition here, this is his last month in Sauk Centre, and that's yet again another topic.
Although Corpus Christi is a city on the Texas Coast, that's not what we're celebrating today. "Corpus Christi" is Latin for Body of Christ. In a sense, every Mass is a celebration of Corpus Christi, but we set aside one each year as a special event. (Catechism, 1322-1405)
The current (2003) English translation of the Roman Missal calls today "the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ." That'll probably upset some folks, and that's — what else? — another topic.
Pope Francis celebrated Corpus Christi Thursday, Rome time. He celebrated Mass in front of the main entrance to the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome.
Folks in Rome did the traditional Corpus Christi procession to the Basilica of St Mary Major, but the Pope wasn't with them.
I think he had good reasons:
"While thousands of people lined the streets holding candles and praying as the Holy Eucharist was carried by the Vicar General for the diocese of Rome and the procession was led by the bishops of Rome, Pope Francis made his way in a closed-in car to Mary Major for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and his solemn blessing.Keeping the focus on the Blessed Sacrament, my Lord under the appearance of unleavened bread, is why folks from Poland to Minnesota and beyond have the Consecrated Host under a sort of traveling tent. It's called a baldachin, and has been a symbol of authority in Europe and cultures with European roots for a thousand years, more or less.
"Pope Francis decided not to take part in the procession on foot between the two basilicas partly due to his upcoming commitments over the next few days but more importantly he preferred to avoid the attention he would receive in an open car which he thought could distract the faithful's attention from the Blessed Sacrament, exposed and taken in procession."
("Pope Celebrates Corpus Christi," Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese (June 20, 2014))
(From Silar, Magdalena Bryll Cefeida, Joyce Chan, Eigenes Werk, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission.)
A thousand years from now, we may have another widely-recognized symbol of authority: but we'll still have the same reason for using it.
A sort of bonus to being Catholic is that we're accumulating a growing collection of symbolic expressions of faith. For example, the pelican became a symbol for the Eucharist about eight centuries back; ichthys (fish) and two letters of the Greek alphabet go much further back, and of course there's the Cross.
Most if not all Christian symbols have been used by folks who weren't Christians: like the halo, which has roots in ancient Greece and Egypt, and probably Buddhist iconography.
Then there are Christmas trees, which showed up in 15th or 16th century Germany.
Many Nigerian Christians have celebrated Christmas with Jollof rice/Benachin and Tuwon Shinkafa.
The point is that for two millennia and counting, we've been practicing diversity in unity. And that's still more topics. (December 9, 2012; April 18, 2012)
- Yesterday, today - - -
- - - - and forever