Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Freedom or slavery- real Presence or abstraction?

Defining freedom much more simply than I was able to in my post on self-control, Riccardo from Verona observes in a letter that our lives are "a constant struggle between self-affirmation and dependence on God. We can either depend on God and be free from circumstances, or be free from God and enslaved to everything" (Traces vol. 10- No. 5- 2008).

It must be pointed out that we cannot depend upon a God who is the product of human thought, a God who is an abstraction, the answer to a puzzle or a mathematical problem, a God who Giussani says is "conceived according to exigencies of man's thought" ("This Is The Victory That Conquers the World, Our Faith", pg.8). Therefore, Carrón insists that faith "is the greatest urgency among us" (pg. 6). Such faith, if it is to merit the name, is "faith in Jesus Christ alive, present here and now" (ibid). We must acknowledge the reality of the Mystery in our lives, in every circumstance. This means we have to stop looking for the abstraction. We have to cultivate an awareness of a Presence, of His Presence, in everything. This means giving up playing the childish game of believing that whenever things are going well, according to our plans, God is with us and that, conversely, when things seem difficult and beyond our control, not going according to our plan, not meeting our expectations, God has turned against us for some real or imagined failure on our part. This foolishness borders on sacrilege because it is idolatry, the worship of an abstraction that is not God, who can only be Love because He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The sacrifice the church offers is not a pagan sacrifice that seeks to appease God and earn His favor. We have God's favor, the sure sign of which, as Paul writes, is "that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5,8). It is an exchange and a most unequal one. In the Eucharist God gives us His Son and we, in turn, offer ourselves to the Father, through Christ. Hence, Christ is the nexus of the exchange. He is the victim and the priest. To wit: Christ does not remain behind after the dismissal. He accompanies us out the door, a Presence, a real Presence. To state the matter somewhat inelegantly, when we receive Christ in the Eucharist He is in us just as He is in the tabernacle. Hence, we become the tabernacle, the place of Christ's presence in and for the world, in and for the people with whom we come into contact- our companions, our families, our co-workers, the stranger we encounter, etc. This is why Carrón quotes a portion of number seventy-seven of Sacramentum Caritatis, which is worth quoting in its entirety:

"Significantly, the Synod Fathers stated that 'the Christian faithful need a fuller understanding of the relationship between the Eucharist and their daily lives. Eucharistic spirituality is not just participation in Mass and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It embraces the whole of life.' This observation is particularly insightful, given our situation today. It must be acknowledged that one of the most serious effects of the secularization just mentioned is that it has relegated the Christian faith to the margins of life as if it were irrelevant to everyday affairs. The futility of this way of living – 'as if God did not exist' – is now evident to everyone. Today there is a need to rediscover that Jesus Christ is not just a private conviction or an abstract idea, but a real person, whose becoming part of human history is capable of renewing the life of every man and woman. Hence the Eucharist, as the source and summit of the Church's life and mission, must be translated into spirituality, into a life lived 'according to the Spirit' (Rom 8:4ff.; cf. Gal 5:16, 25). It is significant that Saint Paul, in the passage of the Letter to the Romans where he invites his hearers to offer the new spiritual worship, also speaks of the need for a change in their way of living and thinking: 'Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect' (12:2). In this way the Apostle of the Gentiles emphasizes the link between true spiritual worship and the need for a new way of understanding and living one's life. An integral part of the eucharistic form of the Christian life is a new way of thinking, 'so that we may no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine'" (Eph 4:14). (underlining is the part quoted by Carrón)

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