Monday, June 3, 2013

Corpus Christi- a day later

Due to ministry commitments I was unable to post anything yesterday, the day that Roman Catholics in the United States celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, or, in English, the Solemnity the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. More important than posting anything, I was able to participate in the worldwide Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament called for by Pope Francis, to assist at Mass, and to baptize the baby boy of a young couple of my acquaintance. Truth be told, I did consider just posting a large picture of a lovely monstrance, but decided not to.

I have been negligent of my attempted re-reading of Von Balthasar's theological aesthetics for awhile, but tonight I was able to pick it up again after finishing Robert Hugh Benson's novel Lord of the World, a book known to be liked and often cited by Pope Francis.

This is passage that I read when I first picked up Balthasar-
The Biblical experience of God in both the Old and the New Testaments is characterized as a whole by the fact that the essentially 'invisible' (Jn. 1:18) and 'unapproachable' (1 Tim 6:16) God enters the sphere of creaturely visibleness, not by means of intermediary beings, but in himself. He who is formless takes form in the world and in history, and can be encountered and experienced by the whole man in this form which he himself has chosen and put on. This structure of Biblical revelation should neither be sold short or overplayed. It could be sold short by the view that the God who reveals himself in creation and in salvation history is not really God himself, but, rather, that, as the Gnostics held, he remains in his higher world and deals with creation only through intermediary beings. And it could be overplayed by the view that all that God has instituted for our salvation, culminating in his Incarnation, is in the end only something preliminary which must finally be transcended by either a mystical or an eschatologico-celestial immediacy that would surpass and make superfluous the form of salvation, or, put concretely, the humanity of Jesus Christ



The Incarnation is a necessary precondition for the Eucharist and, hence, the Church. Christ's Real Presence in the consecrated bread and wine can also be sold short and overplayed. It can be sold short by attempting to turn it into a magic trick, wherein the physical structure of the elements are changed by a spell cast by the priest. I am amazed at the number of people who hold this view, even in a very explicit way. It can be overplayed in way similar to that described by Balthasar with regards to Christ's Incarnation: by insisting on the need to apprehend it by means of a mystical immediacy (the fact that it is a sacrament indicates it is a mediation, or, in more traditional sacramental terms, "an efficacious sign") that, as those who take the magic trick approach try to do, seeks to eliminate the need for faith, which is often an attempt to evade the uncomfortable truth that the evidence for what we believe is the lives of those who partake of it with faith, which leads us to see that, in the end, the Church, the mystical Body of Christ, His spotless Bride, only consists of the saints, redeemed by Jesus Christ and justified by their faith in Him.

During Vespers, which brought our day of Adoration to a close, I was struck by this verse of the lovely hymn Pange Lingua: The Word as Flesh makes true bread into flesh by a word/and the wine becomes the Blood of Christ/And if sense is deficient to strengthen a sincere heart/Faith alone suffices.

Blessed Pope John XXIII, who passed into eternity 50 years ago today, pray for us!

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