At Easter Vigil 2015 I will enter full communion with the Catholic Church, which I hope will be a touchstone for greater depths in my spiritual journey toward God. In this series, I attempt to share ‘why’, not as defense or argument, but to point at something better for the mystical body of Christ. It is organized over five themes during Passion Week: merger, reclamation, hunger, visibility and unity.
I remember distinctly the moment I believed in ‘sacramental grace.’ It was the spring 2014 undergraduate class in Christian history I mentioned in yesterday’s post, where I encountered these words of Irenaeus: “For as the bread of the earth, receiving the invocation of God, is no longer common bread but Eucharist, consisting of two things, an earthly and a heavenly; so also our bodies, partaking of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of eternal resurrection.” Also Ignatius, “They [the Docetics] abstain from the Eucharist and prayer because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our savior Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins, which the Father in his goodness raised up.” Communion with the early church provoked in me a hunger for the Eucharist – not a remembrance whose only power is in the recollection of an event, but whose power resides in the Holy Spirit making real and substantive the Christ crucified for me by the will of the Father.
The common table is for those who share common belief, who have unity of mind. Only the baptized may take Communion, or Eucharist, as has been the Christian practice for millennia. I could not partake at the Eucharist table, however, with those whom I shared this common understanding; I would first have to enter full communion with the Catholic Church. I joyfully enter this full communion on Saturday. The hunger I have for the body of Christ will soon be sated – but I do hunger for even more.
I read in the Acts of the Apostles that,
[The believers] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Dr. King famously said that Sunday at 11 a.m. is the most segregated hour in America. We experience not only racial segregation, but also a spiritual segregation over the Eucharist, fostered by inherited, generational disunity.
We are devoted sometimes not to the apostles’ teaching, but our own malformed consciences; not to fellowship but ‘our way’; we are not together, we are apart; we are not filled with awe but cynicism; we do not share the common table, but separate ones – one for transubstantiation, one for Real Presence, one for memorial.
“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” I hunger for the Eucharist, but I hunger more to share a common table with all believers. I am joyful that I get to take the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ for the first time on Saturday… but it also saddens me that separate tables exist. Pointing fingers at Catholics, Lutherans, or non-denominationalists is useless, and more dangerously, would give in again to the antichrist spirit. Fighting for a way to share the common table, to share one cup with unity of mind is the path of Christ.
As I seek to merge the three great traditions within myself, the memorial view of the Eucharist could not be reconciled, not with the way the theology is now structured and the warranting arguments. I had to leave memorialism behind for a Catholic understanding. But the way things are now, are not the way it always has to be – perhaps theologians more sophisticated than myself can merge them? We can all change and accommodate one another, if and only if we see sharing a common table as something worth fighting for.
I hope we can love one another enough to not let the other go without a fight. My deepest hope for the body of Christ is that we come together at the common table and fight with each other over the meaning of the Eucharist, not leaving until we reconcile and achieve unity of mind. So come, let us argue.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. ~Jesus