2/21/2005

Practicality in the Eucharist

Lately, there have been a lot of babies in church. And, with one of my own on the way, I’ve been putting some thought into what it would be like for one of those babies to be mine. My first reaction is to be a little disappointed, because the amount of attention I spend on our baby would be inversely proportional to the amount I devote to the service – particularly the Eucharist. But as soon as I think that I realize how wrong it must be. Christianity is not divorced from real life, Christianity is real life. If this is true (and it must be), young children cannot be a barrier to partaking in communion (they are, of course, an immeasurable blessing instead). Anything they do interfere with is not Christianity.

This reminded me that theology must be practical. Any theology of the Eucharist that focuses so heavily on what we do in communion that it marginalizes or denies what God does can’t be true because it doesn’t allow for real life. In real life, people have babies and get headaches and any number of other things that mar our ability to feel the appropriate level of remorse during communion. This is why it’s so wonderful that communion is not just emotion - its efficacy does not rest in our ability to work up enough feeling, but in the promise of God.

On the other hand, a theology of the Eucharist can be to high. Several weeks ago, during communion, Father Michael dropped the bread as he was handing it to Emily, and it fell on the altar rail. He apologized, Emily picked it up and ate it, and that was that. As we were walking back to our seats, I whispered to Emily “It’s times like this I’m glad we’re not Catholic. Otherwise we’d have to cut out that piece of the rail and stick it in the altar.”

Any theology of the Eucharist so high that a crisis ensues whenever one of the elements is dropped can’t be true because it doesn’t allow for real life. People drop stuff. And Jesus, knowing that people drop stuff, still entrusted us with the keeping of the sacrament. It’s one of those paradoxes of Christianity in which the Highest things are infused with the lowest, in a way which you would think God is too proud to do. But, apparently, he’s not.1



1Jessica Snell makes the same point in Anna's Joseph, her short story about spilling the wine