Jesus or White Bread?

Becoming Catholic has made me feel a bit like a pregnant woman.

Not just because I’m super emotional (that’s normal for me), or because my Body is changing. (c.f. 1 Co 12, Eph 1. Geddit!?) But because I have these weird, bizarre cravings. For the Eucharist.

Ah, but Laura, you’re thinking, you’re Catholic now. Of course you are craving the Eucharist. It’s what Catholics do. (Also, I’m not pregnant. Just thought I’d clarify that.)

For Catholics, the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium 11), because it is Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith (Heb 12:2), “truly, really and substantially” present in the bread and the wine (Council of Trent, 13:1).

And a deep, visceral craving for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is kind of normal for Catholics.

St Ignatius, the bishop of Antioch (c. 1st Century) wrote to the Romans that,

“I have no delight in corruptible food, nor in the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, the heavenly bread, the bread of life, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became afterwards of the seed of David and Abraham; and I desire the drink, namely His blood, which is incorruptible love and eternal life.” (Letter to the Romans, Chp. 7)

While in our own time, St Padre Pio (1887 – 1986) explained that,

“My heart feels as it were being drawn by a superior force each morning each morning just before uniting with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. I have such a thirst and hunger before receiving Him that it’s a wonder I don’t die of anxiety.” (HT)

And they weren’t joking.

Have you heard of Anorexia Mirabilis? It means “Miraculous Lack of Appetite” and is a phenomenon among women of the Middle Ages who would fast continuously. Along with hairshirts and self-mutilation (oh, and of course chastity, poverty and obedience), these women denied themselves all food except the Eucharist. St Catherine of Siena (1347 – 1380) was reputed to self-induce vomiting if she accidentally consumed anything else.

The idea was to show how completely dependent they were on God, that like Jesus, their food “is to do the will of him who sent me…” (Jn 4:34) And women actually died, starving themselves for Jesus.

Ok, disturbing Medieval practices of female piety aside, let’s get back to me.

For me to want, even crave the Eucharist is a big deal. I haven’t had a good relationship with the Blessed Sacrament, the Bread of Angels, the Heavenly Manna.

The second time I received communion when I was about ten, I choked. Not metaphorically – literally. It got caught in the back of my mouth, I started choking and I spat it out onto my hands. My Scripture teacher, sitting behind me, lent over: “Put that back in your mouth this instant!”

And oh boy, I did. But it wasn’t pretty. From then on, I would get this awful, sick, clammy feeling if I had to receive Communion. The consensus is that unleavened wafers resemble cardboard more than bread. But even then, most people don’t start feeling queasy as the stretch out their hands to receive the Lord of the Universe.

I didn’t really get over this till I was in my mid-teens, which is also when I became a Protestant. So problem solved! At my church, we had tiny, neat squares of soft, squishy white bread. I think it was Wonder White.

It was the best.

Until I started believing in the Real Presence, and then in Transubstantiation, and in the whole Catholic thing. I knew I had to leave my safe Wonder White Symbol of communion for the true Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of my Lord, substantially present in this unleavened, nauseating wafer.

Ugh.

But Jesus humbled Himself to us.

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:2)

There is nothing in the taste of Communion that I would desire.

But “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). And I would add, what we do not taste.

And so I believe. It tastes awful but I believe.

I believe that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53)

I believe that Christ’s “flesh is true food and [His] blood is true drink.” (Jn 6:55)

I believe that “whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” (Jn 6:58)

And nothing is going to keep me from Christ, certainly not some crummy piece of bread. Now, I am hungry for the Eucharist. I crave Holy Communion. It is my miraculous appetite for Jesus in the Eucharist. A kind of Orexia Mirabilis.

For I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. (Ps 34:8)

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18 responses to “Jesus or White Bread?

  1. So how often does a Catholic need to take Eucharist to be saved? Once a week? What do you think it means if a church does communion less often than that? Just curious about what you think 🙂

    • Alice,

      There is nothing about a numerical quality that can give us salvation. Its not as if Eucharist once a week, 14 Hail Marys and 32 7/16th good deeds get us in. It’s all about grace.

      That being said, devoting yourself to Mass once a week, or even daily if you are able is a sure fire way to put you in a place to discern gods calling on your life, for the big things and the small things. Hopefully, after a full life of doing your best to follow that call we can finally say we have reached our salvation.

      Hope you don’t mind me jumping in on that one, Laura.

    • Hey, great question! The first thing is that (and anyone, please correct me if I’m wrong), you don’t HAVE to have the Eucharist in order to be saved. Obviously, those who were born before Christ never had Communion and neither have millions of Protestants, who the Catholic Church teaches are/will be saved.

      For Catholics, receiving Jesus in the Eucharist is a normative (i.e. normal) way to be saved – along with the other sacraments, like Baptism and Confession, and always through faith working in love. But that doesn’t mean that by God’s grace there aren’t exceptions!

      St Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Catholic theologians, said that: “It is necessary to receive the Eucharist, at least by desire (in voto), in order to be saved” (Summa Theol., III, q. 73, a. 1, ad 2). But I have no idea what the Church’s official teaching on this is. Anyone?

      As for how often you receive Communion, Nate is spot-on. It’s a bit like reading your bible, or praying, or going to Church. The question is less “how much do I need to get by?” but “how much do I need to love and grow in Christ more and more every day??”

      But when you believe Communion is simply a symbol, it makes sense to have it less. After all, it’s just a symbol and maybe singing a great song would be better. But if it’s really Jesus – then your whole perspective changes! (All of which is to say, Protestants are completely consistent in only having Communion occassionally.)

      Sorry this was SO long. Thanks again for the very intelligent question! 🙂

      • Thanks Loz, makes sense. So you see Eucharist as very important and the more you can have it, the better, but it’s not essential for salvation. Is that right?

        • Pretty much! But we both know that as you as you start trying to delineate what is and isn’t “essential” or “necessary” for salvation, you end up on the wrong side of the question! Thanks again for asking such a great question – it definitely had me scratching my head! God bless dear 🙂

  2. Thank you for sharing this. For me it is vital to receive the Eucharist, and though I know that in Catholic teaching it was common for a long time to receive it in one kind only, I find I need the body and the blood. Him, in me, is what keeps me going 🙂

    • I’m with you Jess! (Can I call you Jess, is that rude?) Whenever I can I receive both the bread and the wine but often (at least at daily masses), you don’t have a choice. 😦 (Not that I can be sad about receiving Jesus!)

      Having both the bread and wine helps me deal with the taste better (I sure like wine!) and it is the two things Jesus gave us. I understand that He is completely present in both forms but the symbolism is so much richer with both! And why mess with that??

      • Glad you feel the same way Laura – makes me feel less alone 🙂 Yes, please, Jess is what everyone call me – except when I’m in trouble and I mysteriously become ‘Jessica’.

    • Oh Joseph! You poor thing. I actually can’t imagine anything more painful. (Ok, I can – but you get what I mean.)

      Being a kinda-cradle-Catholic (though one went crawling off pretty soon!), I only had to go to confession and bam – Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. It’s a grace I’m ridiculously grateful for!

      What was that 15 months like? (If you want to share)

      • I’ll write about it in more detail when I get to that point in my narrative (I’m kind of stalled right now at a pretty personal point in story, wondering how to frame it — the turning point, about six years ago). But it wasn’t so bad. I learned to really appreciate the Eucharist for how precious it is, and hunger for it as the source of my life. I learned to appreciate the liturgy of the Mass for itself, and just being in the Presence of the Eucharist, even if I couldn’t partake. Just being there every day began to change my life. It was a growing time.

        • I’d love to hear. The hardest things to write are often the most important. 🙂

          I have to admit, being in the presence of the Eucharist is something I’m not very good at – or really appreciate yet. I’ve been to adoration but I’m all like, “what am I doing? Jesus??”

          Ah well, time and grace. I’m a big believer in baby steps these days!

      • Adoration is still rather awkward for me. I always pray Thomas Aquinas’s Adoro te devote, because it reflects my entire attitude to it:

        I devoutly adore you, O hidden Deity,
        Truly hidden beneath these appearances.
        My whole heart submits to you,
        And in contemplating you,
        It surrenders itself completely.

        Sight, touch, taste are all deceived
        In their judgment of you,
        But hearing suffices firmly to believe.
        I believe all that the Son of God has spoken;
        There is nothing truer than this word of truth.

        Even though it just appears to be a piece of bread up there in the monstrance (I also really like that word), I know that it’s really my Lord. And then I have to bow my head and not look at the Host, because as long as I’m looking at it, my sight remains deceived, and I start to think it’s silly to be worshipping a piece of bread.

        • That is beautiful! I’ll be keeping it close by. Praying for us all:

          Jesus, whom now I see hidden,
          I ask you to fulfill what I so desire:
          That the sight of your face being unveiled
          I may have the happiness of seeing your glory. Amen

          Thank you 🙂

    • Definitely. An amazing gift out of His amazing grace. 🙂

      I still haven’t got my head – let alone my heart – around it. But God willing, I can keep growing in my love and understanding of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!

  3. Pingback: Happy Halfversary! | CATHOLIC CRAVINGS·

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