Sunday, November 05, 2006

Panis Angelicus ... A Sunday Reflection

The other day, in an email to my adult children about Liz’s surgery, I appended one of the occasional little fatherly sermonettes that they have come to expect from me, and which they generally receive with magnanimous forbearing and a playful rolling of the eyes. In my little exhortation, I admonished them not to forget that the Eucharist is a great teacher, and the thought stayed with me. It’s based on long personal experience of the sort that leaves little empirical residue and easily eludes tangible proof.

As I think more on it, it occurs to me that the better way to say what I meant is that the Eucharist is the great school of Christian faith. Unlike other schools, however, one doesn’t even need to know how to read or write. In this sense, the Eucharist is the supreme antidote for Gnostic elitism. Someone with an IQ (whatever that is) of 190 has no advantage over someone with Down’s Syndrome. Childlikeness being more important than cleverness, the latter, in fact, may have a slight edge. The school of the Eucharist may indeed involve a minimal amount of homework, and there are occasional tests -- often in the form of unexpected pop-quizzes -- but all in all the Eucharist is the gentlest of teachers, a correspondence course if ever there was one. What T. S. Eliot says of the Church is true as well of her sacramental nourishment:
The hippopotamus’s day
Is passed in sleep; at night he hunts;
God works in a mysterious way –
The Church can sleep and feed at once.
The Eucharist is the school of daily bread; it works incrementally. The changes it produces occur so imperceptibly and at such a depth that it may take years even for the person changed by it to realize how profoundly he has been refashioned.

No comments: