Reflection - Corpus Christi Sunday 2021
Reflection - Corpus Christi Sunday 2021. Photo: Erica Viana/Unsplash
Mark’s gospel describes the ‘Last Supper’ which Jesus celebrated before he and his disciples left the house to walk to the Mount of Olives. The ‘Last Supper’ readings are important to Catholics, especially because we place great importance on the final meal Jesus had with his disciples.
We have taken his words literally, that when we gather together to celebrate ‘the Mass’, and the priest repeats Jesus words ‘, he is present in the bread and wine. Why do we believe it? Because Jesus said so, his words are true. This is our foundational belief.
And why do we believe it? Because of what we have celebrated recently: the death, resurrection, ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit on us, making us co-workers in spreading his word about life and death in the context of a loving God.
It does defy our scientific outlook as to how this can be? And there is much written and said about it. We believe that Jesus is with us and in us and present among us when we celebrate the Eucharist. It almost makes Jesus tangible, which leads to the insight of John Dun Scotus.
John Dun Scotus was a philosopher, theologian, Franciscan monk who was a contemporary of St Thomas Aquinas. He had his own insights and understanding, one of which was: he thought that the Incarnation would have taken place even if there was no Fall and following on, no redemption.
Fairly revolutionary ideas! His fundamental insight was that it was necessary to make God available to the senses, hence the Incarnation. This is based on the fundamental truth that we learn our knowledge through our senses, it is the way of being human. It sounds fairly radical to say that the fall and redemption were not needed as the reason for God to become man when we have these truths firmly established.
On the other hand, the power of the Eucharist, which is celebrated around the world multiple times each day, comes directly from its availability to our senses. We see the bread and wine, we hear the words of consecration, we believe and receive the bread and wine which, because of Jesus own words has become ‘himself’ in a sacramental way.
There is a lot to be understood, philosophically and theologically about this feast. Last week we celebrated the feast of the Holy Trinity, and once again there are profound truths present that need philosophical and theological categories to explain them and perhaps make them clearly understood.
Then there is the other issue of bread and wine being ‘fruit of the earth and work of human hands’.
Dun Scotus postulated that the material world was a symbol of God, a view quite popular now as new thoughts about God’s creation emerge. Not pantheism, but creation is holy, revealing God to us in the action of God who never cease to hold creation brightly and lovingly.
Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.