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Cavanaugh on the Eucharist

William Cavanaugh has an article in the Other Journal on torture and the Eucharist in America. It won’t be anything new to folks that have read any of his books, but its worth a look if you haven’t. Here’s a quote:

The Eucharist is not just about seeing the world in a certain way, but about acting. Social imagination is not merely a mental act. The Eucharist is about the construction of a social body — the Body of Christ — that is capable of resisting the imagination of the state when resistance is called for. In the early Church, the term anamnesis was not a recalling to mind, but a re-membering of Christ’s body, that is, an action that knit together the members of the Body of Christ. 

This image is used over and over again by Paul. The idea of individual bodies being members of a larger social body is not new to Paul, but is found in the ancient Greek idea of the body politic. For the Greeks, the idea of a body politic tended to stress order and obedience, especially the obedience of those excluded from citizenship, namely women, children, and slaves. In the Church, by contrast, all these are included in Christ. Moreover, for Paul, “[T]he members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor” (I Cor. 12:22-3). Most importantly, in the body of Christ both pain and joy are communicable. “When one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (I Cor. 12:26).

In this reality of shared pain, we see the distance between friend and enemy overcome. For the sharing of pain goes beyond a sharing with other members of the Church. If the Church is the Body of Christ, the sacrament and sacrifice for the world, then we are to be broken and given away as food for others. The Church is, as Paul says, to “make up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24), by suffering together with the victims of violence. If it is the case that the Eucharist makes the Body of Christ, then the Church does not simply commemorate God’s “no” to violence, but embodiesGod’s answer to violence in the world. We ourselves prefer to absorb the violence of the world rather than to perpetrate violence.

One Comment

  1. Wes Ellis wrote:

    That guy’s just brilliant!

    Monday, May 25, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

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