I love ways of speaking that jar the mind and assault the imagination into seeing things anew, afresh and aright.
Lately, as I shared in a post a week or so ago, I have been seized by a renewed awareness of the terrible violence and thick darkness that stands at the heart of the Eucharistic feast. All of the gruesome details of Passion of the Lord, yes, but also that whole monstrous history of human exploitation, brutality, sickness, suffering and death that the eternal Son assumed by the very fact of his compassionate Incarnation and swept up into the deep mystery of his dying and rising.
In particular, I have been taken by the manner in which the Christian Gospel draws into its very center these worst, most awful and base elements of human life so that God might redeem them from within. Nothing of our history is ignored, nothing is wasted, and, most astonishingly, nothing is untasted by God-in-Christ who transfigures the bitter dregs of our humanity into a rich feast on his divinity.
As a Darfur-Sudanese man once remarked (during the civil war) to a missionary priest-friend of mine after looking and pointing at the priest’s pectoral crucifix: “That’s a God I can worship.”
All this recent wondering took my mind back to a quote that, after I first read it in the 1990s, jarred my theological imagination anew, afresh and aright. In this quote the late Fr. Aidan Kavanagh muses on the uniquely Christian notion of “the feast.”
Say it, Fr. Aidan…
Genesis says that we began in a swamp teeming with life, but that something went vastly wrong one evening at dinner. The Apocalypse says that the difficulty was finally resolved into something called the Banquet of the Lamb. Hebrews tells us how the resolution was accomplished, not in an orchard set in a pleasant countryside but in a butcher shop located in the city’s center. The World’s story from beginning to end pivots upon this resolution, a resolution the faint of heart, the fastidious, and the squeamish find hard to bear. Suburbia prefers its meat wrapped in plastic, all signs of violence removed so as to reduce the necessity of entering into the dark and murderous transaction with reality which entails one creature giving up its life for another.
Aidan Kavanagh, On Liturgical Theology