Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of Date, 2002
Skin needs to be touched to heal
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Christianity is the most earthy of all religions.
The intent of the discipline was not to create a mystique around the Eucharist so as to draw people to it through curiosity.
The idea was more that the Eucharist is so intimate an act that propriety, respect and reverence demand non-exhibitionism: you don't make love in public and you don't talk to outsiders about this kind of intimacy.
We tend to shy away from that kind of talk. Partly that's understandable. It's hard to be comfortable religiously with how Christianity understands the physical and the bodily. Christianity is the most earthy of all religions. It doesn't call you out of the physical, out of the body or out of the world. Rather Christ enters the physical, becomes one with it, blesses it, redeems it and tells us that there is no reason to escape from it.
Something in that goes against the grain. Christ's relationship to the physical scandalized his contemporaries ("This is intolerable language!" is what the crowds said when Jesus spoke of the physical character of the Eucharist in John's Gospel) and is still hard for us to accept today. But it's a wonderful part of Christianity. In the Eucharist, our skin gets touched.
And, given all our tensions, we need that touch, frequently, daily even. The late essayist and novelist, Andre Dubus, once wrote why he went to Eucharist regularly, despite the critical circles he moved in: "This morning I received the sacrament I still believe in: at seven-fifteen the priest elevated the host, then the chalice, and spoke the words of the ritual, and the bread became flesh, the wine became blood, and minutes later I placed on my tongue the taste of forgiveness and of love that affirmed, perhaps celebrated, my being alive, my being mortal.
"This has nothing to do with immortality, with eternity; I love the earth too much to contemplate a life apart from it, although I believe in that life.
"No, this has to do with mortality and the touch of flesh, and my belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist is simple: without touch, God is a monologue, an idea, a philosophy; he must touch and be touched, the tongue on flesh, and that touch is the result of the monologues, the idea, the philosophies which led to faith; but in the instant of the touch there is no place for thinking, for talking, the silent touch affirms all that, and goes deeper: it affirms the mysteries of love and mortality."
Skin heals when touched. It's why Jesus gave us the Eucharist.
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