When, Where, How

Life-of-Pix-free-stock-photos-restaurant-people-building-city-leeroy

Will it happen in a shopping mall? Will you have time to run and hide in a bathroom stall when the gunfire begins to sound? Or in some other public place? Will the bullets send you to the ground where you’ll play dead, trying not to tremble, whimper, staying flat on your face…?

What does it feel like to sit in a café and have a piece of lead penetrate your chest and stop your heart? Does the pain start with the breaking bone or the bursting flesh? Do you feel hot or cold…?

If your coworker has a barrel aimed right at her head, would you be so bold as to give up yourself instead? Is she, a mother of three little ones, saved while you lie bleeding out on the polished office floor? …your life rushing out of you on the polished office floor…?
Will your children – husband, wife, mother, father – come walking home through the door today? Or will a police officer knock upon it to say that he is sorry… flashing lights… headlines on the news, and the number of dead includes the person that you love more than anyone….

 Grief_sons%20protection_0_0

The modern wonders of the day. The attilas of our generation silent and hidden, dispersed everywhere, anywhere. No hordes descending, no walls and gates to raise to bar them out. Instead, quickly, in an instant, one life suddenly taken, then two, then three. Through history’s eyes, mere firecrackers in a shoe, not much to see. Odds are they won’t get you or yours, there’s no probable danger out-of-doors. And, yet… the questions dart and sneak through your mind like thieves as you pull your arms through the sleeves of your jacket, button the thin fabric up to your chin… and cross the threshold from your home out into the world…

…the world… going mad…  like your thoughts…

…but, you will remain sane.

Is it logic or faith that puts one foot in front of the other? Or is it a combination of both that allows you to push aside the door and ignore the time-unlimited question of when,  where, how……?

© 2015 Christina Chase


1st photo credit: Life of Pix

2nd photo credit: UNH http://www.unh.edu/health-services/ohep/emotional-health/grief

Our Daily Bread

It’s strange how you can come to care about the people whose blogs you read regularly, or even occasionally.  I find that I want to know about the major ups and downs in their lives, their fears and their joys.  Because of this, I’m stepping out to share with you, my readers, an impending event in my life.  Well, it is more directly an event in my father’s life, but, because I am dependent on others for my survival and it is my father and my mother who give me daily care, the event has impact on me.  (I wrote about this somewhat for the other surgery, see it here.)

My dad is going to have surgery again.  Nothing emergent or life-threatening this time, no worries, this is elective.  The hip replacement he’s been waiting for.  Of course, being a worrier (no, not “warrior”, you silly dictation system, definitely not a warrior) by nature, I do worry a little, especially given his septuple coronary bypass three months ago.  I pray that God will protect him once again and guide the doctors and all who will be taking care of him before, during, and after the operation.  His cardiologist from CMC cleared him and Dr. Fox from Concord Orthopedics is supposed to be great, so I leave it in God’s hands.   That is, I will try my very best not to worry, but to have faith that God’s Holy and Perfect Will shall be done.   What that will is, nobody can truly know.  But, I do believe that what ever will happen will be according to God’s positive plan for all of our ultimate goodness and joy.  That’s our faith as believers.

And I have so much for which to be thankful.

As I tried to keep in mind during the previous operation, God is good.

All the time.

God is good.

Jesus invites us to pray for one another and, so, prayers are welcome! (And prayers for my mom, too, who, again, is stuck with the literally heavy lifting.) Thank you!

© 2016 Christina Chase

The Beauty of Both/And: Thomas Aquinas

Thomas was picked on by his classmates. Because he was big and quiet, they thought that he was developmentally delayed and called him a dumb ox. But, his teacher saw things differently, he saw beyond the surface to the truth and said to the class, “You call him the dumb ox, but in his teaching he will one day produce such a bellowing that it will be heard throughout the world.”

This teacher (who came to be known as Saint Albert the Great) was right about who that young man would become and what his contributions to the world would be. The young man was Thomas Aquinas, who became a Doctor of the Church, one of the most influential theologians and philosophers in the world, and a great Saint.

Also, my favorite saint.

A Truly Beautiful Mind

quotes St. Thomas Aquinas preserved ship

I do admire him because of his perseverance, not only withstanding the ridicule and misunderstanding of his classmates, but also the desperate force of his family: brothers kidnapping him, mother imprisoning him, as they tried in vain to keep him out of the Dominican Order of poor, itinerant friars. Most saints show grit and strength in their commitment to serving God, though. Thomas’ special gift from God was a rare mind. Not that he was superhuman (or supra-human). No. He was very, very human. Indeed, he loved food, ate too much, and was rather fat. His great gift was an understanding of what it is to be human. Through the use of his great intellectual gifts and spiritual insights, Thomas himself saw beyond the surface of things. He recognized the wisdom beneath the paganism of Greek philosophy. He married Aristotle’s works of reason with Christian understandings of faith, proving that faith and reason are not incompatible. Thomas famously offered five proofs for the existence of God, using reason to illustrate the unmoved mover, the uncaused cause – that which everyone calls God.

Reading just one of his quotes – just one partial one – made me want to be a Catholic, a Christian…

Faith and Reason

Seven years out of atheism, I was still wondering about faith, religion, and, as I put it, “that which we call God”. I had come to know of the existence of God without the Bible, without religion, by deeply reflecting upon the natural world and my wordless, wondrous response to it. But, I was not a Christian and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be. The thought of the Incarnation, that is, Christ Jesus, both scared and thrilled me. It was beautiful, terrible, wonderfully profound…. But, was it true? Surely, I believed, truth could only be arrived at through reason. If I became a full-fledged person of faith, wouldn’t reason become secondary, inferior, even pushed out of my life?

And then I read these words while just starting to inspect the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls ‘God.’” (CCC paragraph #34[1])

This is what I believed before becoming Christian – this is what I knew. And it came from none other than the great Doctor of the Church, himself, St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor”. This was Catholic. And my jaw dropped. I began to think… maybe faith and reason exist in harmony after all….

After that I wholeheartedly took the leap of faith – not without reason.

Thomas Aquinas faith and reason

Fear Not

St. Thomas Aquinas is also my favorite because he loved truth and, therefore, he loved questions. He wasn’t afraid of them. He wasn’t afraid of any doubt. He wasn’t afraid of anyone’s argument or negative response. In a commentary on Aristotle’s works he wrote, “We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.” .

He understood fear:

“Fear is such a powerful emotion for humans that when we allow it to take us over, it drives compassion right out of our hearts.”

He was full of wonder:

“Because philosophy arises from awe, a philosopher is bound in his way to be a lover of myths and poetic fables. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder.”

He could hold his own in any debate and defended the Faith against heretics – yet, he was humble:

“I would rather feel compassion than know the meaning of it. I would hope to act with compassion without thinking of personal gain.”

He wrote a lot of words – a lot. And, yet, he understood the littleness of human words in the wondrous infinity of God. At about the age of 50, while mystically deep in prayer, Thomas had a vision of Christ coming to him and asking him what reward he would have for his labor. Thomas responded, “Nothing but you, Lord.” After this, Thomas came to stop writing altogether, feeling that his words were like straw. He still worked to serve God, but died only a few months later.

Aquinas answered it

Many are discovering St. Thomas Aquinas anew and are growing in both faith and reason as a result. I am thankful to God for creating this man to help us better understand Him. For these many reasons, as a person of both faith and reason, I join the Catholic Church in celebrating today, January 28, the Holy One of God (Saint) Thomas Aquinas.

© 2016 Christina Chase


[1] referencing his Summa Theologica, question 2, article 1-3.

For more information see http://www.aquinasonline.com/thombiog.html
and http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm

God Is Good

Hearts, hands, Sunset, Love, God

My father had open heart surgery this past Monday because of blocked coronary arteries.  He had a septuple bypass – I didn’t even know one could have that many!  We were all very surprised that he needed this and also very grateful that he had never had a heart attack.  He works so hard and with his circulatory system the way it was… I believe that God was definitely watching over him.  The surgeons were very confident that he would get through the surgery well and that it would be successful because he is in good shape, not overweight, doesn’t drink and doesn’t smoke.  Still… It was major surgery and we know that things can happen…

Thankfully, he did get through the surgery well and, so far, he is recovering successfully.  Someone told me that there are so many people praying for a good result for him that God wouldn’t dare to disappoint them.  But, I don’t think it really works that way.  First of all, God is pretty daring.  Second of all, God’s will is God’s will.  We know that God hears all prayers and answers all of the prayers of the faithful.  What that answer is, however, is hidden in the mind of God until it is revealed.  And it isn’t always the answer that had been sought. Continue reading

Hope, Part 2: Eternal Perspective

Continued from Hope, Part 1: The Four-Letter Word

I have never wanted to fall for wishful thinking – I have only ever wanted the truth. Before I became a true-believing Christian, as a preteen, teenager, and young adult, I viewed Heaven as a comforting fairytale and a false hope. Coming to know the real Christ, however, and growing in relationship with him, my understanding of Heaven was inevitably going to change.

I am still growing in my understanding….

I love life here and now and I love God, here and now. There is still a small part of me that is fighting against the thought of Heaven, not wanting to be patronized like a child told to hope.

However… I’m beginning to understand that I am behaving like a child by fighting the reality of Heaven….

Hope Is a Virtue

As a believing Christian and committed practitioner of the Catholic Faith, I know that I must take seriously the theological definition of hope:

“a Divine virtue by which we confidently expect, with God’s help, to reach eternal felicity as well as to have at our disposal the means of securing it.”[1]

“Eternal felicity”….

“Confidently expect”…

Hope As Part of the Big Three

The theological virtue of hope presupposes belief in the existence of eternal life and, specifically, in the existence of “eternal felicity”, or, namely, Heaven. Hope, then, is a firm faith, or kind of knowledge, that one can, through Christ, enter into this eternal life, because the way through which to enter it is given to us by God in Christ Jesus.

I had been thinking that it shouldn’t be hope that helps Christians through rough trials and tribulations. I had been thinking that faith is what does that – the assent, the trust in, and the commitment to God and to what God has revealed. But, if it is not to be mere wishful thinking, then hope, which is that “confident expectation” of “eternal felicity”, is a result of faith. It’s the natural living out of faith.

And that faithful, “confident expectation” that is hope can only exist and be realized through love.

The Reality of God’s Love

Although I am naturally an optimistic and content person, there are, of course, many times when I have been laid low by my disease and disability. In these times, I have been sustained and carried by love… By my love for life and for my family – and by my family’s love for me. Now that I have given myself in faith to the reality of God, I know that this sustaining love comes from God’s love. And believing Christians experience spiritual aid and comfort, not only from human love, but also (and more deeply and profoundly because it is the source of human love) from God’s love and the willingness and eagerness to love God in return.

Christianity is not all about rewards after death – it is fundamentally about the giving and receiving of divine love from pure and generous hearts. I understand, now, that “eternal felicity”, that Heaven, is the reality of God and God’s love for me. And so, too, is the divine disposal of “the means of securing it”. We can never earn Heaven or wishfully think our way into it – it is purely God’s gift, freely and graciously given to all who are willing to receive it.

As a committed lover of God, I am willing to receive all that God wills to give to me.

And, so, yes – Heaven is real, and hope is good.

Living Hope Every Day – Eternal Perspective

One way that I think that we can describe the practice and the effect of the theological virtue of hope in our lives is as eternal perspective. One can say that one believes in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life of the world to come. But, does that belief influence and effect one’s daily life? To live in hope is to have an eternal perspective in the mundane living of every day. For, surely, if one is confidently expectant of something, then one lives in preparation and readiness of its coming.

Real life example: let’s say you’re arguing with someone whom you truly love. The argument won’t last forever and the two of you may even forget the very thing over which you were fighting. Because you truly love each other, you will forgive each other and continue to live your relationship rooted in that love. The argument is finite. But the love experienced, expressed, and manifested through your relationship is infinite, it belongs to eternity – because it is the experience, expression, and manifestation of God’s eternal love, which is the Source and Sustainer of all love. And, so, even in the midst of the argument, you can step back for a moment and regain this eternal perspective. Having this eternal perspective fosters the true forgiveness, healing, and continuation of your relationship’s joyful love, which is carried into eternity itself.

Eternal felicity.

My Hope

So, I don’t do this-or-that hoping, like some kind of wishful, fingers-crossed-wanting, that it will turn out fabulous in the end. I live with confidence. I trust in God’s Word and, so, have faith that eternity is real. The things of God last forever and other things don’t. This knowledge, this “confident expectation”, our Christian hope, is the fruit of our Christian faith, brought into true being and sustained through Christian love.

Thankfully, God is merciful… If my human weakness cannot yet handle the word, then I do not need to think of this thing called “hope”. I need only to live it.

unpublished work © 2015 Christina Chase


[1] http://newadvent.org/cathen/07465b.htm

Is Faith Necessary?

As an atheist, I came to know the existence of God – not through something that somebody told me or something that I read – but through silence. In silent contemplation of the natural world, I became aware of infinite presence. Intellectually, I reasoned this to be the Uncreated Creator, the Uncaused Cause, the Infinite/Eternal Source – that which everyone calls God.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

“The world, and man, attest that they contain within themselves neither their first principle nor their final end, but rather that they participate in Being itself, which alone is without origin or end. Thus, in different ways, man can come to know that there exists a reality which is the first cause and final end of all things, a reality “that everyone calls ‘God.’”  [Para 34]

Knowledge of God’s existence can be self-evident and it also can be reached through reason. We could say, then, that faith is not necessary for this kind of knowing God. But… is this truly knowing God? No. It is merely knowing that that which we call God exists. This is important, undoubtedly, but it is not nearly enough. If we are to be truly and fully human, then we must come to knowledge of God through personal relationship and intimate interaction with Him. And that is why God chooses to reveal Himself to us – this is the foundational belief of the three great religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Through the prophets and His Word as written in the Hebrew Testament, (or, as Muslims believe, through Mohammed and the Qu’ran) God gives something of Godself to us, revealing to us what God wants us to know. As a Christian, I believe that God reveals Godself finally and most fully, through the Incarnation of God’s Word, who is Jesus Christ.

– This post is not to argue who has God’s true Revelation and who does not. This post is to underscore the fact that, if God does not reveal Godself to us, then we cannot come into intimate and personal relationship with Him. We can say that we believe in the existence of God – but we cannot say that God is loving or that God is merciful without God’s pure gift of Revelation and its counterpart gift of faith. It is not certainty that is required for our union with God – it is faith. To take a leap of faith is something purely beautiful and exquisitely profound – so much so that God veils Godself in the deepest Mystery in order to elicit this response from us, giving just enough of Himself through Divine Revelation so that we, in wanting more, may fly….

Without Revelation and our response to it, which is faith, conclusions could be drawn that the Creator is an impersonal “God” and we would be merely deists. Or, left to our own imagination, we could worship creation instead of the Creator and continually invent a plethora of gods and religions. (After becoming aware of the existence of God, I, myself, tried to invent my own religion.) But, God does not want this for us. God made us for Godself and seeks union with us, knowing that our hearts are restless until they rest in God[1]. Therefore, we are not left with reason alone. Through Divine Revelation, God speaks to us. And, through faith, we listen.

© 2015 Christina Chase

[1] St. Augustine, Confessions – “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”

Perspective

My aunt is an artist and she has cancer. It’s a rare and aggressive kind. I know neither the specific details of her treatment nor what will happen. But it’s cancer. And cancer is always scary. I was thinking about something that I didn’t want to do this week, something that I was dreading, and then I thought – but it’s nothing, nothing compared to what my aunt is going through. Everything else seems easy from the standpoint of cancer.

What is it like when you have cancer? Does your whole world go flat? What happens when you lose that “it could be worse” perspective that used to bring life into relief? Does everything in your life seem like it’s not where it’s supposed to be – what is distant is too immediately close, while what is truly near to you seems too far away?

I learned about the cancer straight from my aunt when I saw her on Christmas Day. I didn’t know what to say. She seemed her usual self, even though she had only just found out. Later, she began talking about a book that she had read, called Being Mortal, and about how we are so afraid of dying that we do the whole thing wrong. And I was impressed that she could talk about such serious things calmly and deeply while facing, perhaps, her own impending death. I saw the truth in her eyes as she said to me that she believed that God was giving her grace and that she was at peace.

So many questions have I… Would I be so peaceful if I had cancer? Although I am curious about what it’s like to have cancer, this is one subject about which I never want to satisfy my curiosity. But… Will I be so peaceful when my end nears from whatever cause? For, of course, we all will die, some time, of some thing, some how. Is anyone ever really ready to accept death – or… even worse, I think, sometimes… to face the process of dying?

Like most of my father’s family, my aunt is Christian, but not Catholic. A couple of days before Christmas, she had asked my father on the telephone why I call myself a Catholic Writer and not a Christian Writer. If she had asked me, I would’ve said that Christian and Catholic are the same, but that, because I understand the importance of words, I did debate between the two. I might have told her that the main reason I chose “Catholic Writer” was in order to give a heads up to those Christians who don’t like Catholicism, so that they would know to expect writings about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Assumption of Mary, the Eucharist, the Catechism, and so on in my work. When I saw her at Christmas, however, my aunt didn’t ask me that question. What she did say to me was that she has been reading my blog and that she believes in the same things that I have written about. I wasn’t surprised, although my guess is that she didn’t get to the part about the Assumption of Mary – but maybe she did. We are all Christian, after all, believing in the Mystery and power of God – believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and striving to live our lives in imitation of him.

I know that it is with a Christian perspective that my aunt will face her cancer, whatever may come. When she suffers, I pray that she stands at the foot of the Cross and sees the proximity of her suffering and Christ’s. And when she fears, I pray that she sees and feels the infinite nearness of God’s love, trusting the whole layout of His plan. With this Christian perspective, she will not become deflated or flattened, she will not lose herself out of proportion. The light of Christ is what brings her life into high relief, making all of her days and nights round and full, giving clear relationship to everything around her, based on who she is.

Many of my favorite pieces in this blog are the ones that I write about being human, about our true identities as human beings. We are made for the divine. We are not made merely for the fulfillment of our own self-centered and finite desires. We are not made for comfort or convenience. We are made for love, true love, the fullness of love – and the fullness of true love is the receiving and giving of God’s love. We are not alone, we are never alone, for God loves us into being, intimately and infinitely, and gives us the ability to love in return… forever. It is this relationship that puts everything else into the right place. And nothing can cause us to become unloved – nothing. And nothing can force us to become unloving, to lose ourselves, to lose our reason for being, to lose our joy – nothing. Not even cancer.

And if you are reading this, my dear artistic aunt, my prayer to God is that He will set you in the right place and help you to never lose divine perspective.

This is also my prayer for all of you, dear readers, for this new year, 2015!

© 2015 Christina Chase

In the Midst of Wolves

Do you pray not to be put to the test? I do.

I think about the worst situation that I could find myself in and then I wonder… would I still love God in that situation? Would I still be a joyful, committed person of faith…? With that thought in mind, and in order to share a little of my personal life as someone with a physical disability, I am pressing this post from my other blog, BibleBursts.com.

In the Midst of Wolves.

God for Us (Reason and Faith)

We are but dust in the vast cosmos…

I ask in advance if any of this post is bizarre or unsettling to anyy of my fellow devout Christians. Please remember that I was once an atheist (not the angry, zealous kind) and that I am still often haunted by the ghosts of my past denial. Having always marveled at the wonders of nature, I’m drawn toward cosmology and all scientific inquiry into life and matter, enjoying television programs like Nova and Cosmos. But… I don’t always enjoy them. Sometimes, listening to a scientific reduction of the facts of life, my doubting ghosts waft over me again and they, like the wraiths in Harry Potter, try to suck my soul, my faith, right out of me. Ever grateful am I that God’s grace has allowed my light of faith to grow more strongly over the years so that I may send these ghosts, these wraiths, howling away to the dark ignorance from whence they came. What follows was born from one of these moments …

When contemplating the vast stretches of the universe, it is clear that we are a speck of dust in the cosmos. Who knows how many universes existed before ours and how many will be after – or how many universes exist right now? And yet, we open our paper Bibles and read that “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”[i] and that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”[ii] Do we really think that we are so special to the Uncreated Creator of all things visible and invisible? It stands to reason that if, as we believe, the Eternal Source is personal, then God cares and will care about all universes and worlds created and the lives of other lifeforms there. There may be other intelligent beings in unimaginable forms somewhere beyond the knowable universe to whom God sends divine mission with divine purpose. I don’t know. Do you?

What I do know, by the light of faith, is that Jesus the Christ is and always will be God for us. I don’t mean “for us” in any kind of a relativistic way, like that’s who we take him to be, because what’s God for us may not be God for you. No. I mean that, in Jesus, God gave Himself completely to us, for our sakes. For us, for our ultimate fulfillment and joy, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word of God may salvifically take on some other kind of form in some other universe of unfathomable structure – I don’t know, do you? But, Jesus is ours.

To be a true believer in God, we do not need to believe that we are the only creatures ever made, or who will ever be made, in the divine image and likeness. To be good Christians, we do not need to believe that God’s plan of salvation for these other beloved creatures would have to include a mission from Jesus. There is and always will be only one Christ Jesus – for he is both fully divine and fully human. It is with this divinely revealed truth of Jesus of Nazareth’s identity that, through the light of faith, we can make the reasonable conclusion that Jesus won’t be saving anyone else in any other universe. No hard-core scientist would believe that intelligent lifeforms elsewhere in existence would be human (I’m excluding theories of parallel universes here, because I think that they’re just clever nonsense). Human beings, Science-Only scientists understand, are products of this particular planet that we know as earth. Believers, too, understand that God created humans from the earth (the meaning of “Adam”) to dwell in the abundance and beauty that God created here. We are human. And, for us, God assumed human nature.

For us men and for our salvation,”

the Son of God (who has absolutely no material shape or form)

“came down from heaven,

and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,

and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,

he suffered death and was buried,

and rose again on the third day

in accordance with the Scriptures.

He ascended into heaven

and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead

and his kingdom will have no end.”[iii]

Yes, every Christian would agree that Jesus Christ is universally unique. But, I am trying to come at this from the perspective, not only of a Christian, but also of a mere theist who is cosmologically minded, one who believes in “the ultimate reality that everyone calls God”[iv] and wonders about the relationships of other possible universes to God, who is the Unmoved Mover. How has God revealed Godself to other created minds in unknown worlds – if other such creatures and worlds exist? I don’t have the answer and I don’t think anyone ever will. And I also don’t think that we ever, even remotely, need to know. What we can come to know – and what we need to know for our ultimate fulfillment as human beings – is how God reveals Godself to us.

We can come to understand and experience the relationship between our world and God, discovering the intimate and loving plan that God has for us, for each and every human being. How? By turning to the one who is fully God and fully Man; by loving and following the Son of God, who lovingly assumed our human nature and became one of us, living and breathing with a Sacred Heart. Through him, we can touch the starry face of God and know the embrace beyond time and space.

Now, when I look up at the dewy night sky and contemplate the trillions of stars and billions of galaxies beyond sight, I thank God ever more richly for giving Himself completely to me in and through, the one and only, Jesus Christ. The next time that you wonder why we humans think that we are so special, or even doubt the existence of God when hearing scientists talk about the multiverse, remember that the Infinite/Eternal One, the Source of All Life, became one of us in Christ, out of infinite and eternal love. Christ Jesus is the singularly perfect intimate union of human and divine.

 

©Christina Chase 2014

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

[i] Genesis 1:1

[ii] John 3:16

[iii] Nicene Creed

[iv] St. Thomas Aquinas

Sitting in the Back and the Real Presence: for Corpus Christi

Communion Wafers

Most people who will read this are probably not Catholic – and I am very much aware that some Catholic beliefs seem strange, like superstitious nonsense.  Do we really believe that the consecrated bread and wine of Holy Communion has become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ?  Yes, we do.  Not symbolically.  Really.  Truly.

We don’t believe that we are eating an ear or a foot or anything, yes, crazy like that.  Christ Jesus isn’t physically present, but he is substantially present.  Sacramentally present, you could say spiritually present – but this does not mean symbolically present.  We believe that we are eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man, just like Jesus tells us through the Gospel of John, chapter 6, and through what the Apostles have handed down to us in Scripture and Tradition.  Now, this is a very difficult thing to believe – that the consecrated bread and wine is the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.  And there are many Catholics who have to say, “Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24.)  I’m not quite sure if I would have even said to God that I believe (for God sees the truth of my heart better than I do) if it weren’t for one blessed day…

My journey as a new Christian, a born-again Catholic, if you will, was still young and I was just beginning to go to Mass every Sunday that I was physically able. (I was nearly 30.)  In fact, I had only begun attending Mass every week because our priest had just left due to personal difficulties and he had knelt down beside me on his last day and asked me to pray for him.  I can’t tell you how many times people have looked at me in my wheelchair and asked me to pray for them.  But, I knew he needed the prayers and so I made the decision to truly do something for this man.  I would push myself to go to church every Sunday.  On this particular Sunday, I had to sit in the very back of the church because the front pews were taken for First Communion recipients and their families. (I either have to sit in the very front, which I most always do, or in the very back because of my wheelchair.) So, when I returned to my place in the back after receiving Holy Communion, I was alone, with no one looking at me.

For once, I wasn’t self-conscious.  Too many times in my life have I been beset by self-consciousness.  But, that day, with the consecrated bread in my mouth, I was completely relaxed in the dim silence.  Just me… and… and I remember biting into the Host with my teeth and being completely struck with the awareness of the Real Presence.  Alone and silent, the core of my being took over and I was thinking of how God became human for me and how God Incarnate wanted me to “gnaw upon his flesh”. He wants to feed me with His very self, He wants to give Himself completely to me, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity…. My eyeteeth pierced through the Body of Christ as did the nails on the Cross and I was overwhelmed… I wept, unmindful of the tears.

God comes to me in the Most Blessed Sacrament so that I may consume Him… and in that moment, as I humbly received the Body of Christ into my own body, in wonder and awe, I was consumed by His love….

For almost a year afterward, I silently cried after receiving Christ in Holy Communion.  I would always be embarrassed, but I was willing for God to do with me whatsoever He willed.  And it was such a gift, those were such moments of grace, such blessings, for it is very rare when we experience a knowing of what we believe.  They didn’t last.  I knew they wouldn’t.  It is not God’s will for us to always feel Him, to regularly experience, with the fullness of our bodies, minds, and senses, His Divine Presence.  For, if we were forever in those deep and heightened moments of ecstasy, we could not function as creatures of this earth.

God put us here for a reason.  And the reason is not to feel good.  The reason is to be good.  “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Jesus told this to Thomas because there is something more beautiful and powerful than physical experience or sure knowledge – and that is faith.  Perhaps I am not weeping in peace and joyful love every time that I receive Christ in the Eucharist… But I – my mind, heart, and soul – am leaping in faith.

© 2014 Christina Chase

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