Thursday, February 16
In a recent exchange, a friend posed the question,
"Does the worship of the physical element in the Eucharist (even if Christ is present) miss the point of the practice. I say it does, you say quite the opposite."
And here I don't pretend to embark upon a systematic answer. But I would like to point out a strength (again, if not a true reply) of Eucharistic adoration, and of an "objective" presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist.
First, we must consider the manner and modes in which Our Lord is present at Christian worship. Certainly, God is omnipresent, which has led ignorant liturgists to argue that "the parking lot is just as sacred as the church building or the Eucharist: God is EVERYWHERE!" Of course, this is manifestly silly: God is everwhere. But, the God-Man, Jesus Christ is fully present, as the man and God, not everywhere, but wheresoever be his humanity which, as the Resurrection of the Dead affirms to us, integrally includes bodily (physical) presence: that is, a human (even a God-man) is "fully" present only where
Therefore, Christ is "fully" present only when his body is also present; any other form of his "presence" is lacking--specifically lacking his body.
Therefore, while"Christ is present" as the Word of God (Logos) when the Word of God (Scripture) is proclaimed, this presence is not complete in and of itself, because it is not embodied. The Gospel is not read for the sake of reading the Gospel, but rather it is only complete only when it is heard and kept and born in the person of the believer who--like Mary--hears the Word of God and keeps it. Therefore, this presence of Christ is real (the Logos is present) but lacking, until it is embodied in its hearers.
We know that, because we are the body of Christ, whenever"two or three" of us meet together in His name, He is present, as well; therefore, we say that Christ "is present" in the people assembled for worship. This is an embodied presence, where the God-Man is fully present insofar as the assembly truly is His Body.
And, again, Christ is present embodied in the minister of worship, insofar as the minister is acts as priest--sharing in the priesthood of Christ, through Whom alone we, by connecting our worship to the pleasing oblation of the Cross, can rightly praise the Father.
All of this is well and good, to an extent: it has a limited usefulness, however, against the Post-Modern Critique of liturgy. Recent liturgists have held that, "If Christ, in all the manners in which He is present in Christian worship, is present in the interaction or intersubjectivity of the assembled worshippers... how can we really say, why do we need to believe, that Christ--or God Himself--is anything more than interpersonal interaction, anything more than intersubjectivity? Afterall, the moment we stop actively trying to "conjure up" Christ's presence through communal prayer, it dissappears: His presence, in these three modes, depends on human subjects with right intention, and therefore it is entirely subjective (in the mind of the human subject) intersubjective (in the minds of human subjects interacting with each other). The presence of Christ depends upon the subjectivity of those assembled.
And here is why the presence of Christ in the Eucharist is an essential witness to reality of God and the reality of Christ, apart from human subjectivity. When one believes that, regardless of what the assembly does, whether or not other people are present, Christ is nevertheless embodied in the Eucharist, then we have an "objective presence" (that is, a presence which does not depend on human subjectivity for its valdity, a presence which the human subject can strive to appreciate, but which in no way depends on our realizing it to validly be Christ's presence), then the Post-Modern Critique of Liturgy breaks down. The fact that, even if no one recognizes His full (that is to say, phsyical and spiritual) presence in the Eucharist, He is nonetheless there, affirms undeniably that Christ--that God--is more than "intersubjectivity," more than the warm feelings of an assembled congregation.
If Christ's presence in the Eucharist is anything less than a full, physical presence that depends upon no one's acknowledgement for its validity, then Christian worship easily degrades (as it truly has in many, many places) into little more than the pursuit of that warm "Jesus-feeling."
The Eucharist, then, as a full (spiritual and physical) presence of Christ which is remains present regardless of whether it is recognized as such by individual human subjects, is a necesary check on the many presences of Christ (in Gospel, assembly, and priest) which all depend upon intersubjectivity: that is, it is a witness that Christ, well present in the human subjects of his Faithful, nevertheless truly does Transcend our subjectivity, and remains completely Himself totally apart from us, as a God--and a Presence--which we can both fail to grasp and, therefore, must strive to grasp.
Rather than missing the point of the practice of Christian worship, adoring the Eucharist as a presence of Christ that does not depend upon human subjectivity for its validity protects Christian worship of the Christ who is within us from becoming a worship of the assembly itself. Worship of the Eucharist, rather than missing the point of worship, ensures the Christocentricism of worship.