Well, I wrapped up teaching the High School Sunday School Class last week. It was really a privilege to talk with them! We finished by talking about the Eucharist and specifically how it brings us in union with God and one another. I was constantly impressed by their intelligence and depth of the questions, including asking for an explanation on the difference between transubstantiation, consubstantiation, memorialism and the real presence — one I had not anticipated them asking! I hope I did Aquinas, Luther, Aristotle, Zwingli and all the ole’ Anglican Divines justice. After explaining the Anglican doctrine of the real presence, one of them said, “Anglicans are so chill!” Yes, my dear, we are.
Q. Why is the Eucharist called a sacrifice?
A. Because the Eucharist, the Church’s sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, is the way by which the sacrifice of Christ is made present, and in which he unites us to his one offering of himself.
When we got the the above line in the Catechism, the question was asked “How can a sacrifice be good?” I thought this was an excellent question, as sacrifice has gained a negative connotation these days. As I was thinking about how to answer it, several ideas went through my head. I almost started talking about Propitiation (which is a fantastic word, by the way) but realized that it far too Calvinistic of an answer. I couldn’t also help but think about Knights going on long quests to win the heart of some fair maiden locked in a tower. But, who wants to talk about the knights of the round table, let alone the ones who sequin vests and impersonate Clark Gable? “Come on, Andy!” I said to myself, “You’re speaking to a bunch of High School girls!” Ah, maybe not knights, but perhaps an act of chivalry is in order! My answer was as follows:
What would you do if your boyfriend bought you a bouquet of roses? What if to buy those roses he got a minimum wage job at a fast food joint and worked long nights after school to buy you that bouquet of roses? (There were a chorus of awwww’s.) Now, to buy you those roses he had to sacrifice his time and money, but it was a good sacrifice, right? I imagine such an act brought the two of you closer. You, of course, would try to show your appreciation and perhaps do something as sacrificial in return. That was a good sacrifice, was it not?
Well, this is almost exactly what God did when he sent Jesus Christ, but to an infinite degree. Because he sent his son to die so that we might live. This is a good sacrifice, isn’t it? And we make sacrifices through our time, our talents and our money. And when we do those things, we are brought closer to Christ. This is how sacrifice of Christ and our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving are good. Yes, sacrifice is a tough, arduous and a very difficult thing, but that’s what makes it even better. This is what God did so that we might become one with him and it is what we do for him (and each other) in return. Sacrifice is not bad, but eternally good for it is done out of love!
And, in the Eucharist these two sacrifices meet. We have the sacrifice of Christ which happens before our eyes. And we have our sacrifice in the the giving of our money at the offertory, with the lending of our voices in praise, and simply by being there. This is why the Eucharist is the most powerfully uniting thing that we will experience on a weekly basis. It is this “oneing” together of us and God. Thanks be to God, Jesus Christ, chivalry, Julian and good, catholic theology.
Maybe — just maybe — I’m finally getting hip with the kidz . . .
Who am I kidding? Quick, somebody put on the Palestrina before I start wearing Hawaiian shirts and contemplate a tattoo!