Jake Bitner was invited to give a reflection at Lenten service of Benediction at the Church of the Atonement this past Friday:
Lenten Meditation at Atonement, 13 March 2009
How is it possible? How can God be present to us in bread and wine? The Lord God–Immortal, Invisible, Omnipotent, and Omniscient—self-revealing in a wafer of bread and wine bought in bulk from a church supply company. We enact a far-removed meal, through intangible words, and they become the Body and Blood of Christ, and assurances of our mystical union with God. How can basic material products become “spiritual food”?
Herein lies the amazingness of the Incarnation: God the Son, the Christ, through whom all things were made, becomes physical, material. Not just as spirit using a body, but as a bodily-spiritual unity, like we are. Without the body, there would have been no ministry of Jesus. Without the body, the sacrifice of the Crucifixion that we remember would not have been possible. In the Incarnation, God has lifted the material up, joined it to the spiritual, and echoing the first creation, has called it good.
But the material is not made into something abstract, perfect, or unreal. The bread and wine will still become stale; the body will still die. We remain limited beings, plagued by pain and searching for joy, carrying with us the marks and memories of life. Christ, the fully Spirit and fully Body, was broken and killed; after the Resurrection, the physical signs of the crucifixion did not disappear. In the Incarnation, in the taking of the Eucharist, we do not become something we are not; we do not transcend our bodies to become only spiritual. Instead, we become more truly who and what we are, because we are embraced completely and wholly by the God of the Incarnation. Our limits, our imperfections, our bodies, minds, and spirits are all united together and are united to God. In adoring the Sacrament, we give ourselves over to the love of God which raises up both the material and spiritual. In the Benediction, God blesses the fullness of who we are at this very moment. Let us bless the Lord, who has made us whole…