Today we Catholics celebrate Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ. In the Eucharist, Christ becomes present in bread and wine, ordinary elements, “the work of human hands.”
In 2001 when I was in Suchitoto, El Salvador, working on a study of the role of the church in that conflictive region, I brought along William Cavanaugh’s Torture and the Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ. It’s a rather dense work, treating the Eucharist as Body of Christ and the Church as Body of Christ in the context of the understanding of the church in Chile during the cruel Pinochet dictatorship.
Looking back at the work yesterday, I came across this quote on page 14:
The point is not to politicize the Eucharist, but to “Eucharistisize” the world.
The Eucharist is not a mere sign which points to some more concrete political reality. Christ’s Eucharistic body is both res et sacramentum, sign and reality. Christ does not lie behind the Eucharistic sign but saturates it. Christians do not simply read the sign but perform it. We become Christ’s body in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the true “politics,” as Augustine saw, because in it is the public performance of the true eschatological City of God in the midst of another City which is passing away.
What first strikes me is his statement that “Christ does not lie behind the Eucharistic sign but saturates it.” What a marvelous way of talking about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
But Cavanaugh goes on to note that “We become Christ’s body in the Eucharist.” And so we should become saturated with Christ, offering the world a different vision of reality, a vision made real in the way we live and love.