Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Harming God through Acts of Desecration

With news of another act of desecration of the Eucharist, comes the issue of whether God is "hurt" by such things. Our good friend Jan over at Runs with Angels asks:
What hurts Jesus? What hurts God? Is Jesus not 'beyond' being hurt, since He's already suffered the ultimate hurt? Or is the Passion in continuous motion and all these new sins and hurts keep piling on?

For that matter, it must not 'feel' too good to be chewed like cud every day. On a side note - my First Communion Nun told us to NEVER chew the Host, just leave it until it melts.
Here we confront the mystery of God become man.

On the one hand, God, being all-powerful, cannot be hurt or injured in anyway. We humans especially do not have that power over Him. All of mankind could be Hitlers and it wouldn't harm Him one bit. As such, there is no need for God to ever get "angry" or retaliate against people. References in scripture about God acting in that way are feeble human attempts to use understandable human attributes to understand a God who is beyond our comprehension and understanding.

The Commandments are not so that we won't hurt God, they are so we won't hurt ourselves. WE are the ones injured by sin, not God. And, being Love, He does not want to see us hurt ourselves. The Commandments, even the first three, are for our benefit, not His. Our service to Him is for our benefit, not His. He is complete in Himself, He has need of nothing -- He certainly doesn't "need" us to be His heavenly butlers or constantly bowing up and down at Him. He is not an egoist who needs our validation or our love. He wants our love, but He doesn't need it.

On the other hand, God became man. Fully human in all ways except sin. Jesus was and can be hurt, physically, mentally, and emotionally. "Jesus wept" at the death of Lazarus, He got frustrated repeatedly and busted up the marketplace, He knew hunger and thirst, and, of course, in His Passion, He knew excruciating physical pain, literally ("excruciating" being from the Latin for "from the cross"). Even today, Jesus bears the marks of His crucifixion in His Body. And, God being eternal, that is, transcending temporality, being outside of time, not only do all moments in human history exist simultaneously for Him, but each individual moment exists in perpetuity. Jesus did not suffer on the Cross 2000 years ago -- from His perspective, He is being scourged now, He is being nailed to the Cross now, He is hanging there now and will to the end of time. And each of our sins is another tear into His flesh. As fully human, He did not use His divinity as some sort of painkiller. So, yes, God can indeed feel pain, He can be hurt and injured. He can and does have "compassion" -- He suffers with us.

Regarding the Eucharist, He did not merely give us His Blood, He purposely gave us His Body and said, "eat" it. He knowingly took bread for this purpose, and to eat bread means to chew it up before swallowing. If He didn't want people to chew, He would have stopped at the wine become Blood. But even if chewing were inappropriate because it could somehow hurt Him, is it really any less painful to be swimming around in a pool of stomach acid after the Host is swallowed? Is using teeth any different in any significant way than using enzymes in saliva, which effectively break down, i.e. chemically chew, the Host?

As for desecration, or inadvertently dropping the Host and not being able to get each and every minute particle off the floor with a damp purificator (or spilling the Precious Blood in parishes that are foolish enough to confer it in a carpeted area (shaking his head), not to mention the minute dust particles of the Host that remain on the palm of the person who receives in the hand (all the more reason to receive Holy Communion by mouth)(after distribution, ministers of Holy Communion purify their fingers of these tiny dust particles by rinsing them in a small lavabo bowl of water)), Jesus the God-Man can indeed be hurt, but God is also incapable of being hurt. And it is fully within His power to have the Hosts "revert" back to their prior state if He were to so choose. He can avoid any contemporary injury in that respect. (It should be noted that the Real Presence already does not remain forever or even very far in the digestive process (microscopic Jesus isn't bouncing around your intestines). Rather, the Real Presence no longer remains when the "accidents" (the appearance of bread and wine) are so broken down that they are no longer compatible with the species of "bread" and "wine," whether in the stomach or if the Host is placed in a glass of water or the Precious Blood is diluted.)

Does He actually "revert back" in cases of desecration, etc.? I don't know, but He could if He were to choose to do so. I think we can safely say that God knows how to protect and take care of Himself. Rather, the injury He does suffer by the abuse of desecration of the Eucharist is by His willful act of compassion on the Cross. The desecration is all part and parcel of the Passion, which covered not only the sins that had accrued up to that point in history, but all of the future sins.

The biggest injury from desecration of the Host is to the person who engages in it. HE is the one who is harmed. It does not harm God in heaven one iota. Desecrators are not more powerful than God, they cannot shoot arrows of pain up into heaven to hurt Him. Rather, they are the ones who are injured, they are the ones who are harmed. They are the ones who will end up in the cold and dark abyss of Hell, not Him.


See also --
This post on a 2008 case of desecration of the Host
The Blessed Sacrament -- the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, Part One, and Part Two
The tabernacle as dwelling place of the Lord
What's really real in the Eucharist
Reality vs. Appearance and Seeing with God's Eyes
The Drug of Immortality and Life in Abundance


~N. said...

Way back in the day, about a million years ago, when I made my First Communion (at the age of 5), the nuns who were preparing us told us not to chew the Host because it would turn to blood in our mouths if we did.

Well, naturally, being the rotten little pack of Irish-Cat'lik street hoodlums we were, we all chewed the Host (excpet for one or two little goody-goodies who never did anything naughty).

Imagine our disappointment when the Host didn't turn into blood at all.

And, on a more serious note, that sort of disillusionment, while mildly amusing on the surface, tends to last and can plant seeds of doubt that last a lifetime.

The desecration of the Host does not "hurt" Jesus in that sense. What it does is harm all of us, and that is what causes God great sorrow.

Jan said...

You're right, Nora ~ I can't imagine a nun telling you something like that, even a million years ago :)

My nun at least took the mystery out of the bread by giving each of us an unconsecrated wafer to eat - and in those days they were paper thin so the chewing was really not an issue. I do the same for my First Communion students now.

I know her point was that to chew the Lord like He was gum was just not right, and that sort of behavior still bothers me today, although I have to admit to a couple surreptitious chews myself.

Well, some of them wafers are tough...

Flexo said...

I don't remember what Sister Jean Marian told us, but I think I would have remembered if she said not to chew.

That you would not chomp on Him seems rather obvious since it is poor manners to eat anything that way.

Nora said...

Yes, Jan, they did. So, whether or not you can imagine it, it happened.

Also, no one was CHOMPING. Just chewing as opposed to letting the wafer melt on your tongue. Do you let all your food sit on your tongue until your saliva digests it, or do you chew it first?