SO MANY photos have appeared these days on the front page of newspapers showing grandparents hugging their grandchildren, or friends meeting up after a long physical separation. Their expressions are full of joy and relief. Zoom was nowhere near enough! COVID really brought home to us that we are embodied beings and that touch, hearing a loving voice, any kind of intimate contact – all are a necessity for us from babyhood onwards.
Some theologians now speak of the universe as God’s body, his first revelation/incarnation of himself. I have read “God loves bodies” and been amazed at the impact this phrase has had on me. He has made so many and so diverse forms of embodiment that we can never, it seems, stop discovering more and more of them. (The latest beetle species to be found has been named Greta after Greta Thunberg in honour of her commitment to the life of the planet). William Paley writes: “The hinges on the wings of an earwig and the joints of its antennae are as highly wrought as if the Creator had nothing else to finish.”
And so, we come to consider the second incarnation of the Divine Source of all being and all bodies, this time in a human being born in Palestine some two thousand years ago. Jesus of Nazareth. No one better than John the beloved disciple to tell us about the Jesus he was so close to. Remember how at the Last Supper he rested his head on the breast of Jesus. As John writes in his Prologue, the Word was there at the outset of the first incarnation, creation. He was the Word that was spoken and then all began to exist.
And his gesture at the Last Supper of offering bread and wine to be shared in memory of his Body and Blood finds an echo in the manna sent to the disgruntled crowd travelling through the desert towards the promised land. And of all his words and teachings, it seemed the hardest one to accept for his listeners that day as narrated by John in chapter 6 of his gospel. The bread come down from heaven that we are celebrating on the feast of Corpus Christi: “I will give you the bread that comes down from heaven not like the manna in the desert that God sent to allay your hunger and that did not last, but this bread is my Body and will give eternal life to those who eat it.” Cf. John 6. As the guards responded to the chief priests and pharisees: “Nobody has ever talked like this man!” (John 7:46).
So we find a new meaning for the phrase REAL PRESENCE. That same presence has permeated and sustained all that exists since the first moment, the flaring forth. And we never doubt that that presence is real. Much harder perhaps for our wavering faith is belief in the Corpus Christi real presence. Adoro Te Devote, Latens Deitas. Inviting us to adore, to thank and to praise. Inviting us to be united to each other and in communion with Him.
I was attracted to one of the intercessions in the Office for Evening Prayer of the Feast: Lord Jesus Christ, manna from heaven, you make into one all who share the same bread: – grant peace and concord to all who believe in you.
In our world torn by the inequalities made so evident in the distribution of COVID 19 vaccines, may He help us to realize we are all one and that as long as we are indifferent to the fate of the victims of callous exploitation, we are in a sense far from that unity he wishes to achieve. And far from achieving peace and concord.
Sr Veronica Rafferty OP