14 June 2009

Corpus Christi 2007 (repost)

Since I am traveling today, a repost seems in order. . .

11 June 2007

Deep fired Sacramentum Caritatis with pork gravy

Corpus Christi: Gen 14.18-20; 1 Cor 11.23-26; Luke 9.11-17
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Church of the Incarnation, University of Dallas

These are a few of my favorite things: Buttermilk dripped and deep-fried chicken. Butter beans with bacon and onions. Garlic mashed potatoes and chicken gravy. Greens with fatback and vinegar. Squash casserole, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole with pecans and brown sugar crust. Deviled eggs. Warm biscuits with honey butter. Homemade, cast-iron skillet cornbread with real butter. Fresh yeast rolls. Pecan pie. Chocolate pie. Mississippi Mud Cake. Bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Can you tell I’m a true blood Southerner?!* Each of these and all of them together do more than just expand my waistline and threaten the structural integrity of my belt—each and all of them together make up for me a palette of memories, a buffet (if you will!) of powerful reminders of who I am, where I came from, who I love, who loves me, and where I am going. Second perhaps only to sex, eating is one of the most intimate things we do. Think about it for just a second: when you eat, you take into your body stuff from the world—meat, vegetables, water, tea—you put this stuff in your mouth, you chew, you taste and feel, you smell and swallow, and all of it, every bite, becomes your body. This is extraordinarily intimate! You are made up of, built out of what you eat.

What does it mean then for you, for us to eat the Body of Christ and to drink his Blood?

Thomas Aquinas answers: “Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods.” God became man so that we all might become god. In Christ Jesus, we are made more than holy, more than just, more than righteous; we are made perfect. Wholly joined to Holy Other, divinized as God promised at the moment of creation, we are brought to the divine by the Divine and given our participation in the life of God by God. We are brought and given. Brought to Him by Him and given to Him by Him. We do not go to God uninvited and we do not take from Him what is not first given. Therefore, “take, eat, this is my body, which is given up for you…” And when you take the gift of his body and eat and when you take the gift of his blood and drink, you become what you eat and drink. You become Christ. And together we are Christ for one another—his Body, the church.

Thomas calls the Eucharist the “sacramentum caritatis,” the sacrament of love. The Eucharist is not a family picnic or Sunday dinner. We’re not talking about a community meal or a neighborhood buffet. All of these can and do express genuine love for God, self, and neighbor. But Thomas is teaching us something far more radical about the Eucharist here than the pedestrian notion that eating together makes us better people and a stronger community! The sacramentum caritatis is an efficacious sign of God’s gift of Himself to us for our perfection. In other words, the Eucharist we celebrate this morning is not just a memorial, just a symbol, just a community prayer service, just a familial gathering, just a ritual. In Christ, with him and through him, we effect—make real and produce—the redeeming graces of Calvary and the Empty Tomb: Christ on the cross and Christ risen from the grave. Again, we are not merely being reminded of an important bible story nor are we being taught a lesson about sharing and caring nor are we simply “feeling” Christ’s presence among us. We are doing exactly what Christ tells us to do: we are eating his body and drinking his blood for our perfection, for our eternal lives. And while we wait for his coming again, we walk this earth as Christs! Imperfect now, to be perfected eventually; but right now, radically loved by Love Himself and loved so that we may be changed, converted from our disobedience, brought to repentance and forgiveness, and absolved of all violence against God’s will for us.

Thomas teaches us that God gave us the Eucharist in order “to impress the vastness of [His] love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful…” How vast is His love for us? He gifted us with His Son. He gave His only child up to death so that we might live. And He gave us the means of our most intimate communion with Him. We take his body into our bodies. His blood into ours. We are made heirs, brothers and sisters, prophets and priests; we are made holy, just, and clean; we are made Christ and being made Christ, we are given his ministries, his holy tasks: teaching, preaching, healing, feeding. This Eucharist tells you who you are, where you came from, where you are going. It tells you why you are here and what you must do. And most importantly, this celebration of thanksgiving, tells you and me who it is that loves us and what being loved by Love Himself means for our sin, our repentance, our conversion, our ministries, our progress in holiness…

Do not fail to hand on what you yourself have received: the gift of the Christ. Walk out those doors this morning and present yourself to the world as a sacramentum caritatis. Walk out of here a sacrament of love—a sign, a witness, a cipher, an icon—walk out of here stamped with the Holy Spirit. Preach, teach, bless, feed, eat, drink, pray, and spread the infectious joy of the children of God!

A Southern blessing: as your waist expands to fill the limits of your belt, so may your spirit grow to hold the limitless love of Him Who loves us always.

*NB. To answer a question asked after Mass about my menu, "Yes, I can cook every dish listed here!" Oh, and I forgot "grits."


  1. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Father, thank you for this mouth-watering and soul-uplifting post. You can come cook dinner for me and my family any time -- and we aren't even Americans (hubby is), let alone Southerners! Leave the grits at home, though -- tried 'em once, wasn't crazy about them .. but that was in North Carolina, so maybe they aren't as good there! Good to hear you've received your new laptop. God bless you.

    Regards from Canada (I'm a "Yankee"!)
    Patricia Gonzalez

  2. oops sorry, I keep reading that first paragraph over and over and over....

    maybe I need to eat something and then I'll try to read the rest of the Homily.