God Stuck in My Teeth
the sublime shock
of knowing I gnaw
and gnash the Body of God
in my mouth;
I swallow Him,
and even my breath
carries the odorous sacrament of God’s eaten Flesh…
Oh, the horror, the beauty,
the terrible humility of God!
I can never fathom the exquisite love,
the infinite self-giving of God
outpouring, emptying Himself into me…
I cannot fathom
that God desires me to endlessly consume Him…
that I am made worthy enough
— I, weak wretch that I am —
to pick God from my teeth.
I wrote the above poem in 2006, when I first became a true believer in the Real Presence (a moment described in It’s Good to Be Here). I’m sharing it here with prayers for the Feast of Corpus Christi, The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. May you be shocked by divine love and your heart be filled with fondness for the Blessed Sacrament — no matter where you are.
On that note, here follows a reflection on Holy Communion, the test of absence, sin, and self-sacrificing love…
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But there must first be fondness before the absence begins, or there is nothing to grow in the heart except forgetfulness.
Our separation from in-person worship and sacramental reception of Holy Communion, in an effort to prevent the spread of Covid 19, has been a test for all of us of what lies in our hearts.
What lies in mine?
Three years ago, when I suffered a prolonged period of multiple illnesses (on top of the debilitation of my disease), I did not attend Mass, and I did not receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion for quite some time. I looked forward to returning to church as a good and beautiful future event for which I would wait with patient love. Within one of the first couple of months of return, I experienced the wonderful recognition of Good News shining down on me and all through me like sunlight through a stained-glass window, as I describe in It’s Good to Be Here. That year was a truly horrible and terribly beautiful year in my life, weakening and strengthening me with emptiness for fullness.
Shouldn’t a year of global pandemic be the same?
We take many things for granted in life. Easy access to a Catholic church, for example, and the ability to physically attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass weekly or even daily. Not all of us have this blessing. I often don’t have easy access to physical attendance, because nothing is easy for me physically. What was easy for me when the lockdown began was to participate in the Mass spiritually, because I have a televised Mass programmed to record every Sunday on my DVR in case I’m too weak to physically attend. That’s how normal this abnormal situation of absence feels to me.
You, too, dear reader, could be relegated to your home for weeks or months or even years because of an illness or injury that could befall you. And your parish might not be able to send a Eucharistic minister to you every week. Or you could live in a faraway country where you would have to travel on foot for several days to reach a Catholic Church, like many faithful. You would need to learn to be patient then. You would need to learn to wait for a hard-working priest to fulfill his long rounds and get to you. You would need to learn to love fully in absence.
I, too, take things for granted. I could live in a time or place where participation in the Mass through television or internet was impossible. Then I, too, would need to learn another way to attend, receive, serve — and love — in physical absence.
If you are someone who has painfully felt the inability to be physically present before the altar of the Lord and receive the Body and Blood of Christ beneath the sacramental veil, then I invite you to ask yourself the question that I’m asking myself. “Has my heart been growing fonder for the self-sacrificing love of Christ in the Eucharist during this absence?” If it has, my dear reader, then I believe that you want to imitate Christ and that you don’t believe the vulnerable should sacrifice so that you can receive the Eucharist as usual with no sacrifice of your own.
You may feel like you’re being stripped. But God knows.
The Truth of My Heart
In these trying times, I’m being shown what I am unwilling to do, I’m being shown that my love for God is not self-sacrificing, not truly self-giving, not real love. Not yet, anyway. (With Christ, there is always hope.)
You see, in this time of absence, I have broken a promise. Now, before I’m able to receive Christ in sacramental communion, I will first need the sacrament of reconciliation to heal the wounds I have caused to myself and the hurt I have inflicted upon the all-loving Sacred Heart of Jesus through sin. Maybe you are smiling gently at me as you think that I couldn’t have committed any real kind of sin. Don’t be fooled.
I broke a sacred promise. A sacred covenant between me and God, which I willingly entered into, was minimized by me for one little moment of self-centeredness. And in that one little moment I learned that I still love my finite self more than infinite God. My affections are out of order, my appetites are still stronger than my honor, stronger than my commitment to faithful love — than my devotion to putting divine will first and becoming who I am created to be.
This pain needs salving.
I don’t like Confession. I don’t want to speak the words that I need to speak, to honestly describe myself out loud in unflattering, base detail. I have long kept my promise so that I may be clean of heart and receive Jesus beneath the sacramental veil without the need for Confession. But knowing that I wouldn’t be able to receive Holy Communion for several months, maybe longer, the sin-remedy of Reconciliation before Communion was a seemingly faraway thing — less pressing than what I wanted in that moment. Reconciliation and Communion were not taken into account when I made my choice.
And then I saw, miserably, the true state of my heart. In this time of waiting, I saw how easily I forget. I was shown the true disorder of my love and was brought, through the grace of contrition and the mercy of God, to a deeper level of relationship with Him. I desire to grow in fondness — I do want to love God above all else.
The divine sanctity of Holy Communion is too profound and unfathomably, terribly beautiful to take for granted.
I am not entitled.
I am chosen.
May I always respond with patient hope in faithful love, no matter how I am tested.
© 2020 Christina Chase
Feature Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.