Friday, December 18, 2009

Baptized into Eucharist, Conclusion


The Eucharist is the central sign and practice of the body of Christ. The normal way of becoming a member of that body is through baptism. To reserve Eucharist for those who are baptized does not limit God. As Luther insisted, Jesus – risen and ascended – is present everywhere and can surprise us in our cabbage soup if he so desires. While he is free to surprise anyone anywhere, the promise the Church claims is that he will not surprise us by not being present to his body, the Church, as Redeemer and Judge in the waters of baptism and in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. God is free to surprise us by working outside the norms as has surely happend with some who have participated in the Eucharist before being baptized (cf. Take This Bread by Sara Miles).

Because God remains free to surprise us there is no need for hyper-vigilance to protect the purity of the Eucharist. But if we are not to be hyper-vigilant, that doe not mean that distinctions and norms are irrelevant or unnecessary. The discipline of reserving Eucharist for those already baptized is not about protecting anyone’s purity. It is about maintaining the very boundaries of identity that make a place in which to be formed as a community that can actually practice hospitality.

It is also about being honest about who we are called to be as the members of the body of Christ, what kind of God we have gotten caught up with. It is about being respectful of the real otherness of those who are not yet committed to the loyalties and commitments of this communion.

The body of Christ is a Eucharistic community with all that that entails and we are baptized into Eucharist.


Bob Kusiolek said...

Thanks for a nice conclusion to your series on the Eucharist. It is, indeed, of utmost importance to consider what (who) we are talking about when we talk about God. God is our covenant partner and we are privileged to participate in the Eucharist. Also, as Christians, we can genuinely hope that others will someday commit to the loyalties you mentioned, for our God is a gracious God - this God in the highest who has turned toward humanity.

A. D. Hunt said...

Fr. Gunter,

Would it be alright if I blogged a post recapping this series?

Matt Gunter said...

You are welcome to do so, Tony.

A. D. Hunt said...

Consider it done.

Anna Bendiksen said...

Peace, Matt.

I agreed with this piece until I became a chalice bearer in a parish that does open communion.

It's God in the chalice.

People are hungry for God.

What have I missed?

in Christ,

Matt Gunter said...

Thanks, Anna. I appreciate your sharing your experience as a chalice bearer.

I acknowledge that there is an immediate emotional appeal to "open communion" that is hard to argue against.

I agree that people are hungry for God. And I appreciate that coming to communion is one way that might be expressed. I have not and would not turn anyone away from the altar or refuse anyone who came to receive.

Still, I am convinced that communion without the expectation of baptism is a grave mistake. At the risk of simply rehearsing what I've written:

It minimizes the reality that Communion is not just about our desire for communion with God but is also about communion with the the body and all the obligations that go with that. As such, CWOB does nothing to challenge and simply reinforces individualism.

It also plays to the consumer mentality into which we have all been so thoroughly catechized.

Because it does nothing to challenge the above two tendencies and because it does not offer a challenge to a deeper loyalty, the practice is not just about how the church engages the unbaptized, it about how the church understands itself. And I fear that it reveals that we understand ourselves to be a more or less free association of individuals on individual "faith journeys" of which Jesus and the church are helpful but nonessential accessories. Among other things this undermines our ability to be a true contrast body and leaves us unable finally to resist the powers of the age, e.g., those represented by Wall Street, Madison Avenue, the Pentagon, political parties/ideologies or the appetites and passions within us which they co-opt and reinforce. In purely sociological terms, a robust body needs robust boundaries to flourish. robust body

Perhaps I am just a conservative or traditionalist on this, but given that the link between baptism and Eucharist has been the Church's conviction from the beginning makes me unwilling to change the discipline and theology without better arguments than I have heard.

And, in any event, I have taken vows as a priest- and am about to take more intensive ones - "to be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Christ as this church has received them, "which certainly includes the canon on baptism and Eucharist. I will not break that vow. And would not even if I was otherwise persuaded about its merits.

As you know, I have pretty strong convictions about this.