Sunday, June 22, 2014

On Corpus Christi: "When you have loved, really loved, have you not wanted to become bread for your beloved?"

Blessed Feast of Corpus Christi, everyone.

I deeply appreciate Carlo Carretto, and think his spiritual writing ought to be better known.  I was glad to be able to include a clip on how radical the idea of "Corpus Christi" is, through his eyes and work.  From the book, ch 3:

...An even more exacting reality is the Eucharist as the chosen self-limitation of God.  As modern desert father Carlo Carretto said, “Either Christ is a raving madman, or He is truly omnipotent and merciful Love, who has found the most direct road to our hearts, a road that will not frighten or scare us, a road that is as simple as could be.”[1] [s2] Sharing his very life—body and soul, humanity and divinity--through the humble, sustaining consumption of transubstantiated bread and wine is as divinely self-limiting as one can possibly imagine. But do imagine, as Carlo Carretto does, what that tells us about God:
 Why do you find it strange that I should have wanted to become bread through love? Have you no experience of love? When you have loved, really loved, have you not wanted to become bread for your beloved? … You can argue about the Eucharist as much as you like, but on the day love really takes hold of you, perhaps you will understand that Jesus is not a fool or a madman. To be able to become bread! To be able to nourish the whole world with his flesh and blood! I am terribly selfish and fearful when faced with suffering, but if I could become bread to save all humanity, I would do it. If I could become bread to feed all the poor, I would throw myself into the fire at once. No, the Eucharist is not something strange: It is the most logical thing in the world, it is the story of the greatest love ever lived in the world, by a man named Jesus.[2]
 If we cannot understand the Eucharist through the strange logic of love, we cannot understand the incarnation. The Eucharist is a natural extension of the Incarnation of God. It is also a divine extension of the law of love: “You shall not … stand by idly when your neighbor's life is at stake” (Lev 19:16).[3]

[1] Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1974), pg. 113.
[2] Ibid., 115-6. Also, as my colleague Jeff Tranzillo noted, Carretto’s insight could be extended fruitfully to the “confinement” of the Eucharistic Jesus in the tabernacle, waiting for union with us.
[3] The Leviticus passage is from the New English Translation.  In his first post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Pope Benedict offers a beautiful reflection on how the self-giving of the Eucharist, understood as Carretto describes, draws humanity into Jesus’ gift of self to the Father, altering the very dynamic of the world. “The remembrance of his perfect gift consists not in the mere repetition of the Last Supper, but in the Eucharist itself, that is, in the radical newness of Christian worship. In this way, Jesus left us the task of entering into his ‘hour.’ The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. (21) Jesus ‘draws us into himself.’ (22) The substantial conversion of bread and wine into his body and blood introduces within creation the principle of a radical change, a sort of ‘nuclear fission,’ to use an image familiar to us today, which penetrates to the heart of all being, a change meant to set off a process which transforms reality, a process leading ultimately to the transfiguration of the entire world, to the point where God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).” Sacramentum Caritatis #11.


If you are interested in buying a signed copy of the book, I have a few left.  You can purchase one for $25 plus shipping at  However, I am on vacation visiting family, and will not be able to mail any out until July 7.  Blessings on your summer!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

"The story that you should have no story but the story you chose when you had no story is a lie."

I'm a big fan of Stanley Hauerwas' work. Even when I disagree with his positions, the way he puts things never fails to make me think, and think hard. He spoke at the Fifth Summer Institute of Theology and Disability today, and delivered this line--one of his best.

But what does it mean? Hauerwas argues that we cannot understand our lives--or Christianity--outside of narrative. We are all part of the Christian story, and we all have individual stories that comprise it. This basic idea is under attack, he says, when the Enlightenment argues that we have no story. We create ourselves, same the modernists. We're blank slates. Further, the idea of a universal story is hogwash, according to the Enlightenment. Modernists say we're making up our backstory and plot as we go, out of the shards that we pick up along our way.

Naming the Enlightenment self-creation project as a lie is particularly important when we engage with those who have been handed a challenging story: people who live with disabilities. It is only honest to say that disability is part of the story. None of us can whisk that reality away--unless we try to prevent people with disabilities from being born. And that's not prevention, that is murder. That is the reality of the story.

One of the ways I think Hauerwas' theology of disability is in fruitful complementarity with the Theology of the Body is that story is not possible without relationship.  John Paul II begins, first of all, not with ontology, but with sacred story: the creation of Adam and Eve.  But the point he draws out of Genesis is that human beings are created as a sign that points to God's desired union with us, and with a spousal meaning that speaks to our need for fulfillment in relationship.  There is no story without relationship.  It is part of the plot.  It is much of the characterization.  Relationship and our need of it makes the story matter, and serve as more than popcorn entertainment.  The human being created for relationship is the heartbeat of every story, including God's story.

The other way Hauerwas' theology of disability is in fruitful complementarity with the Theology of the Body is in their common conviction that God is the writer of this story, and it is told through the Church.  It may seem odd to need to affirm that God is the writer of the story (isn't it obvious?  Apparently not to modernity), and its true that free will has its role.  But not all Christians seem to hold that God is in charge of the story.  Our free will is part of the story, but it is granted to us: free will is not the core principle.  God is in charge and desires to shape a story that brings us to Himself.  And the Church serves to witness to that, to foster that!  It is a story told through the Church and is the Church.  And what is the Theology of the Body but a witness to the mysterious relationship--story, if you prefer--between Christ and the Church?  That, in fact, is the whole point of Ephesians 5, according to John Paul II....

Our story is the story of Adam and Eve.  It is the story of a humanity loved, created, designed, broken, ashamed, confused, and wanting.  It is the story of Jesus Christ.  It is the story of the Church as it unfolds under the power of the Spirit, and the sin of its members, through the centuries.  It is a story that we take on faith will end with the Second Coming.  And our smaller stories (including the disability stories) cannot be ignored or erased or eliminated.  They may be tragic and difficult, or they may be triumphant, or both, or neither.  But they all make up the storied fabric of the Church.  To say otherwise is to deny reality, live a lie, and reject the Author, God.

Just some thoughts after a frankly overwhelming conference.


Interested in buying the book?  I do refer to Hauerwas' work (more clearly than I just did above!).  Links to buy a signed copy, a regular new paperback copy, or the ebook are listed here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Lo and behold! ToB Extended is now an ebook!

Theology of the Body, Extended is now an ebook!  It's even in color if you get the ebook version (for a couple pieces of art and the formatting design.)  If you use ITunes, you can buy it there for $15.99.

This guy just found out the ebook was available.  Well, no, actually he saw a Cinnabon store.
For those of you who like paperbacks (that's me too), I still have a handful signed and available here, and of course you can buy it through the publisher, Lectio Publishing, or other online/on land retailers.  Of course, it is a little more expensive, but as my brother-in-law said upon first seeing it, it's a whole lot of words!

More seriously, thanks for the positive feedback, everyone.  If you would be so inclined to write a short review of the book on Amazon or Goodreads, that would help Lectio (and the visibility of the book) a great deal.  It's easy to do and makes Amazon's logarithms happy...or something like that. 

Next week I am going to be at the Summer Institute for Theology and Disability in Dallas.  If you are attending, please say hello--I'd love to meet you.

Peace these early summer days!  -- Susan