Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More Disincarnating Westian Blather

My first encounter with the work of Christopher West was an article he wrote - his Body Language column - that was in our Diocesan newspaper quite a number of years ago. He presented the analogy of a set of people engaged in an orgy, and went on to say that if you were to walk into that room (I'm assuming one would be walking into this room with the "pure gaze of love") and explain to those people thus sexually engaged that the reason they were engaged in that orgy was because they had a hard-wired desire for the Eucharist, they would regard you as quite strange, but that that statement would most certainly be true.

The funny thing is that we are not the ideal or natural receptacle shape for the reception of Christ in the Eucharist, such as would be expressed through the complementarity implied by sexual analogy; and it is precisely this that makes reception of the Eucharist so unutterably beautiful and scandalous: the fact that Christ has nonetheless made this available to us, and consumable to us, by His merit.

No, we are not the complementary shape, or the complementary receptacle for receiving the Eucharist, in the way that two spouses are to each other; yet by the merit of Christ we feed on that which even the angels do not get to consume. Rather it is Christ who has taken on all our shapes of imperfect disfigurement upon Himself, and in having done so, putting them to death in His own death, grants to us the free access to die to ourselves, and thus to receive Him - body, blood, soul and divinity: the living bread. We really are not appreciative enough of what an inadmissible miracle the Eucharist is, that has been admitted to us.

Here's a bit from West:

"...the Eucharist is “the Sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” When we receive the body of Christ into our own, in a mysterious way, like a bride, we conceive new life in us – life in the Holy Spirit."

This is, again, a dis-incarnating of the Eucharist that is at the same time a cancelling out of the truth in analogy. The paradox of analogy is that the dissimilarity of the analogy works with the similarity, not against it. West takes similarity and dissimilarity in analogy and pits them against each other with dissimilarity only threatening to render the analogy obsolete. The result is that similarity comes to mean "same" or the most same that we can find for it, and dissimilarity comes to mean "forever separate", banishing the analogy to exile. There's no upward ascent; just a progeny of mirrors.

But analogy is not a dogged instrument that we lay hands on to find out which way it is the "most similar", or the "least inadequate". Analogy has its rules.

The body of Christ here is that of "impregnator" in relation to us. But the very body of Christ is the very life that we receive and which verily remains in us. By cancelling out the analogy of the "bride and bridegroom" with the burden of sameness, thus foisting the analogy in place of the reality of what it is analogizing (this is West being "incarnational"), West blinds his reader to the reality of the Eucharist, and also to the reception (Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof...). In the process of sounding like he's saying something special and holy, West dis-incarnates.

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