Thoughts on the Church

Last night Lime and I were talking about religion and I mentioned the famous In Hoc Signo Vinces story about Constantine. For those who don’t know it, and are too lazy to follow the link, it’s how Christianity (Catholicism specifically) went from being a persecuted minor cult hiding in the catacombs and sewers, to the official state religion of the Roman Empire.

(Interestingly, the Edict of Milan seems to pull the same trick as American conceptions of religious freedom: mentioning only Christianity, and mentioning it over and over again.)

What was fascinating in our discussion, anyway, was her opinion that this event (the making of Christianity into the state religion of the Roman Empire) was terrible, and a mistake. Regardless of our other differing views, we agreed on that. I’ve thought about writing a book in which Constantine lost that battle and Christianity didn’t rise to prominence in the Empire, a kind of alternate-history exploring what else the Church might have become instead of an all-too-fallible, all-too-human institution.

All this came to mind when I ran across this ridiculous story. Anyway, when he said, “Do this in memory of me,” I don’t think he meant for people understand it quite so pedantically.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Church

  1. Dear Gord,

    I understand how the story might look “ridiculous” at first glance. It makes the Church appear to be mean to a nice little girl.

    The priest should have just given her the Precious Blood instead, since Christ is present in both species (bread and wine).

    Catholics believe that the Real Presence (of Christ) exists in the Holy Eucharist, that it is not a symbol, as our Protestant friends believe. [As Flannery O’Connor famously put it, “If it’s just a symbol, to hell with it!”]

    Therefore, what constitutes the Communion wafer is not a subjective matter.

  2. Joshua,

    Do you mean to tell me that when Christ said, “Do this in memory of me” he was speaking specifically of bread, and not of the “act of sharing food together and eating as a community”? I can hardly believe he meant that. What would he intend for societies that don’t eat bread at all? What about those who have no wheat to make bread? Isn’t it likely he didn’t mean bread as much as sharing food together? Come on now, really think about it.

    This is not a case of theological beliefs and the nature of transubstantiation, it’s a case of theological legalism and deference to the Letter of the Word instead of the Spirit of it. Transubstantiation can occur in wheat-bread but not rice-based bread? How about in brown bread? Bread with yeast? When I attended youth services in an alternative youth churchhouse, we were given leavened bread by the priest, who understood that the act of sharing was far more important than the act of eating this or that food product in particular. And that’s where we found what we found in communion: in the act of communion: after all, the name should give a hint as to the meaning of the dictum. And even for the legalist, eating a tiny round bit of wafer isn’t what Jesus called people to do: he said, “Do this in memory of me,” while breaking Passover bread, which is nothing like a modern communion wafer. And Passover was celebrated once a year, who’s to say he didn’t mean for communion to occur once a year? (Which it could have been, except of course it’s more politically and economically expedient for an outfit like the Church to demand weekly attendance and contributions.)

    That said, I had the same thought as you: give the kid some wine and avert the big hullaballoo.

  3. Yes, I do mean all that you said. The Holy Eucharist is much more than just the sharing of a meal, it is the Body of Christ. The Church, in Her teaching authority, has ruled what should constitute the Holy Eucharist.

    Here’s a description of what happened by a priest in the diocese in question: ANOTHER COMMUNION CONTROVERSY.

  4. On what grounds do you think, in initiating the sacrament of Eucharist, that he meant “bread” and not just sharing whatever food you were lucky enough to have? And if so, why do you draw the literalist line at bread, and not “Passover bread in Jerusalem annually at Passover”?

    And no, I’m not asking why the Church says so. I’m asking why you say so. Or, if you are really that subservient to the dictates of the Church as a legalist institution, why you think the Church is correct in doing so?

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