Friday, December 22, 2006

Desire of all nations, come!

I am often asked why I became Roman Catholic. One part of my conversion was falling in love with the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. I had always loved the physicality of faith and as a Lutheran Pastor I had relished it. Light the candles, put on the alb and stole. Swing the incense and use the holy water, but not too much or too often, lest someone accuse you of being a “Papist.”

I had all of the “playschool” Catholic accoutrement. I used the outward trappings, and also prayed a daily office. Fiirst it was the Episcopalian (BCP) then Lutheran (LBW) and finally in the later years the Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. But even that was never enough.

Slowly, over a period of years, I conceived an intense desire to spend time with Jesus as He was present in the Eucharist. I began to visit the local Catholic Church, being careful to park in the adjacent public library parking lot so as to not arouse parishioner suspicions. I spent some lovely afternoons praying quietly with our Lord. I pondered what to do with this underground, if not illicit, love affair.

I had more or less always conceived of myself as an Evangelical Catholic, a code name for “High Church” Lutherans. Then I did eventually become Roman Catholic in 1998. But it wasn’t until Valentine’s Day 2003 that I understood the visceral connection between the physicality of the Eucharist and my own spirituality.

I “happened to” attend a conference on “Theology of the Body” led by Christopher West. I can’t quite explain here how John Paul II’s Theology of the Body connects- it’s way too complicated. Suffice it to say that I realized that my love affair with the Eucharist is really part of a larger physical connection with Divine Self-Giving Love. A true Desire… a physical desire met by God’s physical, “real” embodied provision of the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, of His Son given for us.

This human clay aches for an affirmation of our physicality and its true goodness. The Eucharist is God’s ringing affirmation of that embodiment. So, our Advent waiting places within each of us the Desire of all. The Feast of the Nativity marks the beginning of its fulfillment. Our daily worship at God’s Altar applies that self-giving love to our hungry souls and bodies.

O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of all,
you are the cornerstone that binds two into one.
Come, and save poor humanity,
whom you fashioned out of clay.

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