Lately I have become more aware of the fragility of life. Maybe that’s what happens when one becomes an abbot. But any of us can look at the newspapers and feel the disarray: mass killings; the breakdown of family and political life; the gradual loss of vigor in the aging and dying process, including our own. There are broken bodies everywhere, both physical and social, and our community is not immune to the reality. Oddly enough, however, I think today’s feast is a perfect fit for the situation. The broken body and poured out blood of Christ is right at home with all this fragility, and it is the perfect remedy.
Why the perfect remedy? Because this feast celebrates the unbreakable covenant God has made with his people. The body and blood of Christ is our way into the sanctuary, that is, into a familiar and constant nearness to God. We pass through the veil, which is the flesh of Christ, in order to rest in the presence of God. When Moses gathered the people together on Mount Sinai, the covenantal sacrifices he offered were meant to prepare them for this intimate closeness to God. That covenant was a foreshadowing of the permanent covenant that we celebrate today, a covenant that leaves out nothing broken.
When Christ came into this world of fragility, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me…As it is written of me in the scroll, ‘Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” His body and his will have become the covenantal means by which God would deal with all the fragility of life. He bound himself to all the brokenness in the world. He said to his disciples, “Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see that I have.” His body is our guarantee of God’s mercy. It is not some kind of virtual reality out there in cyberspace. “Take. Eat. This is my body.” With these words, we, weak as we are, are drawn up into his body, both fragile as seen on the cross, and indestructible as seen in his resurrection.
The paradox, even scandal, for so many is that this mixture of fragility and transcendence comes to us through such a fragile vessel: the Church. An apparently fragile body of believers and doubters becomes the sign of God’s everlasting covenant, where the body of Christ forever resides and feeds us. We cannot remove all the brokenness around us and within us and in our Church. But we can take and eat and trust that God will bring us through this veil into the inner sanctuary where the fragile takes on immortality, forever.
Recent photographs by Brother Brian. This morning's homily by Dom Vincent.