Joos van Wassenhove (active c.1460-80), The Institution of the Eucharist
c.1474; Oil on panel; Gallery of the Marches, Ducal Palace, Urbino, Italy
Today we celebrate the feast the focuses our attention on the Eucharist: The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, or Corpus Christi. As my son sat next to me at mass today, periodically pressing his body up against mine or putting his hand on my arm, I thought about how in human experience, bodies matter. Children love to sleep with their parents or with their brothers and sisters for the sense of closeness and belonging. The marital act is all about emotional and physical bonding. In pregnancy, the mother is so close to the child that she carries the child physically within her. Fathers will never know that kind of closeness with their children.
All of this help us to understand the Incarnation and the Eucharist. In the Old Testament God dwelt in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple as the shekinah. God thought, How can I draw closer to these people? And of course, the answer was, By becoming one of them. Hence the Incarnation, where Mary carried Jesus for ten months. As the new English translation of the Nicene Creed will say, Christ "was incarnate of the Virgin Mary," for a man can be born of a woman, but only a god can be incarnate, that is, the divine spirit becomes enfleshed as a human. We remember the beginning of the Gospel of John through our prayers of the Angelus: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 using the term "Emmanuel," meaning, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23).
One might be tempted to think that incarnation was sufficient. However, God thought, How can I continue to live up to the name Emmanuel - "God with us"?