The Eucharist and panentheism: mystical connection with God’s physical outpouring into the universe

“The body of Christ: the bread of heaven

Here’s a different way to think about the phrase “body of Christ”:

Franciscan Richard Rohr recently published The Universal Christ in which he poses questions like:

What if Christ is a name for the transcendent within of every “thing” in the universe?
What if Christ is a name for the immense spaciousness of all true Love?
What if Christ refers to an infinite horizon that pulls us both from within and pulls us forward, too?
What if Christ is another name for every thing—in its fullness?

He further argues:

Christ is more than Jesus’ last name. Jesus is a person whose example we can follow. Christ is a cosmic life principle in which all beings participate. The incarnation is an ongoing revelation of  Christ, uniting matter and spirit, operating as one and everywhere. Together—Jesus and Christ—show us “the way, the truth, and the life” of death and resurrection.

If Christ is the kite, Jesus is the person flying the kite and keeping it from escaping away into invisibility.

If Jesus is the person holding the string, Christ is the great banner in the sky, from whom all can draw life—even if they do not recognize the one flying the kite.

Jesus does not hold the kite to himself as much as he flies it aloft, for all to see and enjoy.

Combine that with the theology of panentheism: “the belief that the divine pervades and interpenetrates every part of the universe and also extends beyond space and time.”

In panentheism, God is viewed as the soul of the universe, the universal spirit present everywhere, which at the same time “transcends” all things created. While pantheism asserts that “all is God”, panentheism claims that God is greater than the universe. Some versions of panentheism suggest that the universe is nothing more than the manifestation of God.

Wikipedia: Panentheism

What if the universe is God’s “body”?

One way to further understand panentheism in process theology is to say the universe is the body of God.  For process theologians the universe is not the body of God in the sense that everything that happens in the universe is a result of divine agency, but rather in the sense that God feels the happenings of the universe much like we feel the happenings in our own bodies: that is, as inside us yet more than us. How can this be understood?  We can compare the universe to an embryo within a womb of a mother, with God as the mother and the universe as the developing embryo. With this in mind the analogy of embryo within a womb is apt in three ways.

Jay McDaniel

Put that all together:

“The body of Christ: the bread of heaven”

One way to metaphorically unpack and paraphrase this liturgical phrase might be something like:

“You are invited to participate in this sensate and physical ritual where you are being mystically united with the out-pouring of the essence of God into the gluons and quarks that make up our physical universe. In other words, this historically/culturally contingent and ultimately arbitrary physical ritual is a way for you to experience the transcendent awe of the Divine Presence in all of creation, including you and your body.

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