We have Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesday afternoons and first Fridays in our parish, so after spending some time with the Lord today it hit me how scandalous this devotion is.
By “scandalous” I mean intellectually embarrassing, incredible and problematic.
The word “scandal” in Biblical and theological terms doesn’t mean something saucy and salacious. Mark Shea explains here in a 2015 article from National Catholic Register
“Scandal” comes from the word skandalon in Greek and does not mean “something that hurts your feelings or makes you blush,” but encompasses such things as “a trap, a snare, or a stone that causes you to stumble.” It’s an image that refers to something that makes you fall down as you are walking. In other words, it’s about something that makes you “stumble” as you are trying to “walk with Jesus.” That’s significant because most people today mean “something titillating” when they refer to “scandal.” So when Brad leaves Jen for Angelina, the headlines call that a scandal. But that’s not a scandal in the Christian sense, because nobody is tempted abandon their walk of discipleship to Jesus Christ by what Brangelina are doing.
A “scandal” therefore is a stumbling block. St Paul uses the word in I Corinthians 1:23. “We proclaim Christ crucified, a skandalon (stumbling block) the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.”
The cross is an intellectual stumbling block. “How can you venerate the execution of a criminal?” some might well ask.
The theologians also speak of the “scandal of particularity” when referring to the incarnation of Our Lord. What they mean is that it is intellectually fairly easy to conceive of a deity. One might easily enough conceive of the Judea-Christian deity who is the All Loving Creator of the Universe. One might also conceive of demi-gods–spiritual beings like gods or goddesses, angels or demons. All that exists in the spiritual realm and is easy enough to imagine the theorize about.
But the “scandal of particularity” is that Christians believe this Creator God takes human form and is born of a woman–a particular woman named Mary in a particular town named Nazareth at a particular date in human history. He lived and died on a particular Friday afternoon on a particular hillside outside a particular town in Judea named Jerusalem.
This is where Buddhist and pantheists and deists and Muslims and just about every other group of philosophers, theologians and spiritual people get off the bus.
The idea that the All Knowing, All Loving Creator of the Universe, the source of all that is, the essence of All Being, the Ground of our Existence should become a mewling, puking, pooping baby in a stable is just, well, too much to take. That’s why they keep trying to turn the whole thing into a myth.
A myth? A myth is pretty. A myth is nice. We like religious myths. They are like one step up from Aesop’s fables. They give life meaning. Myths we can handle.
The particularity of the incarnation? That’s a scandal. It’s an intellectual stumbling block.
If all this is true–which it is–one can also understand therefore why the Catholic belief in transubstantiation and the Eucharist adoration which flows from that belief is also a scandal.
That’s why Protestants abhor this doctrine. It is simply too much to accept intellectually –but it follows from the scandal of particularity in the incarnation. If you accept that scandal of particularity, then the scandal of the particularity of the church and the Eucharist must follow.
God was present in physical form in history through his Son Jesus Christ, so it makes perfect sense that he would continue that real presence in the world through the sacrament of his church and the particularity the sacrament of the altar. Indeed he promised that he would be “with us until the end of time”. Shall we imagine that his presence with us until the end of time was only going to be a spiritual presence?
That is what Protestants believe. Catholics believe that his particular presence remains with us until the end of time in the particularity of the church and the particularity of the sacrament and not only in the particularity, but in the particles. That’s why the priest cleanses the vessels so carefully. That’s why we reserve the Blessed Sacrament. That’s why we venerate and adoration the Blessed Sacrament–because Christ is present in the particulars.
Furthermore, this is why the Blessed Sacrament and the Mass is so central to the Catholic faith: because we believe in the particularity of Christ’s presence in the transformed bread and wine, but we also believe in the particularity of answered prayer, the particularity of God’s grace through the other sacraments and the particularity of the justifying and sanctifying grace active and alive in each of the baptized.
The alternative is some sort of abstract “Force” in the universe, but we say “The Lord Be With You” We do not says, “May the Force be with You.”
Luke Skywalker says that.