"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Communion vs. Consumption

Over at Cosmos, Liturgy, Sex, theologian David Delaney has a fascinating post on a distinction which I'd call that between the attitude of holiness and the attitude of sin. The whole thing, though but a sketch of what could be a massive project, is well worth reading.

Basically, Delaney's idea is that holiness is about communion, in which the good of life is received and returned as a gift; sin is about consumption, in which the good of life is taken and hoarded. The first sin, which was one of consumption, created a situation in which man could be restored to communion with God only by a different kind of consumption.


Adam and Eve’s fall is depicted in terms of consuming the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. This is what I mean. Though it is not a necessary result, creation arises out of the overflowing of Trinitarian Love, from total Self-gift. Created being, because it’s archetype is in God, must reflect God’s perfection in some manner. The Early Church Fathers, especially Pseudo-Dionysius, characterized the manner the entire cosmos reflects its Trinitarian archetype as the eternal cosmic return to the Father, where all that was given by the Father will ultimately all return to Him. They saw this truth firmly revealed in Scripture when all creation will be recapitulated in Christ.

Adam and Eve, who on behalf of all of visible creation, were called to freely complete this eternal return after the archetype of Trinitarian love, by totally giving themselves back to God in trusting thanksgiving for their existence. This free act of total self-gift was destroyed when instead of trusting in God and receiving as a gift all He intended to give them for their happiness, they decided they needed to “take” instead. They were tempted to believe God was withholding from them something that they needed for their fulfillment, for their ultimate happiness. This taking seems to be presented as the antithesis of the gift. Instead of returning themselves to God and bringing forth a communion with Him, they chose another path. Notice, they not only take, but they consume. Consumption has now replaced communion as the dominant mode by which mankind is motivated and, thereby, so often deceived into replacing the true good with apparent goods.

With the Fall, we lost original communion, original grace. God reconciled this grave situation through a new creation. To transcend the infinite gulf between God and man, a rupture opened up by an act of consumption, indicating self-trust at the expense of divine trust, God became Man. On behalf of all creation, the God-Man returned to the Father all He was given, which included His human life. The Cross is, par excellence, a manifestation of Trinitarian love. It is also the singular saving act of human total self-gift because it has an infinite character due to its having been performed by a divine Person. With the Cross, humanity now has renewed access to divine nature. However, this access comes only through each person’s incorporation into the Incarnation. We must become new creations as Jesus told Nicodemus and as St. Paul advised, through Baptism. Baptism incorporates us into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church. In the Church we are wedded to divinity through the Bridegroom and through which we become what we eat. We are the Mystical Body of Christ because we consume Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. Only by this act of consumption can we have real communion.

Such a way of thematizing the Fall and the Redemption is especially relevant in our consumerist society, in which many babies are killed in the womb for convenience and people themselves are in danger of becoming commodities.

Hat tip to Fr. Al Kimel.

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