Recently, I was trying to find a quote about the Eucharist—one that contained all the majesty and mystery of the sacrament, that emphasized the absurd truth of it, that would rattle Protestant definitions and lead them home. Something akin to Tolkien’s: “Out of the darkness of my life, so much frustrated, I put before you the one great thing to love on earth: the Blessed Sacrament…There you will find romance, glory, honour, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth, and more than that: Death.”
But then I came across one that stripped away prose and got to the heart of the matter. Flannery O’Connor wrote: “Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.' That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable.”
It was all the defense I was capable of. I so often struggle for words and explanations. I want the sound the defense—to know the philosophy and metaphysics, the teachings of the fathers, the logic, the history, the theology. I want to be able to hold and win debate. But I can’t. I’m not well-versed or well-prepared or well-spoken. But it is important to defend; it is the pinnacle of Christian worship. If it’s a symbol, then most Christians are misguided idolaters; if it’s truly Christ, then it the height of earthly experience.
So maybe I’m not the one to debate. Just stand my ground, even if my voice shakes.
'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.'