IS THIS GOD?
How could I have had an insufficient understanding of the Holy Eucharist: the central focus of Christian worship?
I wore a mocking, sarcastic scowl, just as I wore a mockingly makeshift priestly robe. I looked as ridiculous as the cowardly lion wearing his “king’s robe” in “The Wizard of Oz,” for I was not a priest, or an ordained clergyman of any sort. I was a non-denominational, Evangelical Protestant, lay missionary. My friend (a former Catholic) and I were making light of the gestures and rituals of a priest saying the Mass. This was in the late 1980s, several years before my surprise 1990 conversion to Catholicism.
My friend took a photograph of this mock liturgy. I still have it. It remains a shameful testament to my former dim comprehension of liturgy and sacramentalism, and to a certain attitude of adolescent silliness when it came to “things Catholic.” It’s an attitude we often see in many of today’s anti-Catholic “ministries” and individuals.
How could I — a serious Christian, with considerable knowledge and appreciation of Church history — have had such an insufficient understanding of the Holy Eucharist: the central focus of Christian worship for fifteen hundred years before the birth of Protestantism? How did I manage to regard liturgy itself as a stale, boring, non-essential “extra” which was by no means necessary to Christian communal fellowship?
Those questions are especially puzzling, because I had a fairly high respect for the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion, or Holy Eucharist. My belief was somewhat akin to John Calvin’s “mystical presence,” which was a step higher than the purely symbolic view which many Protestants hold today. I also didn’t believe that what was taking place at the Last Supper was merely empty ritual, or that its re-creation was a bare “remembrance.” Furthermore, I wasn’t “anti-Catholic” in the sense that I would ever have denied that the Catholic Church was Christian.