Saturday, January 21, 2017

Infused With The Blood Of Christ

Fr. Dale Matson

I was put on a blood thinner to avoid clots forming in my stents recently inserted to open arteries to my heart. I didn't know it at the time but I had three preexisting ulcers in my stomach that began bleeding. The next thing I knew, I was in the emergency room because of blood loss. The following day a Gastroenterologist cauterized my ulcers and stopped the bleeding.  During my GI bleeding, where I lost half my blood, there was a “Catch 22” situation. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Catch 22”. It is a difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. I was in danger of bleeding to death but if I was infused with blood, the infused blood could form a clot in my stents inserted to expand my narrowed arteries and I would have a heart attack. Additionally, there are other dangers from contaminants in some donated blood.
The ancients believed that the life was in the blood. “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.” (Leviticus 17:11) When Cain murdered his brother Abel, God said, ““What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:10) When the Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus with a lance, His blood mixed with water flowed onto the ground. (John 19:34)
When the wine and bread are consecrated, it then is His body and blood. Christ is truly present in the elements of bread and wine. Following my hospitalization, as I knelt at the rail to receive the body and blood of Christ, my eyes began to tear up because I had an Epiphany of sorts myself. I realized that while I couldn’t receive donated blood from a human I would be infused with the blood of Christ. His perfect blood sacrificed, substituted and replaced what was missing in me. His perfect life substituted for my sinful life. When the cup is offered, the Eucharistic minister states, “The blood of Christ; the cup of salvation.” “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54)
Martin Luther stated in his Large Catechism, “Those who are aware of their weakness, desire to be rid of it and long for help, should regard and use it only as a precious antidote against the poison they have in them. For here in the Sacrament you are to receive from the lips of Christ the forgiveness of sin, which contains and brings with it the grace of God and the Spirit with all His gifts, protection, shelter and power against death, the devil and all misfortune.”
While St. Paul referred to our body as a temple, he also referred to it as an earthly tent. Perhaps it is better to think of our bodies as a tent, which is more fragile and less durable than a temple. St. Paul said in Romans, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) Yet we cling to our lives with such tenacity. Why can’t I see like John the Baptist who said, “He must become greater and I must become less.” (John 3:30) Why can’t we say, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. (Revelation 12:10)
Am I there yet? Am I completely submitted to the perfect will of God? No. It may be far better to depart and be with Christ as St. Paul stated but he stayed for the sake of his brothers and sisters. I would rather for the time being stay than depart.
This is a severe testing for me and I often think of the verse, “No trial has overtaken you that is not distinctively human; and God is faithful; He will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear, but with the trial will also provide the way through, so that you will be able to endure it.” (Mounce)
I am privy to the Daughters of the Holy Cross Prayer list and realize how many others in our faith community have been pushed to the very limits in their suffering. Yet prayer held them aloft when they reached those limits. How many times have God’s angels surrounded us and like Christ, the angels have ministered to us in our own wilderness of suffering? How many times has the Holy Spirit spoken to a health care provider and inspired them with treatment options they would not have considered or guided the hands of a surgeon?
This suffering is not just of a physical nature. Some suffer primarily from emotional brokenness where a torn shoelace in the morning means the beginning of another day of despair. I asked my cardiologist to take me off a blood pressure medication because I could feel myself slipping into a depression, which can be a side effect of a beta-blocker.
The popular “Prosperity gospel” would have us living the triumphant life. They would say we should be prosperous and live the abundant life but the Christian through suffering lives the transcendent life. Christ baptized us with the Spirit and Fire and our suffering is that fire. Christians are yoked to Christ and share in His suffering. Christians live mostly at the foot of the cross not the pinnacle of the temple.
As St. Paul stated, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” I am weak from anemia and it is only too easy to hyper reflect. Hyper reflect means to obsessively focus on myself, yet my love and compassion for others has increased. It is so much easier now to say to others, I love you and to end correspondence with "love". To have the mind of Christ is to have the heart of Christ.
Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” I am absolutely certain that God’s highest priority for humans is the salvation of our souls. I believe that He would destroy my body to save my soul. At some point, there will be no more pride no more fear, no more anger, no more pain. As stated in Revelation, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
What has God been saying to me lately? What really counts? Not the latest national news. “Get in touch with your friends, your family, and members of your faith community. Listen to them. Get out of yourself. Tell them that you love them. Tell them you will pray for them.” This is my new action plan for the future. Maybe I will live another decade or die tomorrow but these exhortations from God need to be added to my activities of daily living (ADL). How about you? Amen. 



Alto en chamade said...

"The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee, and be thankful."

As a LEM in my ACNA parish, even in a Rite II celebration, I use the old PB language when administering the chalice, with my evangelical rector's blessing, because I believe it more completely shows Jesus' sacrifice and love for us than the simple "Blood of Christ, cup of salvation" from the book of alternative services of the church I left behind.

You would be surprised at the number who remain at my station to hear as many of the words as they can before I nod to show they can move on. (Most in my small parish came to Anglicanism from other churches, some from no church at all.)

I believe that there is a longing for the PB that Cranmer gave us centuries ago, as it is as alive now as it was in his day. Would that ACNA come to its senses and realize that it doesn't need to deal in today's vernacular to appeal to the masses.

Dale Matson said...

During the Eucharist, the celebrant says the following,
The gifts of God for the people of God. [Take them in remembrance
that Christ died for you and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with
When I am the celebrant, I do not include the optional bracketed words. To me those words imply that Christ is only symbolically present not truly present in the consecrated elements of bread and wine.