The Eucharist at Ground Zero
Sep 11, 2019
When we contemplate the life of Christ, we perhaps form images in our mind that are very sanitary, idyllic almost romantic. For example, during Christmas we are bombarded with manger scenes that present the Holy Family in a cave or stable that is beautiful and might even make the front cover of travel magazine.
But for anyone who has ever been in a stable or cave, especially when it is very cold, the smells are not at all pleasant, and there is a chill that eats right down to your bones.
The eternal and infinite God descended from the perfect beauty of Heaven into the filth and stench of a little Palestine town, shivering and crying, having as his first human experience, deprivation. The mighty Creator and King of the universe is bound by the rags of poverty and the cold flesh of a baby’s tiny body. It is called the Scandal of the Incarnation.
As awed as we might sometimes be that God became Man, there is also a sense of extreme discomfort that God is so close, too close, as to become one of us. It seems impressive intellectually, but when played out in the routine of our daily lives, in the struggle of our own salvation, a tension develops
The scandal of the Incarnation is why human history finds itself in a state of continual war, though not necessarily with each other for it is a war that has its origins in Heaven, before man existed.
Some speculate that the reason why Satan and the angels fell is because their test of fidelity and love was the news that a lower and weaker creature than the angels, man, was to be assumed by the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, and they would have to serve and adore this lower creature…God become man.
Some were willing to adore the God-man and through Him all of us, others were not. Fixed in a state of perpetual rage and hatred, the devil and his demons would exact their malice of God upon all of us.
This Sunday is of course the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. What has this day to do with the Scandal of the Incarnation? Aside from the seven numbered structures that made up the World Trade Center complex: no other New York building was destroyed or fatally damaged except for one on 155 Cedar Street, across from the south tower.
There were no victims to be recorded by the press but at Ground Zero God chose to be with His people when the rage of evil fell upon our homeland: 155 Cedar St. was a consecrated Church…where in the Tabernacle the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, His Body, blood, soul and divinity were. 15 years ago, Ground Zero became the Calvary of the United States.
The Eucharist, as alive and as real and as present as any here, more so for it is the God-Man, was crushed and pulverized. One of the most disturbing realities of the Incarnation, is that in His human body, God experienced all the sins and all the evils of all the world for all time…9/11 included.
There is a gnawing sense of discomfort in a God who suffers, because being perfect life and love, the suffering He bears in His human body, the pain in His human heart, is our sin and our evil, made visible for all of history to see upon Christ’s Cross. So many people and places would rather bypass the Scandal of the Cross and sprint right to the comforts and joys of Easter Sunday.
The Scandal of the Incarnation is God’s guaranteed and perpetual presence amongst humanity, nowhere more so than for Catholics who celebrate this incredible reality in the Eucharist. 9/11 reminded us once again not only of God’s presence in the world but the palpable presence of evil, the kind organized by Hell and Satan and enabled by human agents, many of whom are disgusted by the notion that God could become man.
Denying the power, the truth and beauty of the Incarnation leads to savage abuses of the body, for if God did not become Man, and wrap His Divinity in our flesh and blood, than our bodies remain as mere corrupting and aging flesh, and the Eucharist a thin piece of stale bread. It matters not how we treat not only our body but others. So that flying airplanes into buildings or indulging every kind of bodily pleasure is of no consequence.
155 Cedar Street reminds us that evil does not have the last word, for it reminds us of the depths to which Jesus Christ descends to restore and save us. In the Apostles Creed we pray that Jesus descended into Hell so that the powers of evil may be confounded, shown in blinding fashion by our Lord’s triumphant glory, its ultimate defeat. And having been soundly defeated by God in our human flesh, holding within that Body all of ours, forces that Hell to release its prisoners to the Prince of Heaven who leads the dead, all of us, to eternal life.
The Scandal of the Incarnation and the further Scandal of the Eucharist may cause us some discomfort, but what is temporary discomfort compared to eternal healing and eternal joy?