Bread and Stones

It is an established axiom of liberal theologians that hard cases make good laws.

So perhaps it was inevitable that in Amazonia – where the climate is inimical to wheaten bread, and local custom makes ‘bread’ from the yucca plant – it should be suggested that the Holy Eucharist be celebrated with local produce. Bread, after all, it is claimed, is (in symbolic terms) simply the staple food of the people. Any staple will do. This, at least, seems to be the contention of Jesuit theologian Father Francisco Taborda, who has suggested that the issue be discussed at the forthcoming Amazonian Synod.  In this he was supported by the ubiquitous Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, who is making a bid to be the usual suspect in all matters heterodox.

It will be as well, at this stage, to say why such a provision (even if restricted to Amazonia, and delegated to a decision by a local bishops’ conference) is a non-starter.

Christianity is an historical religion. By that is meant not merely that, like all things else, it has a history, but that it is related to a particular historical moment. Christianity relates to Christ. By that is meant not merely to a ‘Saviour figure’, but to Jesus of Nazareth.  Upon this historicity and particularity hang all its claims to save and to renew.

This applies similarly to the products of Mediterranean agriculture, employed by the Lord’s command, in the sacramental life of the Church. These are not only the particular donnée of the Word-Made-Flesh, but they are integrated into an image system found throughout Scripture and salvation history. They are literally irreplaceable. They cannot be reduced or deduced; they must be learned and accepted.

All this is offensive to liberals, who function on the level of broad generalities. They propose change upon what seem them to be rational principles, well within their competence. In truth those rationalities are not arguments for the reform of the religion. They are arguments for its abandonment.   

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