FIRST MATE UPDATE:
Ahoy there, Mates! This is Captain Tom of the good ship Cataract again, with a further report on the condition of First Mate Elizabeth. The second cataract surgery went fine this morning. While we were ashore, we went out to lunch, then home for a nap. And a second nap. That feel-good juice they give you takes a while to wear off. Tomorrow will be the post-op visit, and then another doctor visit in a couple of weeks to see about glasses.
The First Mate now has two of those bug-eye patches. I’d ask her to wear them both for a picture to include with the next post but I think Madam Butterfly would mutiny.
So far, things look good (pun intended).
HOW MUCH OF THE INFINITE DOES IT TAKE?
It’s Holy Communion time at Mass and it’s time to receive the cup. Rather than having deep meditative thoughts on the Mystery at hand, my first thought is usually: “DON’T DROP IT!!” followed by wondering just how much of the contents to take. A quick mental calculation comparing the amount in the cup to the length of the line behind me comes up with an answer somewhere between a very small taste and a reasonable sip. No draining the cup, thank you!
So this brings up the question: when dealing with the sacramental and infinitely Holy Blood of Jesus, just how much do you need? Or is quantity even relevant here?
Answers to theological questions can come from the strangest places. Several years ago the First Mate and I were in Ashland, Oregon for the annual Shakespeare Festival. One of the offerings was The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlow (first published in 1604), the classic tale of selling your soul to the Devil for temporary earthly gains.
Dr. F was a highly successful, yet dissatisfied, medieval scholar yearning for unlimited knowledge and the pleasures of the world. Casting aside the Holy Scriptures and anything else to do with God, he turned to the occult. One day, while trying to summon spirits, to his great surprise one appeared. The spirit introduces himself as Mephistopheles, a messenger from the Dark Lord Down Below, who had noticed what a powerful magician Dr. F had become and wanted to make him an offer.
The “offer” was that, in return for the Doctor’s soul, Mephistopheles would become the Doctor’s servant and grant any wish or desire the Doctor might have for a period of 24 years. After that time period payment would be due. Dr. F is blinded by the prospect of what he would be able to learn and do, and so accepts the offer.
And Mephistopheles comes thru on his part of the deal. You couldn’t have a more obedient or useful servant. Dr. F gets everything he could want or ask for. But strangely, as time goes on, life becomes less and less satisfying. Finally, as the 24th year is coming to a close, the stark truth of what he has done and what it means starts to sink in.
Things really come to a crisis on the very last day, as the last hours tick away toward midnight. In a long soliloquy (at least in this version of the story) Dr. F recounts the absolute finality of the pact he has made with the Devil. There is no power on earth that can break that contract. But then, probably remembering his earlier days with Holy Scripture, he realizes that there is one agent in the universe that can break this bondage – the Blood of Christ.
As he agonizes, Dr. F makes the statement that – and here is the lesson we have been getting to – even the smallest possible drop of the Blood of Christ is the most powerful thing in the entire universe, and is his only way of escaping his impending damnation.
Dr. F knows the truth, but in the end, as midnight approaches, the life he has led will not allow him to accept salvation. The clock strikes midnight and Mephistopheles appears, but this time he is the master and Dr. F is the slave. Thoroughly defeated, Dr. F is led away to his doom.
So, according to a 16th century playwright, quantity of Christ’s Blood does not matter. The smallest possible drop of The Blood is still the most powerful thing in the entire universe. Sounds like it doesn’t matter how much I drink from the cup at Communion time. Just be sure to leave enough for the others still coming.
Is there another resource to collaborate the opinion of a writer from long ago who was probably more interested in the dramatic effect Dr. F’s struggles would have than on their theological correctness. How about Scripture?
One of the greatest types in the Old Testament is the mamma in the wilderness sent daily by God to feed the people of Israel. It is a common subject of various writers in both the Old and New Testaments. Jesus often makes direct comparisons to this manna as he speaks of himself. Could there be a clue as to sufficient quantity here?
Every morning the Israelites were to go out and collect the days’ supply of manna. Here is what we can learn from the Book of Exodus Chapter 16:
17 The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. 18 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed.
One miracle here is that the Israelites actually did what they were told, which wasn’t always the case. But the part that is important to this discussion I underlined above. In essence it says that, as they were being obedient, they couldn’t take too much and they couldn’t take too little. God made it come out right for each person’s need.
The lesson here, I believe, is that if we approach the fulfillment of the manna type – the Eucharistic Table of the Lord – with the proper disposition, the size of the host we receive or the amount of the consecrated wine we take doesn’t really matter. The smallest amount of the Infinite is still infinite. Marlow was correct.
So, you can’t take too little. You can’t take too much. God makes it all come out right. He indeed does all things well!
The Right Amount Tom