My thoughts and reflections on my Catholic Faith, Fulton Sheen, the problem of suffering, and books

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sheen: the Last Supper and the Agony in the Garden

"The Last Supper":
"Why did Our Blessed Lord use bread and wine as the elements of the Memorial?  First of all, because no two substances in nature better symbolize unity than bread and wine.  As bread is made of a multiplicity of grains of wheat, and wine is made from a multiplicity of grapes, so the many who believe are one in Christ.  Second, no two substances in nature have to suffer more to become what they are than bread and wine.  Wheat has to pass through the rigors of winter, be ground beneath the Calvary of a mill, and then subjected to purging fire before it can become bread.  Grapes in their turn must be subjected to the Gethsemane of a wine press and have their life crushed for them to become wine.  Thus do they symbolize the Passion and Sufferings of Christ, and the condition of Salvation, for Our Lord said unless we die to ourselves we cannot live in Him.  A third reason is that there are no two substances in nature which have more traditionally nourished man than bread and wine.  In bringing these elements to the altar, men are equivalently bringing themselves.  When bread and wine are taken or consumed, they are changed into man's body and blood.  But when He took bread and wine, He changed them into Himself."[1]

"The Agony in the Garden":
"What Our Blessed Lord contemplated in this agony was not just the buffeting of soldiers, and the pinioning of His hands and feet to a bar of contradiction, but rather the awful burden of the world's sin, and the fact that the world was about to spurn His Father by rejecting Him, His Divine Son.  What is evil but the exaltation of self-will against the loving will of God, the desire to be a god unto oneself, to accuse His wisdom as foolishness and His love as want of tenderness?  He shrank not from the hard bed of the Cross, but from the world's share in making it.  He wanted the world to be saved from committing the blackest deed of sin ever perpetrated by the sons of men--the killing of Supreme Goodness, Truth, and Love."[2]

                [1]Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1958), 326.
                [2]Ibid., 378-9.

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