Odors

“He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up In the last day. For My flesh Is meat Indeed, and My blood is drink Indeed.”

— John VI : 65,66.

… St. Thomas says: “All the graces which our Savior Jesus Christ in His humanity brought to the whole world, these brings He to each particular man with His holy body and blood. And He grants all the fruit of His death, resurrection and ascension, together with the glory and blessedness of His holy body and blood, soul and divinity.” St. Thomas thus embraces in his teaching about holy Communion the granting of every grace that one may imagine. Take a commonplace comparison, for worldly-minded men view things only after the manner of the senses. Suppose a mighty monarch to whom belonged all the riches, dominion, beauty and pleasures of all mankind taken together, his every heart’s desire gratified perfectly; suppose him to take a man who was the outcast of the human race, covered with the scabs of leprosy, offensive with foulest odors, blind and crippled, and to join him to himself, and that he should make the union absolute, so that he poured into this miserable man his own glorious heart, head, hands, feet and whole being, inner and outer, poured himself thus wholly into this man’s body, so that the body and the members that were the monarch’s have now become the unfortunate man’s own body and members: — would not this be a great and marvelous act of love?

But a thousand times greater, incomprehensibly greater, is the loving union that God gives us in the holy Sacrament. And now it remains for us to discourse of the fruit of this holy Sacrament. That we may well succeed in that task, let us beg our beloved Lord to remedy our deficiencies by His blessed grace. Amen .

Johnannes Tauler, “THIRD SERMON FOR THE FEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI”, The sermons and conferences of John Tauler, of the Order of preachers, surnamed “the illuminated doctor” : being his spiritual doctrine. First complete English translation, with introduction and index, Translated by Walter Elliott and published in 1850.

Johannes Tauler (approximately 1300-1361) was a German mystic. He gives a difficult teaching about communion and some may not be able to accept it.

This passage mentions odors. About 20 years ago I was volunteering in a homeless shelter, and one of the duties back then was to wake people up for breakfast. It was an open room with men and women sleeping in same room with only short privacy screens between them. It took extra effort to wake up one woman, and in response to my startling her, she immediately rose up and exhaled a large gasp of air into my face. I did not like the smell, and immediately became worried about catching TB or a bad cold. Here was I, dutifully doing things for the needy, and I was repulsed by the act of one breathing on me.   Society does tend to shun people with odors, in professional or social settings, and on the street.  We tend to assume the person is going out of their way to make our day a little harder.

Across the centuries and denominations, Christians have held that the sacrament of communion is either a metaphor, as in a memorial meal, or that it actually does something as we truly commune with Jesus.  In either case, Tauler uses the metaphor of odors to show how God willingly seeks out to join us to himself. The offense we have at his metaphor of the king hugging the leper can teach us two things: 1) How much God loves us despite our flaws, and 2) How silly it is for us to shun those around us for smaller reasons.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, let us not be offended by our senses in our brothers and sisters. Give us your heart to embrace the lepers, smelly, blind, crippled, even those who refuse to shower– to show them your love.  Remind us of how much your love is that you embrace such creatures as us.  AMEN. 

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