Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sacrifice & Consumption

I've been thinking about the intimate bond between what we offer to God and what we eat. Seems to me that the Lenten call to abstain from meats is its own passage through the land east of Eden. In this period, we reveal our inner Cain, if you will. We eat what Cain offered and refrain, or reserve more accurately, from eating Abel's offering, the perfection of which is Christ. We throw into sharp relief the True Offering, the one true Sacrifice of Christ's Body and Blood, by exclusively consuming the imperfect gifts of Cain, fruit of the earth, rather than the flesh and blood of creatures.

So when I prepare the lentil soup, and think of the steak I could be having, I draw an equation between what Cain offers to God and what I offer to my mouth which is the entry point of our true offering of Christ. Instead of the usual mixing of Abel and Cain's sacrifices in our diet, we separate them during Lent to highlight the recapitulation of salvation history. We eat Cain's food; Abel's food diminishes to make way for the Father's food - the reconciliation of the two sacrifices - grain/bread becomes flesh and blood, not just of any animal, but of the God-Man himself. But even my mouth is but a cipher of my senses, my bodily nature with all its appetites and concupiscence. So as I behold the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the Mass, I am witnessing my conversion from Cain to Abel, which itself mirrors our conversion from Adam to Christ. I never thought of fasting this way.

Am I killing Abel over and over again when I consume unto the flesh and unto sin? What we take into our bodies, we offer to God. This is why purity and virginity are marks of holiness. I'm sure the Girardians have made plenty of speculative hay out of all this, but simpleton me is just encountering this personally for the first time.