“The doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present—body and blood, soul and divinity—under the appearances of bread and wine. Many Protestants attack this doctrine as unbiblical…”
Though I am not a practicing Catholic I understand the need to believe in in Jesus’ “Real Presence”. Through the consecrated wine and bread we enter into a sensual relationship with Christ: he is taken in through the senses and consumed by the body. It seems important to add intimacy and sensuality to faith. It infuses life into our relationship with Christ by grounding it in something we can touch.
While I can understand the attack on the literalism of the Eucharist, I also feel protective of it. I despise the way religion asks that we compartmentalize ourselves: body and soul; good and bad; purity and sexuality.
There is so much sexuality in the confusing, sprawling, awful, contradictory mess of Catholism. Some of it is beautiful. Much of it is disturbing. Christ hangs near naked on the cross. Statues and paintings of the Virgin Mary depict a perfect nurturer: one at whose breasts we would all love to suckle. And how did she become “The Virgin Mary”? She was told (not asked) by an angel that she would conceive God’s child. I am certain that many have derived erotic pleasure through this imagery whether they realize it or not.
I understand the need to believe in Jesus’ Real Presence because I understand loneliness and the need for touch and presence. Harlow’s experiments prove the importance of contact comfort. It is not enough for Jesus to be something we hold in our imagination or through our “virtuousness”. Sometimes we need to get down and dirty. The Eucharist and all of the imagery allows us to receive a vicarious contact comfort. It grounds something that would otherwise exist only in our imaginations. (I do not believe that this was the Church’s conscious intention. Indeed, I believe I would be scorned for everything I am saying.)
I do not intend to partake of the Eucharist (even when we get past this pandemic). But now more than ever I understand the unconscious needs and desires it fulfills in people. If Christ is to really comfort us then we need to be touched by him. And to be really touched by him requires body as well as spirit.