Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Yorick: Have you taken communion since you started looking after Saint...whatever this place is called?
Beth: St. Bernadette's. And how could I? Women can't consecrate the Host.
Without a priest, it's not the body of Christ, it's just...stale bread.
Yorick: Oh, come on. Did you ever really think you were eating Jesus' actual flesh and blood?
That's not Catholicism, it's cannibalism.
Beth: No, it's transubstantiation, and it's what set us apart from the heathens. We had magicians in our tribe.
 - Y The Last Man #25
by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

Are you familiar with the graphic series Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory? If you're not, you should be. Anyway, the main character in Chew is Tony Chu, and he is a cibopath. The first issue explains it this way: "That means he can take a bite of an apple, and get a feeling in his head about what tree it grew from, what pesticides were used on the crop, and when it was harvested. Or he could eat a hamburger, and flash onto something else entirely."

Basically, he gets psychic impressions of anything he eats. Tony Chu is also a detective, so this means he nibbles on a lot of corpses to get a psychic vision of how the person was killed. Gross, I know. Anyway, my mind working the way it does, I begin to wonder, "What would happen if Tony Chu attended mass and partook in the Eucharist?" If he ate communion bread, would he get a sensation of how the bread was made and baked, or of Christ's broken body? If he drank the wine, would he see grapes on a vine, or blood spilled on the cross?

Yeah, that's where my mind goes when the subject of transubstantiation is brought up. Actually, I was raised in a church that treated communion as simply a memorial. It's a remembrance of Christ's crucifixion and his promise to come again. There's nothing supernatural or sacramental about it. And that's pretty much how I've always viewed the Eucharist.

Until I went to seminary.

Well, until I went to seminary and began to explore Wednesday Theology.

I think I've always tried to think too literally or logically to understand the sacramental. But the ideas of myth, metaphors, and especially the gutter, have persuaded me to not rule it out so completely. That's right, I said the gutter, the empty space between panels in graphic literature, has done more than anything else to make me (kind of) lean towards a sacramental understanding of communion.

See, the given panels in graphic literature can only show static moments in time: the finite. But between those moments is the gutter, where all other time occurs: the infinite. In some ways, it's up to the reader to determine how much time occurs in the gutter between two panels. But sometimes a group of panels aren't sequential, but spatial. They can each show something occurring simultaneously. So, in the gutter we can get long gaps of time and no gap at all. In the gutter, the past, present, and future can all take place simultaneously. Kind of like a sacrament.

Think of it this way. Imagine a page from some work of graphic literature that has three panels on it. One panel depicts The Last Supper, one panel depicts Christ's crucifixion, and the third panel depicts a modern congregation taking communion. We know these moments all take place at different moments in time. But they are also all connected by that which separates them: the gutter. They are also all on the same page, so the reader can view them all at the same time, so that they all occur at once.

Okay, okay, I admit that might not make sense to anyone else, but it helps me as I try to understand it. See, this is why I'm not m.Div and would fail miserably if I ever interviewed for a pastoral position.

Selection Committee: So, what's your view on communion?
Me: It's the gutter.
Selection Committee: Beg your pardon?
Me: It's the empty space between the panels of a comic book. That's what communion is.
Selection Committee: Um...I don't know how to say this politely, but...just...get out. Go away, please.
Me: I completely understand.

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