US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Baaaahhhhh! Jesus is more than "just" the Lamb of God

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Just when you thought the liturgical revisionism couldn't go any further, the U.S. bishops have now forbidden the use of any expression other than "Lamb of God" to be used during the fraction at Mass, throwing out another alleged innovation for the sake a strict fidelity to the Latin of the Roman Missal. New editions of hymnals and liturgical resources will have to strip "bread of life," "wine of peace," and "light of the world" from their sources.

Viatorian Father Mark Francis correctly refers to this as a "fundamentalist kind of approach" to the liturgy, according to the National Catholic Reporter. Too right--the ancient bishops of the church, always eager to discover new images for Christ, would heartily agree. 

There is a method to the bishops' liturgical missive: Using only "lamb" to refer to Jesus emphasizes both one image of Christ--sacrificial victim--and one image of the Eucharist: unbloody sacrifice. Images that evoke Eucharist as meal, celebration, medicine, shared nourishment all vanish. Also emphasized is the mediating role of the priest, who, rather than calling forth the body to share the "one bread" at God's table, instead directs traffic between sinful humanity and a distant divine.

That's too bad, because to lose the connection between Eucharist and food, Eucharist and hunger, Eucharist and sharing, unhinges Eucharist once again from the mission of God it is supposed to enlist us in: Feeding actually hungry people, and discovering in that sharing the real presence of Christ, a foretaste of God's reign in the here and now. It fails to proclaim that Eucharist is food as God meant it to be in all it's kingdom fullness.

That's what happens when we abandon the full, rich metaphors of scripture, liturgy, and Catholic tradition to a trite fundamentalism: We end up with a dusty wafer, lacking both gospel taste and the Spirit's power to transform us, and through us, the world.