Is the Eucharist, and thereby the transubstantiation of blood, necessary to complete the work of incarnation?
I know no other place to start than by asserting that blood as symbol of the divine gift of life cannot be avoided; there is just too much of it in scripture not to be taken seriously. But that is not to say that blood is in itself the divine gift of life, and since my tradition does not use the word transubstantiation, and denies the medieval terms by which it was defined as a sort of alchemy, I find it difficult to understand arguments in which it is used. However, the main issue is whether the Eucharist is necessary to complete the work of incarnation. I don’t think it is. Rather, it is a participation in the work of incarnation by Jesus’ own invitation and command. By that I mean that the ministry of the generosity of grace that you have illuminated in your exposition on Luke 7 is to be continued by “the body of Christ”, which is the Church. The Eucharist is, at its heart, the mystical participation with Jesus in the moment of the Last Supper, receiving with those who were there the bread and wine in which Christ is truly present as holy food and drink for the the work that lies ahead. In it we, in a sense, take the place of that woman who was a sinner (Luke 7) and both give thanks for and receive the outpouring of God’s generous grace in no less an intimate and physical way than did she.
Having said that, I also have to admit that few persons presenting themselves at the altar to receive Holy Communion actually think about it in that way.
As for your heretical take on incarnation as meaning made flesh, on free will, on prevenient grace, and on gratuitous generosity, I think you have nailed it quite well, and if that is heresy we’ll both hang together.
You raised the question about the relation of power (dunamis) of the Spirit as over against the power of blood to provide meaning.
My take is that blood has no symbolic meaning without the power of the Spirit. It is only the power of the Spirit that gives any sense to it at all. From the blood of sheep as a symbol of the divine gift of life, to the annunciation of new life in Mary’s womb, to the wine declared as Christ’s blood, to the blood of the cross, it is all driven by the power of the Spirit of God.
In your penultimate statement you said: “Here is my struggle: Is blood so powerful that it has to be transubstantiated to have the promise of meaning fulfilled? Or may the promise of meaning be fulfilled as our bodies inflect each other out of gratuitous generosity? If the latter takes place, the former is not necessary.”
An evangelical and many mainline Protestants would agree, at least so far as the Eucharist is concerned. Although, for some reason strange to me, while they would never be caught with a crucifix anywhere in sight, they tend to wallow in the idea of blood sacrifice. As a catholic, or small ‘o’ orthodox Christian, gratuitous generosity that is authentically holy can only flow through me by power of the same intimacy and touch received by the woman who was a sinner. Even at that, as I leave the table, just as she did, to return to the world in which I live and am known as the sinner I am, I find that outflowing of gratuitous generosity draining away through the many cracks and holes in my being. That is why I return to the table time and again, each time as if for the first time.