The Eucharist ‘puts an end to every war waged by heavenly and earthly enemies’

Francisco de Zurbarán, Agnus Dei (1635–40). Prado Museum, Madrid.

Francisco de Zurbarán, Agnus Dei (1635–40). Prado Museum, Madrid.

A good read here from William Cavanaugh. Here’s a snippet:

True sacrifice can never be the immolation of a victim, making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. True sacrifice is nothing other than the unity of people with one another through the participation in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Christ’s sacrifice reverses the idea that one must achieve domination over the enemy to achieve unity. Christ instead takes on the role of victim, absorbs the violence of the world instead of deals it out, and thereby offers a world in which reconciliation rather than violence can hold sway.

This is why the Eucharist is the antidote to war for Augustine. In the Eucharist, the whole economy of scarcity and competition that leads to war is done away with. Augustine makes clear that God does not need to be appeased as the Roman gods do. God is abundance, not lack, so participation in God’s life in the body of Christ does away with competition over scarce goods among people. True sacrifice is unity, and true unity is the participation of the human community in God’s life …

War depends on dividing up the world in such a way that some are excluded from this drama. We prefer to make rigid distinctions between friend and enemy, between our virtue and their depravity. We are thereby licensed to ignore the role our own interventions in their world may have had in stirring up their animosity toward us. When faced with war, we might do better to respond first in a penitential key. At the beginning of World War II, the Catholic Worker newspaper ran a headline: “We Are Responsible for the War in Europe.”

Christians who embrace non-violence are often accused of unrealistically trying to impose a perfectionist ethic on mere sinful human beings. I find it remarkable that travelling to the other side of the world to shoot people is considered somehow everyday and mundane, while refraining is considered impossibly heroic.

The reason we should reject violence is not from a prideful conviction that we are the pure in a world full of evil. The gospel call to non-violence comes from the realization that we are not good enough to use violence, not pure enough to direct history through violent means. Peacemaking requires not extreme heroism, but a humble restraint in identifying enemies, and an everyday commitment to caring for members of one’s body in mundane ways: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, all of whom, Jesus says, are Jesus himself.

Christian non-violence imitates Jesus’s nonviolence, but it also participates in Jesus’s self-emptying into sinful humanity, his sharing in the brokenness of the world. It is this peacemaking that we enact in sharing the broken bread of the Eucharist.

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