A Publication of
THE CATHOLIC STUDY CIRCLE
FOR ANIMAL WELFARE
From The Ark - Number 190 - Spring 2002
DOES MEAT CONSUMPTION CORRUPT THE EUCHARIST?
Vegetarianism is not only ethically desirable for the Christian, argues
Anthony Neesham, but should be at the heart of a eucharistic theology.
By Antony Neesham
The Eucharist epitomises the profound fecundity of Jesus Christ; a proclamation of peace, an outpouring of compassion and ultimately revelation of Love Eternal.
The night before he was betrayed Christ shared the Passover with his disciples, initiating what is variously referred to as Holy Mass, Lord’s Supper, Breaking of Bread, Holy Communion, and Eucharist: ‘Jesus took bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to his disciples. ‘"Take it and eat", he said, "this is my body." Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he handed it to them saying, "drink from this, all of you, for this is my blood, the blood of the New Covenant, poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."’ (Matthew 26:26-28.) Accepting the Eucharist, Christians commit themselves to the New Covenant; a covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ and indelibly inscribed with his testimony to boundless love, mercy and compassion.
Proponents of butchery within Christianity invariably cite Matthew 26:17-29 and similar verses in Mark and Luke as irrefutable evidence that Christ partook of the paschal lamb during the Passover. This is perhaps indicative of an innate failure to fully comprehend the supreme soteriological ramifications of the Last Supper. Undeniably, a traditional Jewish Passover would have included a lamb roasted whole. Curiously, however, events reported by the evangelists provide no mention of Christ or, indeed, the apostles partaking of the traditional paschal lamb before, during or after the Last Supper. Many interpret this anomaly as evidence that the Last Supper was a unique event established to supersede the traditional Jewish Passover.
There was no need to slaughter a helpless infant quadruped; the New Passover would be sealed with a new kind of flesh and a new kind of blood; the sacramental flesh and blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. offering himself willingly. Christ terminated traditional sacrifice, which Clement of Alexandria described as an invention by man to be a pretext for eating flesh, and inaugurated a new Kingdom akin to his Father’s original Edenic Will. ‘God said, "Look, to you I give all the seed-bearing plants everywhere on the face of the earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this will be your food. And to all the wild animals, all the birds of the heaven and all the living creatures that creep along the ground, I give all the foliage of the plants as their food.’ And so it was." (Genesis 1:29-30). Partaking of Christ’s flesh and blood, Christians are received into the New Kingdom. Perpetuating bloodshed beyond The Eucharist represents an affront to the New Kingdom and, indeed, is no less than a blatant transgression of Christ’s New Covenant. The Lamb of God remains the one and final sacrifice.
The artificial production, violent slaughter and needless consumption of defenceless lambs, calves, chickens and pigs not only offend the spirit of the Eucharist, they corrupt its very nature within the partaker. Christ teaches us that the body is the temple of the spirit - therein both the Prince of Peace and the product of butchery are unable to abide together harmoniously. For what represents love, mercy and compassion at the highest conceivable level cannot remain untainted when directly exposed to the consequences of violence, butchery and greed. ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let us examine ourselves, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon themselves.’ (1 Corinthians 11:27-29 ).
The boundless love of God, expressed through the Eucharist, should inspire each and every Christian to strive for the ‘greater good’. Accepted in the manner in which it’s offered, the Eucharist charges the partaker with universal compassion. The Eucharist, Christ’s New Covenant, is a gift without reserve which, if embraced completely, has the capacity to transport the whole created order to an utopian level of peace and prosperity.
Give peace a chance; try a vegetarian diet either today or, alternatively, during the period of Lent 2002.
Visit the website www.vege-consciousness.org
Return to The Ark No. 190
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