Monday, October 10, 2011

Drunk on the Blood of Christ

"Mom, what does 'inebriate' mean?"

"It has to do with drunkenness, sweetie. If someone if inebriated they've had too much to drink."

Mom didn't realize the origin of my vocabulary question. Not long before she had given me a little book of prayer to say after receiving Holy Communion. That Sunday at mass I had tried the Anima Christi.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me,
Water from thy side, wash me.

I t felt strange, asking Jesus to make me drunk on His blood. Almost  sacrilegious. But there it was, in a prayerbook, so it had to be okay. Even as a ten-year-old, I didn't take me too long to figure it out. Drunk people on TV (this was the era of family entertainment--Hogan's Heroes, Gomer Pyle, The Lucy Show) laughed a lot, acted silly, and spoke their minds to others with complete  honesty, telling off their bosses and such. So, I figured the idea was that receiving the Eucharist should make make us joyful, so joyful to be following Jesus that we would do things that would look silly to others, and/or preach the gospel without caring who might not want to hear it.   Like the apostles on Pentecost, who, as a matter of fact, were accused of being drunk. And all the saints, such as Francis, who was thought to be crazy because of all the things he did out of his wild love for God.

Not everyone is fond of this metaphor,especially, perhaps, those who have had too much first hand experience with the darker side of drinking. So one sees other translations of this prayer. Blood of Christ, flow in my veins, water from thy side, wash out my stains, is a version with its own appeal, since this metaphor depicts  union with Christ  so graphically. Blood brothers.

But I want to get back to the "inebriation" metaphor, because it appears in today's Office of  Readings.St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (nope, I never heard of him either, outside the breviary), in his treatise against Fabianus (Nor him neither.Some heretic or other.), states that, " ...all the faithful who love God and their neighbor truly drink the cup of the Lord's love even thought they may not drink the cup of his bodily suffering. And becoming inebriated from it, they put to death whatever in their nature is rooted in earth."  So here, the divine  drunkenness does more than make us giddy with joy. We become so uninhibited that we overcome the hesitation to kill. Kill our attachments to sin, that is.

Strong language, that.   Reminds me of the scene in The Great Divorce where the man had to agree to have his inclination to lust--which took the symbolic form of a loved-and-hated pet lizard--put to death. It was a suspenseful scene, where the guy dithered and pleaded for time while his salvation hung in the balance. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it yet. (And if you haven't, do so at once!  Best spiritual fantasy every written.)

The inebriation metaphor certainly works for me. It's always after Communion that I make grandiose plans to whack my vices. If only one didn't sober up so quickly.