“Heart of the Matter” (a rambling thought on communion)
What is the “heart of the matter.”
According to Yourdictionary.com, which draws its definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, c. 1997, “heart of the matter” as an idiom is the same as “crux of the matter”:
crux of the matter
Also, heart of the matter. The basic, central or critical point of an issue. For example, In this trial the bloodstains represent the crux of the matter, or We think the second clause is the heart of the matter. Although crux is Latin for “cross,” in English it means “difficulty” or “puzzle,” and it is from the latter that this expression is thought to be derived. The variant employs heart in the sense of “a vital part” (as it is in the body). The first term dates from the late 1800s, the variant from the early 1500s.
Elsewhere, I saw that the phrase has to do with getting down to what is of utmost importance. To get to the “heart of the matter” is to cut through all pretense or explanation and get to the core issue or problem or meaning.
I got to thinking of the phrase today, after a stimulating hour lecture on the nature of the Eucharist. In fact, Bruce’s take on the eucharist has been published in a new book, The Power To Comprehend With All The Saints, and is worth checking out. (I may get an audio of this morning’s talk – it was fantastic.)
To be all-too brief, the essence of this morning’s conversation flowed from 19th century German philosophy (Freuerbach and the birth of materialism: “one is what one eats”) through Hebrew storytelling (Creation, Fall, Exodus and the presence and importance of food in all of them) into the life of Jesus Christ (whose biographers seem preoccupied with his eating habits) to our McDonald’s culture (make it fast, make it cheap) and modern philosophy (all reality is expressed and experienced through symbols, so all symbols are in some form real), all the while conveying the deep mystery of divine panentheism. In the end, without actually giving a lecture about the theology of Eucharist, Bruce engendered a vivid picture of the presence and imbuement of God in our physical world, and in the physical elements of the sacrament. In addition, we are reminded that because this food is holy, all food is holy; because we give thanks at this table, we give thanks at all tables; etc.
The notion of panentheism is that God is present in every iota of Creation. Open the mysteries of the atom, and God is there; explore the depths of the sea, and God is there; watch the squirrel gather his nuts, and God is there. Not that these things themselves comprise God; but the ineffable and unknowable God has, in creating the universe, put Godself into all things. The division of physical from spiritual, so prominent in western/Latin Christianity, does not exist in Eastern Orthodoxy – which emphasizes, instead, the very Hebraic notion of the “heart” – (there it is!) – including intellect, will, emotions, and even body…
So, ultimately, if one seeks to know the true “heart of the matter,” then at the heart of all matter is… God.
Consider this the next time you take eucharist, communion, or the Lord’s supper (depending on your tradition). Even if your particular faith doesn’t believe in transubstantiation (the elements miraculously become flesh and blood) or consubstantiation (the substance of the elements co-exists with the substance of Christ), these elements are still holy, and of God, and through this sacrament that Christ has given us we take Christ/God into ourselves in some mysterious way….
And the true sacrament of eucharist is not in our weekly, monthly, or occasional cultic ritual of it… the true sacrament in eucharist (which means “thanksgiving”) is a universal human sacrament. A yearning for food, for others, and for God that can come together in a mysterious mystery around the table. Whether it’s the post-funeral luncheon, or the wedding reception, or the family reunion; when we gather together around basic elements (often creatively integrated and/or interpreted), we experience the mystery of communion that God has given us.