Table manners

“Dining with sinners,” I am told by one of my neo-Southern correspondents, “is far more enjoyable than dining with the morally earnest, puffed hypocrites of the elite.”

I’m sure this was true twenty centuries ago, for some things on this planet never change.

Judging from the Gospels, Our Lord seems to have made something of a show — of his preferential option for dining with sinners — by way of subtly undermining pharisaic claims. He did not waste much time on the self-satisfied and “fulfilled”; focusing instead upon the hungry.

Of course, Holy Church proposes to feed everyone; but not everyone likes her food. It is prepared specifically for those customers who know that they fall short of moral and spiritual perfection.

This is not something that should be hard to know, supposing we have any idea of what moral and spiritual perfection might consist. (Hence the divine Example.) Today, this is a real puzzle, to our children exhaustively indoctrinated, from first contact with media or schools; as also to our parents’ children, taught that the only real crimes are the icky ones, and that those are entirely subjective. Each begins with a conscience unformed, but most continue to a radical deformation, so quickly that from an early age they are unlikely to detect the source of so much psychic pain.

It can only be found by that guided self-examination, which the “modern” is encouraged to avoid. Instead, he is launched on a career of blame-seeking.

The worst thing a doctor can tell a patient, in urgent need of help, is that his illness is imaginary. This is what the Church does, when she invites her members to approach the altar in an impure state. She is presenting the Mass as a quack prescription. By representing the Host as a remedy for what ails us, she is selling sugar pills. Or rather, the Church herself never does this; only the hucksters among her human agents.

A man aware that he is dirty will not be outraged by the prospect of a wash. Only the man who thinks himself clean.

Let him also consider the nature of the Feast to which the dinner bells call; and in Whose company he will eat. The Confessional “shower stalls” are on the way into a Catholic church, for benefit alike of rich and poor; because all carry in the dirt of the world.

The Muslim must both ritually and actually purify his hands, upon entering his mosque. The Christian must both ritually and actually purify his soul, upon entering his church. He is not entering a common diner. Neither is the Muslim, God save his soul.

Christ, in the Last Supper, was not doling out hypochondriac medications. Rather as He explained, His own flesh. Let us not pretend this wasn’t a shocking thing to do. We call it “the Sacrifice of the Mass,” and have so called it from time out of mind, because we take Christ at His word. We find him hanging above the very altar, the scapegoat for us all. There is no glib interpretation of this that can make any sense to the formed Christian, thick and sinful as he may otherwise be.

When, on the other hand, Christ dropped in for a common meal, He arrived as a man among men. I do not know how even the latest experts in Rome, can fail to distinguish a church from a diner.