Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dogs and the Eucharist

As a child the good thing about having a puppy was that the nastier bits of my mum's cooking could be slipped under the table and be eaten, fat and gristle seem to have been an important part of of our diet. Puppies under the table is perhaps the image we have from last Sunday's OF Gospel. It's is a nice image, but actually of course it is not meant to be nice, it is supposed to shock us.

Jews in the Old Testament often used dogs as an image of apostasy or of idol worshiping Gentiles, it is an image Jesus takes directly from scripture. Dogs are unclean, a source defilement. Jesus wasn't sent to the 'dogs' but to the children of the Israel. The women makes the image even more horrific by speaking of the dogs 'under the table'. It presumably is supposed to summon up images of those vanquished kings who had their fingers and toes cut off who were made to beg for food under or around the table of the victor. The woman in order to gain a favour from Our Lord s willing to abase herself, to admit her absolute dependence on him, she is dog sniffing for favours. The EF Gospel for last Sunday was the Publican in the Temple, who goes home justified because he abases himself  in the Temple, it is the same idea.

The difference of course is the idea of food, of begging for food. I don't know if I am making too much of this, I tend to see all references to food, certainly in the Gospels as pointing to the Holy Eucharist; are we supposed to be like those begging kings made powerless without our toes, or more importantly, fingers, begging at the Lord's table, waiting , for those scraps which elsewhere in the Gospels are collected with great care? Presumably without fingers they either eat from the floor with food thrown down from the dais or lie my dog when I was being particularly kind had food placed in his mouth.

I must admit I am open to the idea that possibly as sign of intimacy Jesus actually placed the Eucharist in the mouths of his disciples. I remember an Indian archbishop who stayed with me briefly and scandalised me and the husbands of  the local Indian community by insisting on placing sweet pastries directly into the mouths of their young and pretty wives, the ugly or older women helped themselves or received them in their hands. It was obviously a gesture of great intimacy, interestingly he wasn't too happy with doing the same during Mass with the Holy Eucharist. The reception of food placed directly into the mouth is in other context than Mass is one of extraordinary intimacy, eating without using our hands is a sign of absolute dependency or trust. Eating whilst kneeling is sign of complete subjugation, this is what the Canaanite does in order to receive a scrap or a crumb of mercy from the Lord.


Pablo the Mexican said...

It is difficult to see those things of Heaven when our thoughts and our actions have been turned to and formed by those things of earth.

"Do not be surprised when your children act like Romans when you have sent them to Caesar for inculcation"

To someone catechized Catholic, it is easy to understand the Canticum Novum and all it entails.

We must seek Tradition; we must seek Holy Mother Church as it has been established by Christ.


Liam Ronan said...

May I put in a good word for the canine-lovers?

"Then he said to Tobias, "Get ready for the journey, and good success to you both." So his son made the preparations for the journey. And his father said to him, "Go with this man; God who dwells in heaven will prosper your way, and may his angel attend you." So they both went out and departed, and the young man's dog was with them." Tobit 5:16

Liam Ronan said...

There is also Tobit 11:9

"Yet he was not to reach the house first. The dog that had accompanied him on his travels ran on before him, heralding the good news with the caress of his wagging tail." (Knox Bible)

"Wagging tail": " Tunc præcucurrit canis, qui simul fuerat in via: et quasi nuntius adveniens, blandimento suæ caudæ gaudebat" so sweet!

Liam Ronan said...

By the way, Father, I neglected to say earlier that these thoughts of yours are very edifying. Thank you for posting them.

Not to bang on too much about dogs, but I was always struck by Luke 16:20-21:

"And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores."

Now a dog instinctively licks a human's wounds (as its own)in order to facilitate healing. To me, this always put the part of the dogs in Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus in a different light even if obliquely.


Liam Ronan said...

There are of course the 'Dogs of War' which must be treated altogether differently from household pets. Notwithstanding, they can be distracted and calmed by a bit of play with a ball, viz.

"Pope Francis Drafts Messi, Maradona And Others To Play In Soccer Match For Peace In Gaza”


Unknown said...

It's all part of the great distortion. "House Dog"? They deliberately mistranslated the text, having simply "Dog", the word I have been assured that appears in all the codices, sounds too harsh. Of course, as you suggest, it is a flagrant attempt to soften, and therefore distort the words of our Lord. This in the realm of scripture, but we can expect doctrinal distortions in October.

gemoftheocean said...

What a beautiful take on this gospel, Father.

Edward P. Walton said...

Lauda Sion St. Thomas Aquinas

Vere panis filiorum,
Non mittendus canibus.

Of the promise by Christ spoken,
Children's meat, to dogs denied.

Edward P Walton

Author Known said...

Thank you for the thoughts in this post.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...