So one sits in one’s office, a glum day dawning outside, temperature dropping because for once the rain has stopped and the sky cleared — this is a rule of autumn and winter: clear skies mean a temperature drop; overcast means rain and snow but the temperature stays the same — and one thinks, “I could use 0.3 minutes of my time to relax.”
If you need the same, here’s a couple of webcams from the O’Higgins station in Antarctica, from the German weather station of the Chilean whole. The North is coming to winter, so their southern summer’s light; and sometimes there are penguins in the view. If the possibility of penguins interests you, click the link; if you wish to engage in theological speculation, read on.
A few of the views have a standing steel girder cross of some description; when the penguins flock around it, in black and white, (presumably) waddling solemnly, one almost expects someone to walk out with a bucket of wafers and a bowl of wine, and start tossing them into the nun-clad crowd.
(I think I have somewhere a silly bit for the next update round of Mirrors of Eris, my website of freshly made up conspiracies, which posits the existence of a far southern, positively Antarctican vast barbarian empire, with a tribe of warrior women called the P’ing’nun. It goes quickly downhill from there, luridly describing something where all the obvious attributes of nuns and penguins are slammed together, and then traces their mercenary history after the fall of the Pnaakian Empire into Madagascar and then the court of King Herod, and their eventual involvement in some kind of a disturbance at the Jerusalem temple, after which they disappeared from history into the mists of Europe, still clutching the ritual miniatures of their weapons, two crossed bars of thorny wood on a chain of beads, a terrible de-fleshing flail of fury.)
But communion wafers. I suppose giving consecrated communion wafers to animals would be a bad thing, as far as religious authorities are concerned. (“But Fluffy loves God! Don’t you Fluffy? Yes you do! Yes you do! Who’s mommy’s good dog who loves Jesus? Good dog!” — and then one’d be balancing a wafer on the dog’s nose, urging it to put its paws together and be still before it gets to eat it.)
(What would a priest do if a parishioner’s pet got into the vestry and ate a few wafers, lapped a bit of wine? I can’t get the image of a budgie on a stake from my mind. “Repent, foul beast!” — “Polly wanna cracker!” — “Very well, fiend! Unrepentant to the end. Light the fire, Deacon Smith, if you would be so kind.”)
If the wafer’s Jesus, when does it stop being Jesus? When it hits your tongue, slides down your throat, rests and digests in your stomach? Is it divided into a Jesus part which remains in you, and a material part which leaves by the usual route? Do communion wafers have a separable Christological hypostatic union of some description? Because if it’s still the Lord when you’re sitting on the toilet reading Playboy, well, there’s no way that’s not blasphemy.
Possibly this is one of them mysteries; but no matter the truth value of these statements I would dearly like to see how an authority would draw the line. Oh, and what if you throw up? Dear heavens, what do you do with the wafer-remnants then? Eat them again? Yuck. Throw then away? Blasphemy! Or bury them in a corner of the churchyard — heck, I don’t know. It’s funny that I never was this interested in dogma when I was in the church; but then again the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is pretty dogma-light; I would probably be much better equipped for casual poking like this had I been a Catholic.
And if the wafers can become Jesus, in the actually-meaning-it Catholic sense — which I’m all for, because if you’re going to have religion, have religion! — then presumably other objects, other than mere snacks, could become Jesus, too. (“Bible. Bound in the skin of the Savior who suffered for our salvation, hallelujah.”) This all is a lot more interesting than some wan pantheism, where God is the world and the world is God; there’re bits of Jesus floating here and there but not everywhere!
One could probably do a web applet that, by the distribution of Catholic churches and PZ Myers, showed an approximate map of the location of these bits of Jesus. Then, if one knew the Mass schedule, there would be these slowly fading radiations from each point as the worshippers left… it’s almost poetic, if you’re deaf to faith and open to infovore delights.
But (and I think I’ve mentioned this before), what if the Jesusness of those wafers doesn’t go away, or leave the body? Then we could assume that the part that is Jesus will not be sweated or bled out either — seriously, Jesus on a maxipad? Never gonna be a Catholic opinion no matter how the rest resolves — and then we have Jesus, like a heavy metal of some kind, slowly accumulating in the body of the believer.
There’s a spot for a novel doctrine of salvation: if more than 50% of your body mass is Jesus, you’re saved! (So it’s one of “Eat, Pray, Works”?)
Then again, that would be a lot of wafers. Crackers. Them papery rounds. And incidentally, there’s a problem in this supposed doctrine of retained Jesus: what happens when you’re all Jesus and nothing else? Will you suddenly start to grow, wafer by wafer, because Jesus will not leave those who are faithful to him? (An atheist would probably get the flux.)
Is this where angels, with those big flappy wings, several pairs on the seraphim, come from?
And to think there was a small possibility that I could have gone to study theology instead of mathematics. I am sure all my hypothetical fellow-theologicians are glad I didn’t. Some agnostic Bible scholar like Bart Ehrman is one thing, but a theologician who asks if angel wings are a Jesus tumor? That’s just too much.