“I love you, but I’m not in love with you.” I can’t count the number of times I have heard that phrase in my counseling office. When someone says this to a spouse it typically means, “I no longer have those honeymoon feelings I used to have.” There are occasions when a person is experiencing a genuine state of clinical depression and has lost the ability to experience feelings of happiness and appreciation. However, more often these individuals are idolizing the god of subjectivity and have allowed feelings to become their master. They have reduced the objective reality of their marriage to a subjective state. They may not “feel” married, but they are still married.
The Church is the Bride of Christ and, as such, is married to the Bridegroom, Jesus. The Eucharist is the marriage supper. Hence, receiving Holy Communion is a joining together of Bride and Groom in an objective way. It is a very real union that is not dependant on subjective feelings. The fact that two people might “feel” married to each other does not make them objectively married. Conversely, marriage is an objective reality regardless of the subjective feelings. The Eucharist is not real because it “feels” real. It is real.
Dr. Peter Kreeft points out that to regard the Lord’s Supper as merely symbolic is to reduce the relationship of a marriage to the level of a friendship. Although a healthy marriage will include friendship between spouses (Jesus called His disciples friends), it is not the friendship that makes the relationship a marriage. The marriage is created by the unique union of the body and soul of the bride and the groom. That is the objective reality. When the Eucharist is reduced to only the symbolic, all that remains is the subjective feeling. In other words, when people receive the Lord’s Supper in non-Catholic churches, they may experience feelings about their relationship with Jesus, but there is no actual union taking place between Bride and Groom. The relationship is subjective. Communion becomes all about remembering what Jesus did and how believers “feel” about what He did. The Catholic Eucharist includes the subjective remembering as well as the objective uniting of married partners. Jesus is in our hearts, but He is also really united with our bodies and souls, like a bride and groom.
Think about how a vaccine works. It is not a placebo. It is not dependant on how the patient feels about receiving it, although the patient may be very happy and grateful. The vaccine works by a very real process of interacting with the body of the patient. It is an objective reality, not a subjective reality. The Eucharist is not a placebo (nor are the other Sacraments). It “works” by the power of Christ interacting with spirit and matter, not by the feelings of those receiving it.
The union of the Bride and the Groom is not dependant on “honeymoon” feelings, although such feelings may certainly be present. Any experienced married couple will testify to the fact that honeymoon feelings do not sustain a healthy marriage. Unless the honeymoon feelings grow into something much deeper, the marriage will suffer. In counseling, the goal is not to take a couple back to their honeymoon days. The goal is to bring the honeymoon forward to a deeper place. Similarly, Dr. Kreeft says, “God does not want us to have a spiritual sweet tooth.” God wants us objectively united with Him in the Eucharist, not just going by our feelings. Feelings can become an idol of worship. Feelings often become the cake instead of the icing on the cake (especially in America).
Moses did not feel good about God calling him to lead Israel. Jonah did not feel good about preaching to Nineveh. Jesus did not feel good about going to the cross. Children do not feel good about getting the Polio vaccine or eating vegetables. Married people do not always feel good about their spouses. Catholics do not always feel their hearts “strangely warmed” or a “burning in the bosom” when receiving the Eucharist. When it comes to love and obedience, feelings are not important. Feelings come and go. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and He invites us to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Will we come and dine out of love and obedience, or will we let our feelings be our god? “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:57) “This is my body…this is my blood…” (Matt 26:26-28) Jesus never asked the “therapist” question, “How does that make you feel?” He simply said, “Take and eat.”