Prinz, VDMF, Ph.D.
Prinz, VDMF, Ph.D.
When my grandmother, towards the end of her life, shared with us that she still held a one grudge against God, we were surprised. She shared how she walked in the Corpus Christi processions as a child at the turn of the 20th century and that she never was able to elegantly faint like her other girlfriends who got to be carried home, but she rather had to walk the whole long path to the end in the heat. Why did God give her such lot - she would have rather fainted??!! However, she never told us about any grudge against God regarding her hard life. That she had to leave the Augustinian convent and with that her vocation, to help her sick mother giving birth to twins; or that she then became a double-outsider marrying a Protestant in the 1920s, going with him to his Church and the Catholic Church on alternating Sundays; nor did we hear any grudge for the long years of exile during WWII protecting three small children. I remember how we laughed about her grudge but also how it made me think and that I remember it all these years.
I am wondering about Moses as we hear about him during the first reading looking back on the forty years leading the people: would he have rather fainted than leading the presence of God, God’s people, through windy slopes of the desert? Carrying the burden of the presence of God is no easy quest. The grudge, the lament of my grandmother seems so long ago, but somehow it expresses a reality beyond her words: We are called to a witness, out of which no fainting is going to liberate us, because bearing witness is nothing for the faint of heart.
This became very clear to me during my studies at the University of Goettingen close to the Eichsfeld, a very Catholic enclave in the area of the former socialist part of Germany. There, the yearly Corpus Christi processions had become the central demonstration of resistance against the socialist regime. Carrying the presence of God through the streets and fields of the small towns and villages of the Eichsfeld under the surveillance of the socialist military and secret service was an incarnation of Jesus’s giving his life “for the life of the world” - tou kosmou could be translated “for the life of the cosmos,” or “for the life of order” against the disorder of oppression. There was not much chance for a career path left for anyone participating in such Corpus Christi procession in socialist Germany. The burden of witnessing and partaking in the presence of God was palpable and a heavy mission that the Eichsfeld Catholics were sent into.
I have been wondering: Doesn’t the passage of John 6 actually convey more of this kind of Eichsfeld invitation of bearing witness, of participating and to be sent, rather than a literalized eucharistic image which reduces Jesus’s flesh to a kind of a “butcher’s piece of meat?” Aren’t these verses connected with the wisdom language that we also encounter in chapter 1 of John, as Raymond Brown claims. “Just as the living Father sent me” is juxtaposed with “the one who feeds on me” and “I have life because of the father” is juxtaposed with “(you) will have life because of me.”
As in chapter 1, participation and revelation are inherently woven into each other. The Word of God and the Bread and Wine are revelatory in the measure we partake. It might be that these verses are the Johannine version of the institutional narrative for the Eucharist and consequently have the unique Johannine character of intimate participation as inherent to being sent into this world, “for the life of this world.”
It is also in John that with the vine imagery we find the closest parallel to Paul’s understanding of the body of Christ as we hear in the reading from Corinthians. “We though many are one body.” The cup of Blessing, the bread we Break, is it not participation in the very life of Christ? That is the question Paul asks and John answers…
The founder of my Vatican II-inspired religious community was a Johannine mystic with a Pauline sense of mission. Consequently, some of our art is inspired by precisely this multi-layered meaning of “Body of Christ” as eucharist, as world, as all of us being one.
Often you will see in our chapels that the tabernacle is inserted in a world map, to precisely reflect that the Body of Christ is the eucharistic bread and all of humanity at the same time, one given for the other. Another image are sculptures of Jesus on the cross that different sisters have done over the years. Like the one behind me. It is made out of newspaper clippings holding the tragedies and suffering, the hopes and dreams together in one body. Isn’t the celebration of today an invitation to witness and to sharing the solace and burden of that one body? - gift and call? -lament and vocation?
Someone who knew what it meant to believe in the Body of Christ as solace and burden; someone who - in a unique way - understood being one with all her people as she was one with Christ, was the scholar, nun and saint Edith Stein who was killed in Auschwitz by the Nazis. She expresses in some lines of her prayer:
Full of love, you sink your gaze into mine
And bend your ear to my quiet words
And deeply fill my heart with peace.
Your heart desires more…
Your body mysteriously permeates mine
And your soul unites with mine:
I am no longer what once I was.
You remain in this body of dust…
I am not longer what once I was.
That invitation is nothing for the faint of heart, but for the ones who walk through to the end, it just may be the reality though for the ones that receive solace in partaking in the Body of Christ as Eucharist and world.
Julia D.E. Prinz, VDMF, Ph.D.
Julia D.E. Prinz, VDMF, Ph.D.
Dr. Julia D.E. Prinz, VDMF, Ph.D. is Adjunct Lecturer in Christian Spirituality and Former Director Women of Wisdom and Action Initiative at the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University.
Holding advanced degrees in Political Science and Psychology from the Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany, theology degrees from the Friedrich-Willhelms University, Bonn, Germany, and the Pontifical Urbanian University, Rome, Italy, Dr.Prinz also completed a Ph.D in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley in 2006, and has been a lecturer at JST-SCU ever since. She was also appointed as Professor at the Instituto San Pablo Verbum Dei, Loeches-Madrid, Spain.
As a member of the Verbum Dei, (www.verbumdeiusa.org) she has been involved in base-community work with Hispanic and Asian immigrant populations in San Francisco since 1995. She has also served her congregation as a formation director and from 2008 to 2015, as the United States Provincial Superior, having partaken in numerous general Congregations in Rome and their Taskforces since 2001.
Dr. Prinz is a regular speaker at regional and national theological conferences in Germany and the United States. Her speaking assignments and publications in general, specifically her book, Endangering Hunger for God, show her commitment to using theological research for the empowerment of the marginalized.
Her current research includes: biblical hermeneutics, the dialogue between theology/spirituality and photography, the dialogue between theology/spirituality and medicine regarding the process of healing, marginal and hybrid-identities in their significance for theological thought and a specific interest in spiritual and theological formation in Asia.
The second of three volumes from the Catholic Women Preach project of FutureChurch offers homilies for each Sunday and holy days of the liturgical year by Catholic women from around the world. The first volume for Cycle A received awards for best book on Liturgy from both the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Catholic Media Association.
“Catholic Women Preach is one of the more inspiring collection of homilies available today. Based on the deep spirituality and insights of the various women authors, the homilies are solidly based on the scriptures and offer refreshing and engaging insights for homilists and listeners. The feminine perspective has long been absent in the preached word, and its inclusion in this work offers a long overdue and pastorally necessary resource for the liturgical life of the Church.” - Catholic Media Association
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