That Galaxy Express 999 inspires this post is less surprising than how it did so. Before I get into the relevant details from this episode, I would like to lay my cards on the table: I hold the orthodox Catholic view that the Holy Eucharist is, under the appearance of bread or of wine, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ Himself. It might be easier to simply say that the Eucharist is Him, only still bearing all the sensible characteristics of bread and wine. The Orthodox Church also holds this as an article of faith. Among Protestant Churches, some Lutheran Churches seem to believe Communion is bread and wine simultaneously with being the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ (their theology lacks the distinction between essence and accidents found in Scholasticism), other Protestants believe Christ is spiritually present in the bread and wine, and still others that the bread and wine or grape juice are mere symbols. I state the above so that the basis for the points I make about the Eucharist in the following passages are clear. For a Catholic, Holy Communion is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium) and the most intimate union between Christ and a soul who loves Him.
Now to tell you about this amusing episode of Galaxy Express 999. Our heroes, Tetsuro and Maetel, find themselves on a planet covered by a jungle and swarming with monkeys. These monkeys are ruled by a giant reminiscent of Tarzan. However, his sake imbibing and sake promoting ways caused Leiji Matsumoto to morph this name to Sakezan. Sakezan makes excellent sake, which Tetsuro and Maetel confirm to be delicious; however, this leads to their capture by Sakezan, who decides that he wants Maetel to stay forever with him.
What brought Holy Communion to mind was how Maetel’s comment “If [the monkeys] don’t drink sake, Sakezan gets very angry” reminded me of the Parable of the Marriage Feast (Matt. 22:1-14). The king in the parable prepared a magnificent feast for the wedding of his son and invites his chosen guests to it. These, sadly, gave excuses to or harmed the king’s messengers. This brought swift retribution from the king, who then invited one and all to the feast, at which neither the lukewarm nor the wicked will find a place.
On one hand, this marriage feast denotes the ultimate union with Christ and His Church in the Kingdom of His Father. But, Christ is also now the bridegroom and His Church the bride. We celebrate the marriage feast at Holy Mass each Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation at Church. (St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome highlights the Mass as a marriage feast through placing bedposts at the corners of its altar.) Catholics must attend these feasts barring a reasonable obstacle to attendance. For Protestants, there is usually no obligation to attend services, but they also recognize that always responding as the chosen guests did in the parable might lead to them being barred from the Eternal Wedding Feast itself.
If God is angry with us for skipping the liturgy, it derives from His paternal desire that none should be lost through becoming lukewarm. And, this line from the Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-72) clarifies just how essential Holy Communion is for the life of our souls: “Amen, amen, I say to you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you shall not have life within you. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath life everlasting: and I will raise him up in the last day” (John 6:54-55). As our Lord worried about the bodies of the Four Thousand lest they faint from hunger (Matt. 15:32), He worries about His disciples lest their faith faints amidst the manifold hardships of life. Therefore Christ, through His Church, greatly desires that everyone receives the Eucharist as often as possible, and obligates all to receive Holy Communion at least once in the Easter season. How greatly do we starve our souls! How much do we pamper our bodies, which are worth so much less! We eat three times a day, and some think it a terrible failing to skip a meal. On the other hand, some only nourish their souls with true food once a year or go years without this holy food. Is it any wonder so many souls faint on the way to paradise?
Indeed, more people probably drink sake daily than than drink the blood of Christ each day. Yet, sake or any other liquor only offers a limited good. Temperance regulates its consumption: too little might detract from one’s good health (1 Tim. 5:23) and too much leads to evils great and small. On the other hand, the virtues related to the Bread of Angels, faith, hope, and love, have no limit, because they pertain to our infinite God. One cannot believe in God’s Word too much, hope in God’s mercy too greatly, or love God too exuberantly. And, unlike sake, our becoming inebriated with God’s life depends not on the volume we consume, but the faith, hope, and love we have for God. May these virtues ever increase in us, and may all of us unite ourselves frequently and fervently to our dearest Lord in Holy Communion.