I mentioned in my last blog how Elizabeth Seton came to believe in the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. She offers a an example of how ordinary reasoning leads to faith. “She thought of the Filicchis’s devotion and asked how God created her ‘ and how a hundred other things I know nothing about? I am a mother, so the mother’s thought came also. How was my God a little babe in the first stage of his mortal existence in Mary?’”
Three simple things influenced her: the Filicchis’s belief in the Eucharist, the many mysteries she found in her own life and could not explain, and finally the mystery of the Incarnation itself. Humbly, Jesus became flesh in the womb of Mary. Could not the One who “emptied himself and took on the form of a slave” choose to be really present in bread and wine?
Commentators say that the long narrative in the 6th chapter of John’s gospel on the miracle of the loaves and fish is meant to meet questions that arose in his church in the last decade of the 1st century. The first disciples and eyewitnesses are gone. Some Christians, probably influenced by Gnostic pessimism, questioned the Incarnation of Christ. Would God become human and part of our created world? The authors of John’s gospel use the miracle of the loaves and fish and Jesus’ words that he is “the bread of life” to assert that he works through creation. He is the Word made flesh.
Elizabeth was raised an Episcopalian and belonged to Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel in lower Manhattan. From my reading it seems that her church at the end of the 18th century was emerging from the heavy influence of the Enlightenment, which stressed a rational approach to religion. Then, Henry Hobart,a new ministerarrived and began to preach a biblical message based on the words and ministry of Jesus; Elizabeth responded warmly to his message.
I like best her simple reasoning for belief in Jesus present in the Eucharist: “I am a mother, so the mother’s thought came also. How was my God a little babe in the first stage of his mortal existence in Mary?”