Monday, May 23, 2011
Things Buffy Got Right: Blood
In Buffy's 100th episode, The Gift, the hell-god (let's translate that as "high-ranking demon") Glory works to open a gateway back to her hellish kingdom. repares to empty Dawn's blood to open a gateway to hell. Xander debates the need for blood with reformed-vampire Spike:
Xander: "Why blood? Why Dawn's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be, like, a lymph ritual?"
Spike: "'Cause it's always got to be blood."
Xander: "We're not actually discussing dinner right now."
Spike: "Blood is life, lack-brain. Why do you think we eat it? It's what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. 'Course it's her blood."
Spike's words call to mind Renfield's repetition in Dracula: "The blood is the life! The blood is the life!" Renfield take blood from animals because he believes it will give him more life. Dracula, and other vampires like Buffy's, take blood to sustain themselves as well.
How does that differ from us drinking blood at Mass? The physical characteristics aren't those of blood, but objectively, substantially, we're consuming Christ's blood. We know that because He said it. The God that said "let there be light" and there was, also said "this is my blood". Substantially, then, we're drinking blood as surely as Spike ever had. Are we guilty just as he?
No. The difference is not in that we drink the blood of Christ but in how. Christ's blood is offered to us sacramentally. There are two key words there that make all the difference. The first is "sacramentally". We do truly eat His body and drink His blood but not with the outward appearance of human blood. We are not thrusting a lance or hammering a nail in the physical sense. We are not consuming blood in a bloody manner, so to speak. There is a change from the visceral to the sacramental.
There is a physical difference, then. There is also an intentional difference, evinced by the second key word: "offered". The vampires that Buffy spends so much time slaying take blood, like a rapist takes flesh. In contrast, we receive Christ's blood which He first offers for us. He offers his body to his bride, the Church, and she receives it, making it a nuptial act rather than a rape. He offers his blood, and we receive that offering as grateful and needful recipients, but not as vampires. We receive supernaturally rather than take unnaturally.
Christ makes the offer because He knows our need. Spike and Renfield were right: the blood is the life. More specifically, His Blood is the life, for it is the blood of He who said as much. Jesus said "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6).
He is not a life but the life. If we do not receive from that source, there is no other. It's what keeps us going. It's what makes us other than dead.