“Would you understand what I meant if I said I was only human?” – Edward Cullen, Twilight
I’ll admit my lack of understanding, especially around these topics: the dual-nature of Christ, resurrection of the body, and the Twilight series. We’re not even touching the trinity yet – the best metaphors I have been able to use to understand it are…Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the Left and Right Hand of God…or it’s like a fork – it all goes to one base, but there are many prongs. And don’t even get me started on the only son thing. But if you’re with me, it took a vampire story to help me appreciate the mystery of the Eucharist…and of faith.
My fourteen-year-old sister introduced me to Twilight when I came home this year and despite criticisms of the books, I plunged in. I sat without moving, more frightened of him than I had ever been. I’d never seen him so completely freed of that carefully cultivated facade. He’d never been less human… or more beautiful. –Bella Swan, Twilight. I was fascinated by the forbidden love aspect of the novel and couldn’t help striking parallels to Catholicism. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Twilight is about a vampire/boy and a girl that fall in love. And it seemed so much like the Eucharist.
Now, before you started calling me either pagan or Protestant, hear me out. I haven’t dwelt on transubstantiation as much because of the whole divine nature of Christ thing….but thinking about Edward (the vampire) in Twilight – living off blood (we need more than bread alone, we need spiritual food) – I thought again: the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ. The actual body and blood – so to take this body, take this blood, was to be a Vampire. And I mean this in the sweetest possible Catholic way.
What does it mean for the Eucharist to be the actual body and blood of Christ? And how did that body change? And are the body and soul together when we die? And do the genitals come to Heaven with us? How does something disturbing and disgusting like death, transform us into that eternal peace and calm of Heaven? And how do we distill Protestant images of baby eating Catholics into our own tradition of the resurrection of the body – the complete body? I don’t know the answers to these questions.
You could put Edward’s ruminations about being in love ( I’m new at this; you’re resurrecting the human in me, and everything feels stronger because it’s fresh) with this quote from John: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” I’ll give you a clue – they are both about eating, changing, and withholding. For a long time, I thought the grain of wheat verse meant that through death, there was new life! Easy way to be suicidal there. But as a wise Russian literature professor said, “The grain of wheat did not die, but was transformed.” Jesus’ death and resurrection (whatever I believe about the outcome for humanity), was one way of transformation. But when we imbibe Jesus’ blood, we are also taking on that mantle of new life. We are resurrecting into new humans with the Divine in us, or at least I am. And by Edward NOT drinking Bella’s blood, he also becomes resurrected. He has taken the Eucharist — the harder road, the road that says we need more than food to survive. That takes willpower.
A step deeper is that longing that Edward felt for Bella – o.k., and I’m getting dishy here, the blood, the actual blood – and the longing of Bella for Edward – the lure of the forbidden (lover, God) – is similar to the Eucharist. But you see, just because we’ve been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to rise above — to conquer the boundaries of a destiny that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we can. – Edward Cullen, Twilight. It is the most personal relic, this kind of enactment and love.
Catholicism is bodily, and remembering Christ’s body is part of remembering God. Ignatius faced this when he not only became a rememberer, he became part of the body of Christ. Since animals and beasts chewed the body, only being “chewed” by God was triumph over death:
…Let me be the food of wild beasts through whom it is possible to attain God; I am the wheat of God, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread… (cited in Bynum, Resurrection of the Body, 28).
When Bishop Hugh wanted to take a piece of the arm of Mary Magdalene, he found it difficult to saw off with a knife. So he tried to bite it off with his teeth. When some of the monks objected, he said that he had just eaten Christ’s body and blood, so why are you stopping him from eating Mary Magdalene’s arm? So I know that Catholics don’t go around chewing people’s arms, but it’s always a good reminder that this jazz dance of God comes back to the body – to the decay, preservation, and rebirth of it.
Also, the Vampiric aspect comes in when we as Catholics feed off of each other’s desires for God. When we interact with each other as members of the body of Christ, or as members of a larger interfaith community of religious folk. It’s a sharing and eating off of people’s inner bread of life, given to Catholics through the Eucharist — given to others through, say, Quran recitation.
But Ignatius and Twilight remind us that no matter how many good Vampires are out there, many evil Vampires are out there, too. And that is why Buffy the Vampire Slayer exists. No really, to fend off the wild animals from the tombs and the body-snatchers and the soul-suckers.