(this is taken from a lecture given at the Bucer Institute on Flannery O’Connor; thanks to Doug Jones, Peter Leithart, and others who’ve helped me to appreciate her even more than I did already)
One of the things we see throughout Flannery O’Connor’s writings is the truth that God works in and through the physical and material. God works through fire and water; bulls and peacocks; cats and grandmothers; and, of course, ultimately through His Word read and proclaimed, and in the waters of baptism, and by the bread and wine of the table. The prominence of this reality in her writings was intentional not accidental. She was attacking the gnosticism of the modern Church; the denial that the material and physical can be means by which we commune with the Lord.
For too many of us, bread is simply bread, wine is only wine, water is merely water and nothing more. Bread and wine can never be the means by which we commune with Christ and feast upon His body and blood. Water can never be the means by which the Spirit brings us into communion with the Trinity. The Church must only be an assembly of people who profess the same theology, it can’t be “the body of Christ.” Not really. (more…)