Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Mystery of a Kiss, and the Eucharist

Sheldon CopperIn seminary, one of my theology professors (not Dr. Sheldon Cooper – although that would have been interesting….) offered that the Johannine “And the Word became flesh” becomes the starting point of most Christological heresy if one attempts to explain “how.”  Eventually the limitations of language and human fumbling will eventually lead to the heterodox expression of faith.

And I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. In the end we have the meeting of the mystery of God pressed up against the deep human desire to know – and in this modern age – to know “how.” It seems to me that in the modern age  our demand to know, to explain, is really to scientifically lay out a sequence of cause and effect that is rational, consistent, repeatable and verifiable…..  You know what? For that we need a scientist! And is there a more preeminent scientist than Dr. Sheldon Copper?

For those of you whose TV tastes do not include the “Big Bang Theory,” Dr. Sheldon Cooper, would-be Nobel prize winner in Physics, has dedicated his life to the exploration of mystery – the mystery of the origin of space, time – the universe! It would seem to me that some one of his like would be the perfect candidate: versed in explaining the “hows” in an arena rife with mystery.

So I was somewhat taken back when Dr. Sheldon Cooper was offered the opportunity to hold forth on the “minor” mystery of the kiss. In one of the episodes, when asked, “Sheldon, have you ever kissed a girl?” he reveals that he hasn’t with the exception of his mother, grandma, sister and an elderly nun he had to resuscitate who had passed out from heat exhaustion. When questioned if he was curious about a real kiss and was invited to share a kiss by his erstwhile girl friend, Amy Farrah Fowler, Sheldon responded that scientists already know everything there is to know about kissing.  He then proceeded to explain the number and type of facial musculature needed to properly execute a kiss.  Sheldon passes on the invitation to enter into that particular mystery and remains unchanged – by a kiss, by love, by most things in the human sphere. (But then, that is what makes him such a great character.)

There are limits to what knowledge and science can explain.  I am sure Dr. Sheldon Cooper could write the definite study on theoretical kissing, …but I am not sure anyone would read it … or believe in it.   And rightly so.

If we want to read something on the mystery of the kiss, the treatise has to delve into the metaphysics of what differentiates a kiss – even between married couples – from the one that says, “Hi, have a nice day” to the one that causes time to stand still, the earth to move, and all the other fumbling expressions of language we use to characterize the mystery. We want to know about the kiss that becomes an invitation to the mystery of love; the invitation,  that once accepted will forever change your life.

There are many mysteries about love. This past weekend, the Catholic Church celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi – surely a mystery without peer. A mystery that leads people to ask a lot of “how” questions: how do the gift of bread and wine become the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist?  Questions, that as I get older I increasingly have the sense are the wrong questions. I could always fall back on the explanation of Transubstantiation – which the Council of Trent described as “apt” – but I would offer that the Council rightly used “apt” as it understood, human words are always destined to fall short in describing the mystery of anything – and especially the Eucharist.

Fortunately, Dr. Sheldon Cooper is not the only brilliant person out there. How about St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church and the preeminent theologian who wrote volumes on the Eucharist.  Aquinas knew lots, but knowing was not enough. He wanted to enter the mystery of it all and experience fully the Eucharist, this divine kiss from God, to be taken in and lost fully, wholly and passionately in the embrace of God.  Aquinas was known to have gone into ecstatic trances during the middle of his celebration of the Eucharist – sweep up in the love of God. He was so passionate about wanting to know and experience more about the Eucharist and God’s love that he stuck his head inside the tabernacle.  He came from that experience, went to the Scriptorium and told his scribes to destroy all his texts because his words were all rubbish – they did not come close to describing the miracle of the Eucharist.  Aquinas accepted the limitations of “knowing”, accepted the invitation of God’s love, and was forever changed.

Ask you friends about the stories of their first kiss – most will be pretty funny, possessing their own charm.  Perhaps memorable, but perhaps falling short of life-changing. People eventually figure out the mystery of kissing – and come to know the “how” question might be interesting to Dr. Sheldon Cooper, but after a point in life, maybe not so much to the rest of us.

Such things as kisses, love, miracles and the Eucharist are not the things of research and dissertations.  In the end they are beyond the category of knowledge and eventually you have to experience the depth of the kiss, the embrace – and be forever changed.  Or don’t and perhaps be forever unchanged.

And you have the same invitation in the Eucharist: to enter into the miracle and mystery that still happens every day. Wherever people gather in His name; invited to receive the Bread that comes down from heaven and continues to be broken and shared; invited to receive the Blood of our salvation that continues to be poured out for us all.

How? Don’t really know, but here is what I can tell you: accept the invitation, enter into the mystery and be forever changed.


3 thoughts on “Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Mystery of a Kiss, and the Eucharist

  1. All of us know that love takes many forms and kisses, too, are a reflection of that love. What you said so beautifully here is that when one truly loves, you cannot explain it. It is this love that binds us together, as family, as friends and as children of God. What is so extraordinarily beautiful about the Eucharist is that it is the ultimate expression of God’s love for us in the giving of his Son to us.

    Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a lovable character, who just might remind each of us in this one simple way that each of us are searching for that one love that surpasses everything. I feel in our relationship with our Lord, in the Eucharist, we have found that. And, like you said so eloquently, our lives are forever changed if we are willing to enter into that love!

    Thank you for creating the Friarmusings blog . . . it is very refreshing and thought provoking vehicle that inspires with a certain wonderment. You are a very gifted, insightful writer.

  2. Your allegory of a “certain type” of kiss, love and the Eucharist is very prophetic. I have felt the kiss that makes the world stand still and changes one forever, and yes, you are correct it is similar to the mystery of the Eucharist. Beautiful writing and thoughts…

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