Double divine alchemy

A couple of days ago I baked a cake, marvelling as always at the transformation of very different ingredients as they are mixed together. Each ingredient loses something of itself, even as it gains something from the other; each is changed, and each changes the others. Butter and sugar combine to form a pale, slightly gritty paste; the sugar dissolves completely once eggs are added, but lives on in the silky, creamy mixture's sweetness. Flour lends thickness whilst losing its powderiness, while in a chocolate cake cocoa retains its colour but loses its bitterness along with its original substance. And the merest teaspoon of vanilla essence or baking powder vanishes into the mix, but is enough to make a substantial difference to the overall flavour and texture.

It's alchemy, pure and simple - a seemingly magical process of transforming ordinary ingredients, some of which, alone and uncooked, would never be edible. Together, though, they somehow blend and harmonise, transforming each other even as they are transformed, and gaining far more in flavour and texture than they lose in the process. 

And today, Feast of Corpus Christi, I reflect on the double divine alchemy which lies at the heart of the Eucharist. There is the daily miracle which is the transformation of ordinary bread and wine into the very essence of God. And alongside this, the invitation to us to partake of this essence: to allow ourselves to be transformed, as base metals are in alchemy, but into something infinitely more precious than gold or silver - the very life and the love of God. We are invited to become what we receive, as St Augustine wrote: to assimilate Christ, and in the process to allow him to completely assimilate us, so that we may be one in Love, and our lives may increasingly be transformed into an enduring gift to God and to the world. This too is miracle, brought about by grace.

May we allow this transforming divine alchemy to grow within us, confident that we gain far more than we lose, as we become this gift for the life and healing of our world. 


  1. this is a delicious reflection!
    I love the way you used the metaphor of alchemy for the Feast.
    10Q !


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