24 March, 2016 40 days of change-Lent, 2016
Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? 1 Corinthians 1:16
The night before he dies, Jesus has dinner with his friends and initiates the most significant Christian ritual we have today. It was the beginning of the Eucharist, or as some of us call it: Communion, the Breaking of the Bread, Remembrance Service, or the Last Supper. Protestants and Catholics both practice it. We do have different views on what transpires when we take the bread and drink the cup: some think it actually becomes his flesh and blood, others think the elements coexist as both bread and wine and flesh and blood, and others think nothing happens other than you swallow an object lesson as you conjure up a memory –– the elements are merely symbolic. Speaking from the tradition of those who believe the elements are symbolic, for that is my background, let me suggest that our belief is borne from a degree of doubt in the mystical, and can lead to a dangerous indifference.
If we revisit the story of Jesus and notice he never uses language in any of the accounts such as ‘it’s like my body’. Neither does he use the language of simile when it comes to the wine. What he says doesn’t make sense, but the taking of the bread and wine as Jesus body and blood didn’t need to make logical sense to the partakers of Communion for the first 1700 years it was done by believers. It was a miracle each time that they accepted and celebrated. Modernity has often robbed us of the mystical. Have our doubts born out of rationale thought reduced the sacred to mere symbols of a cold and boring ritual?
In the symbolic tradition, we don’t refer to Communion as a sacrament. There is a profundity to the word sacrament. Originally the word was used to speak of an action in which Jesus was present (a meaning lost in our vernacular use). If your theological framework included the idea that the bread and wine was actually part of Jesus or became so, you would approach it with more of a gasp of awe. If you thought Jesus was right there, we would be humbled, wanting to express our recognition that we are on holy ground. Yet, the very fact we can take it as we gaze out the window, yawn or look at our mobiles, suggests there is doubt as to just how sacred this moment is in our minds or heart.
How do we move to believe it is something special beyond the symbolism like a flag or a brand logo? Maybe by refusing on insisting it has to be logical. I’m not asking us to think it actually becomes his flesh or blood, but we should confess the doubt in the mystical and move to a belief that says its more than what we understand. Then, when we hold the elements this Sunday our hands may tremble and our hearts burn within us.