Communion is Kinda Wierd
It seems a rather strange thing we do every Sunday, doesn’t it? We gather around a table (we give it a fancy name, “altar”) and say some words over bread and wine. We claim that it is now the body and blood of someone who died almost 2,000 years ago. We all take just a little. And we go home believing that God has strengthened us in some mystical way!
If it weren’t for the fact that we are so accustomed to the idea, we would find it quite bizarre. Imagine how you might explain this ritual to someone who has never heard or seen such a thing.
At least part of the reason for this is a vague perception that matter — physical stuff — really isn’t very spiritual. There is a strong tradition both in Christianity and in other religions of trying to separate ourselves from “stuff” in order to be closer to God. Some monks live in caves. Buddhist monks deny themselves many creature comforts. American Indians go on “vision quests.” Christians abstain from various comforts during Lent, or meat on Fridays. Some Christians have gone much further in various forms of self-denial.
No doubt, there can be great value to ascetical practice — denying ourselves various bodily comforts — for spiritual discipline and growth. But our passage from John this Sunday reminds us that matter — stuff — is not devoid of spiritual value.
Click here to read the passage.
Jesus tells the disciples, “The bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Then makes it even more personal, “I am the bread of life.” God comes to us not only in the numinous (that intangible sense of divine presence), but in the stuff of which He made the world, and made us.
This is the heart of the sacrament in which we trust and which we celebrate each Sunday. Jesus comes to us in the stuff of life, even as simple and common a thing as bread, and wine. Our God does not shun the stuff of creation, but touches us and meets our needs through it.
It may not be any easier to explain to someone who has never seen it, but we can be confident that our Lord does, in fact, strengthen us in the bread wine of his creation, of His sacrament, of His promise!
This column appeared in the August 5, 2018 edition of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the full issue.
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