Communion

Somewhere along the way, the importance of food in myths and legends was pointed out to me.  More specifically, the traveler’s advice “Don’t drink the water” is incredibly true to figures on magical journeys.

In Greek myth, Persephone eats just a few seeds and as a result Hel ends up with claims on her soul.  In the amazing animated film “Spirited Away” the protagonist’s parents begin eating the food in the magical world and are turned into pigs as a result.

To eat the food in a place– whether it is in our “real” lives or in myth– is to start to become a citizen of that place.   To begin the process of becoming a citizen of a place is to submit to the laws and other claims a place makes on you.

On a biological level, there is of course equally important things going on.  We are taking in the substance of this new place.  It will be digested by our body and become a part of us.

Perhaps this is the real importance of the Kosher laws in the Hebrew tradition.   If the ancient Jews had fully immersed themselves in the food of the countries they were in, they would be sacrificing some of the ways in which God set them apart.

One of the things I love about God is that he so often uses these mythic elements, but he intensifies them, turns them upside down, imparts this whole new meaning to them.

So it is with communion.

Instead of this being a thing to avoid about the new world we are standing on the threshhold to, it becomes a thing to go after.  we are invited to step through the door and into this new world.

More strikingly, instead of the food being a cultural artifact of the new world we enter, the food is identical with that new world itself, and that new world itself is identical to the figure who will lead us into it.

But more than this, the new world is built not only on the overall person of Christ, but also on his act on the cross.  If his body had not been beaten and broken, we could not have the bread.  If his body was not made to bleed, we could not drink the wine.

But if Christ’s death was the last word then this would be a meaningless act of cannibalism.  It is not just the crucifixtion, but also the resseruction, which are evoked in communion.   If he had not died we couldn’t take the substances in.  Yet if he had not lived there would be no reason to do so.

Persephone ate seeds and digested them, and so that world became a part of her.  How much more true is it of me: I drink his blood and eat his flesh (as ghastly as that sounds) and in doing this, I am reminded that he lives in me… And most specifically, his death and reseruction live in me.

In other words: Unlike the more general mythological idea, we don’t enter into only a new world, we enter into a new identity.  And we don’t enter into just an identity, but we also enter into two of the great acts of this identity.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

2 thoughts on “Communion”

  1. again great connections – I was thinking about all of this at Mass this morning and the amazing connectedness of the passover/seder traditions to the eucharist…

    Like

  2. Thanks for the encouragement!
    Jesus context within the Jewish tradition is this whole other topic that has all sorts of fascinating aspects.

    Like

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