This morning we celebrate Corpus Christi .. I don’t know how your Latin is .. we are celebrating Holy Communion.
Its really interesting that I think I have more questions asked of me about the meaning of the Bread and the Wine than any other aspect of Church life .. what is going on here at this table? .. what do we mean by eating the flesh and drinking the blood? .. in what way is this all possible or to be understood?
I’m not going to be able to explain something which has been a mystery for so many believers for so long. But let us embrace the fact that mystery is often the beginning of wonder and as the Ancient Greeks said ‘wonder is the beginning of wisdom’. For Christians to ask deeper questions when we get stuck with something is part of the message that our revelation is progressive. Never let feeling uncomfortable with an aspect of faith cause you to give up because discomfort is part of what moves us beyond our own comfort to a higher place.
But let’s have a go at least at thinking about what happens here at this table. I remember when I was interviewed as a potential priest being I was asked how I understood the sacrament and I replied that it had meant different things and has different significance at different times on my journey of faith. This has continued to be true as a priest. So there are different elements of what it means that Jesus is the Bread of Life.
At times it has been the sharing of the Bread and Wine that has mattered most. This is why I chose the Old Testament reading from Genesis which takes us back to what might be said to be the model of Eucharistic fellowship.
Melchizedek goes out to meet Abraham the warrior and his troops with bread and wine. The symbolism of this gesture is many layered. It is an offering of peace towards Abraham. It is also a confrontation in a way. It requires Abraham to acknowledge his presence. He then receives the tithe of Abrahams booty .. 10% of the plunder and so it is a moment of sharing. A moment of peaceful rather than belligerent interaction.
This then is one model for the Eucharist, Holy Communion, in the Bible. The coming together to share, to confront, to give and receive, to acknowledge one another’s presence in the world through sharing a meal. In a way this is perhaps the model Jesus embraces at the last supper sitting with friends and enemies. Come he says .. eat with me. And he says that to us now.
What about the statement ‘I am the Bread of Life’ ‘eat my body’ ‘drink my blood’. This points to another possible meaning too.
Jesus begins a conversation with his disciples about being the Bread of Life at a time when it does not mean what it means to us now, After the crucifixion we relate the Bread of Life to directly to Holy Communion but for the disciples this would not have been so.
There was nothing in the disciple’s minds which would have had an inkling of what was going to happen to Him. It is important to remember this and not jump too quickly to the idea of the broken Bread of communion.
But after the resurrection there is another message to be heard in the words of that supper. As they think about that night after the crucifixion they realise that what sustains us must be in some way consumed in order to serve its purpose. Bread must be broken if it is to be truly shared. It cannot feed people unless it is broken.
Jesus message was only truly spread through brokenness. The great teacher of the faith who was the very Bread of Life was to be torn and broken in order that His message might truly feed others.
And Holy Communion we are to remember Christ as broken and not powerful. This label of the Bread of Life draws us into a deep understanding of what Jesus message to us was. To be broken and consumed is what it means to feed people.
You see we too as Christs’ body on earth must be broken and torn in our lives.
In all this we find that the symbol of a shared table then is not one of power but rather one of acknowledging the weakness of our humanity which leads us to God’s table. Our remembrance of Jesus in Holy Communion is remembering not his power but his brokenness on the cross. And each time we reenact the Eucharist we break His body anew.
Where would we be without this great sacrament. What would we have left. What else would we do when we remember the body and blood of Jesus than partake in it and allow it to consume us as we consume it.
It is a deep mystery .. but it is in mystery we have wonder and in wonder we find Wisdom. How apt then that book of Proverbs tells us: Wisdom has set her table; she calls from the highest place in the city; ‘Come eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed’. Let us see in this table then the bread and wine mixed in such away that we might commune with God and one another in the mystery of faith.