Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Eucharistic Meditation

What is the staple of life? As I contemplate it, it seems that it must be the meal. For the meal, in its highest form, is an occasion of fellowship and sharing with others while, together, we rejoicingly co-partake in that which sustains us in being. A meal is sustenance - that is, life - in community - that is, love. The meal, in its highest form, is life renewed and shared in love. And the eucharist is the highest of meals. For in the eucharist, the fellowship and sharing is the communion of the baptized, the togetherness of those who have tasted the heavenly gift, the mutual sharing of the sons and daughters of God destined for unfathomably glory. And in the eucharist, the sustenance of abundant life given/received, renewed, and shared in divine love is none other than the very substance of Life and Love made flesh and blood and revealed to us in the most basic of food and drink - bread and wine. That in which we partake through the eucharist is not merely a means of sustaining physical life; it is that means subsumed into the very reality - it is Life itself in whom we as the Living Community, living together, share. It is the 'medicine of immortality' shared in common by the inheritors of immortality, who in this meal have the sacred opportunity to partake in the Wellspring of Immortality - the Crucified and Risen Messiah, whose atoning passion we proclaim before the world every time we faithfully celebrate this act through this meal. This meal is our redeemed sharing in the death whereby Christ trampled down death and thereby ushered us into the freedom of the children of God. This meal is the Divine Life made flesh and blood and given as flesh and blood through bread and wine so that we might in the meal be made participants by grace in that Divine Life, that our table-fellowship might be a communal participation in the Eternal Community that is God in Trinity.

This eucharist, our meal of thanksgiving, looks to the past and to the future. It looks to the rescue of the Israelites from their bondage of Egypt and to the meal that celebrated God's mighty liberating act - which itself looked forward to our rescue from the bondage of sin and this eucharistic meal that celebrates God's mighty liberating act for us in Christ. It looks back to the manna, the bread of angels, that sustained the Israelites in their wanderings through the wilderness, just as this eucharistic meal - which is Christ, the "bread of heaven", given for us, broken for us, poured out for us - sustains the church of God in our wanderings through what remains of "the present evil age" as we yearn and plead for God's kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. It looks back to the Last Supper, when Christ in anticipation of his death took the Passover and made it new, made it fresh, made it signify yet again a new deliverance of God. It looks also forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb, that banquet on God's holy mountain when ultimate victory over sin and death and all the powers of darkness and pain will be celebrated and announced, and when the union of Christ and his holy church will be made full, fuller than our wildest imagination. It looks forward as an anticipation, a participating shadow, of every meal in the glory of the kingdom of God, of dining in the unmediated presence of Love, of Life.

Thank you, O Lord, for this meal! When I partake of this most holy sacrament... why do not my knees give way when I approach the table of the Lord? Can I not see that this is the body and blood of God's Messiah, broken and poured forth as a sacrifice and libation to remedy my sin, our sin? Are my senses so dulled that I fail to perceive that what I take in my hand and place in my mouth is the source of life? How can I bear it? How can I survive taking it into me, sinner that I am - save that you, O Lord, have cleansed me and prepared me by your Spirit? Little wonder that your apostle warned of partaking lightly, and so eating and drinking judgment to ourselves! But Lord, how I feel such delight when I behold a banquet of mere food, and yet so often fail to rejoice all the more greatly when I see that your own body and blood are set before me - the food of the kingdom! And Lord, how I dare to approach without the gravest trepidation when I contemplate that this food signifies the very death of the Son of God! Forgive me, Lord, for not perceiving the sacred mystery as fully as I ought! If I did, I should walk to the table trembling in awe-filled jubilation.

Can even the cherubim or the seraphim grasp what transpires at the Lord's Table? (For note: it is not we who have invited him to our table; it is he who has invited us to his.) Can even they perceive the full depth and breadth of this meal and what is represents? How much less can we! And yet, while we do not understand its mystery, still we are called to consume its mystery - and thus to be consumed by it, by the joy and redemption found only in Life, in Love. O Lord, you who go so far as to give your own divine self to us as a meal, consume us in living love to be vessels of life and love who spread love and restore life wherever we go - not on our mission, but on yours!

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