Lord's Supper, Eucharist, Communion, etc.

eucharist-still-life-painting.jpgThis is a really interesting issue.  And frankly, I don't care what you call it (but I prefer Eucharist).  What gets me is that it is the one issue that should unite us who follow Jesus and yet, sadly, it divides us.  And that is wrong.

The reason for the division, as you know, is the answer to the question 'What is it?'.  That is, is the Eucharist just a memorial, just symbolic, or is it that actual body and blood of Jesus?  Well, being an Episcopalian, it think it is a little of both and neither at the same time.  And my take on it (and we must remember, this debate has been going on for a long, long time) is just that, my small understanding.

My daughter Sumi had a friend come over and visit us Saturday night and she went to church with us on Sunday morning.  Her friend, being Catholic, asked me very specifically about how we viewed the Eucharist.  'What do you mean', I replied.  'Well, do you believe that it is the real body and blood of Jesus or just a symbol?'  I love loaded questions, don't you?  This is a good question but it's asked in the wrong way.  I appreciate the question, but it is worded in such a way as playing 'real' versus 'symbol'.  I said, 'It's both and it's neither'.  I told her that I don't believe that the bread and wine actually become the literal body and blood of Jesus, but I don't believe that it is just a symbol either.  To me, the bread and wine are literally bread and wine, but they have the presence of Jesus in them in a very real way.  'That makes a lot of sense', she replied.  And then it struck me, we have made this mystery very had to comprehend, let alone understand.  Think of it this way...

The Bible teaches that the entire creation has a real presence of God in it, and yet, it is not God.  It point to God, but creation itself is not God.  Just like a road sign points to the destination, so does creation.  Creation is a huge sign post that has 'glimpses' of God within it but it is not God.  It speaks to us, in very real ways, about God, but it is not God.  I believe the same is true concerning the Eucharist.  It has the very real presence of Jesus in it, but it is not Jesus.

Now, I know.  Someone will say 'But Jesus said this is my body... this is my blood.  He didn't say his presence would be (somehow) in it.  He said the bread and wine was his body and blood.' And that's all fine.  But are we really going to be that literal in a very wooden sense?  I mean, Jesus also said 'I am the door' but he doesn't have hinges.  So, while Jesus was enacting a great mystery, it is at least comprehensible.  His presence is with us when there are 'two or more gather in [his] name' right?  We have the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit with us but we are not the Holy Spirit, right?  It is the same with the bread and the wine.  These elements symbolize the act of Jesus death for us and his presence, his very real presence, is, well, present in them... somehow.

Peace be with you.

+ OD

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