In the Middle East, the sharing of a meal is deeply significant act that creates and maintains communal life. As Dr. Power reminds us from time to time, in that culture, sharing a meal with someone makes them family, and this act carries all of the blessings and responsibilities of that kind of relationship. It is in that culture that the Passover meal became the Eucharist.
One of the oldest Eucharistic blessings includes this prayer: “As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains, and after it had been brought together became one, so may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom; for yours is the glory, and the power, through Jesus Christ, forever” (Didache 9:4).
In the Eucharist, we rehearse the redemptive act whereby God created a people for himself. We join in that action to receive the blessings and accept the responsibilities of being that people. Taking the bread and wine is a deeply political act, proclaiming for everyone, “Who I am is not determined by my culture or job or the dictates of society. I am in Christ, and my identity is determined by His words and the life of the Community, which is his Body.”
The Eucharistic celebration is a renewal of Jesus’ commitment to us, collectively, as his Body, the people he has redeemed for himself. It is a renewal of our commitment to him and one another in being that. We are the scattered grain that has become the one loaf of bread, offered to God at the altar to be the Body of Christ. “We behold what we are; may we become what we see.”
To what extent do we really take responsibility for our brothers and sisters with whom we celebrate the Eucharist? What does it look like when we really commit to a deep, familial sharing with people who may have no more in common with us than the decision to attend a particular parish? What can be done to create that kind of “community culture” when we often attend churches full of people who have no such concept?
I don't have many answers yet, just more questions. But I'm working on it. Any suggestions?
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