Tuesday, March 23, 2004

On the Eucharistic Life

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?


Anonymous said...

Kyle, I don't have a lot of answers, but I have learned this: The eucaristic life calls us to accept the messy work of staying in relationship with others. If we together are the whole loaf (body of Christ) then I must stay with the other pieces in order to keep Christ's body fully represented. I can't let go of people or allow them to just walk away.

This kind of life means we work to heal not only individual wounds, but also relational brokenness. Otherwise it is not Jesus' body broken for us, but Jesus' body broken by us.

Kyle said...

You know what? I think that's answer enough. (And very well said, at that.) God's heart is always for reconcilation, even when (especially when) ours are for something else altogether.

As I've been reading some early Christian writers with Alan and company, one of the most earth shattering things I've seen is that even when people are shut out of the community for sins against the community for which they have not repented, those writers are always keen on the restoration of the offenders.

Nothing is a complete deal-breaker. Everybody is always welcome to walk back into relationship.

Dymphna said...

Being "shut out" of a community for one's sins is a very wounding experience. Which is not to say it's unnecessary: that's what prisons are for, after all.

The expression "beyond the pale" has always fascinated me. It meant you were sent to live in isolation and danger, well past the palings of the enclosed village or community.

But what is more likely today is that people walk right past those palings, indifferent to the community's admonishments and content to wander on by their lonesome...being 'shut out' has lost its power in the western world.

In this vein, there are some complete "deal-breakers" for me: pedophilia is one. Whether this disorder is neurochemical or characterological, it is nonetheless compulsive and progressive. Nor is there a 12 step program that can handle it...yep, definitely would have to put pedophiles beyond the pale, despite any protestation that they'd "changed."

Kyle said...

Yeah, I guess that's become a "normal" aspect of Western disintegration: community (as such) is a commodity, and perhaps even a fad at the moment.

Community as activity, as committment, is much more difficult, and not as sexy as advertised. You make a good point about "excommunication" being meaningless to most people. When people don't join their lives to others in any kind of permanent way (not even marriage!), it's would hardly be noticeable as discipline. And when people are constantly "communing with" and excommunicating everyone else as individuals, there's no context in which to submit to discipline.

SaintSimon said...


In making pedophilia a 'deal breaker'you contradict the scripture that only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven and you underestimate the transforming work of Christ.

Yes, pedophiles are very sinister and manipualtive people, and it is not sufficient to trust one simply 'coz (s)he says (s)he's changed. But they CAN be saved, CAN be forgiven, and CAN change. (unless God is wrong, or the power of the cross is weak). Like it or not, some of the people you share heaven with will be forgiven and renewed pedophiles.

The challenge for us now is to find a way to include into the church the genuine cases while excluding the evil majority . I don't have an answer.

Kyle said...

Cheers, SaintSimon.

That's a difficult but very important point.