The Herb Of Grace

Theology and Poetry, Politics and Prose

Things That Sustain: The Eucharist, Part 1 September 1, 2008

Things That Sustain: Christian Practices that must not be forgotten (or must be restored) if we hope to “Be Church.”

Here I am continuing my posts on Christian Practices, having so far written on forgiveness. If you’d like, read Forgiveness, Part 1 and Part 2

The Eucharist as Memory and Presence

It is interesting to want to write about the Eucharist, and to try to. It is interesting because of the vantage point that it presupposes; it presupposes a perspective on the Eucharist which could elucidate things about it, a perspective that stands above it. It presupposes that the Eucharist is basically a human institution that can be picked apart as an etymologist dissects a cockroach. It presupposes that we will be able, after this short discussions, to say, “there now, that’s settled; let’s move on to the next Christian practice,” and feel utterly confident that we have plumbed the depth of the thing. I am glad to say that this set of presuppositions is nothing but pride mixed with a healthy dose of stupidity. I am less than glad to tell you that I am not sure just how much of this set of presuppositions I have dwelling within me at the moment. But we try nonetheless and hope, by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, that we will find more than our presuppositions deserve.

What excites me is the reverse of these presuppositions. That is, if the Eucharist is not what we have said above, then it must be something else, something better. Let us begin by seeing the Eucharist as essentially Christian mystery, as mysterious revelation and presence, as something that Christians do or ‘practice’, not in order to understand it, but in order that we might worship God. When we do this, we are brought closer to the place that millions of hopeful Jesus-followers have lived in their communal gathering, their gatherings of memory and presence.

See the bread and wine lifted up, just as Jesus did, and hear the words, Jesus’ words, “this my body, this is my blood.” Feel the memory rush into your bones, memory of all that God has done; you remember in that moment the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and, layered behind that, God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and feeding them with bread from heaven and water from rock. Now see all the sinners and saints, which are the same people, go forward and take that presence into their bodies, God’s memory into their memory. In that moment both Presence and memory collide with all our false gods and memories; in that moment Christ is victorious in his people, not by coercion or by violence, but by his community’s humble acceptance of the story and Lordship of Jesus.
Does this sound different from your experience of the eucharist or communion? I know it sounds different from mine. Unlike what I have just been describing, the mystery that surrounded the eucharist for me was simply and sadly that we so received it so infrequently.

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One Response to “Things That Sustain: The Eucharist, Part 1”

  1. catholicnoob Says:

    I happened upon your Eucharist part 1 posting through way of the picture you used. I was looking for pictures for my own blog and your posting intrigued me. After reading part one, I glanced over and saw this posting, thus…I’m writing back.

    I just finished the RCIA process i after a long discernment process of being in the “in between” of baptist and Catholic. I’m proud of you for searching out your faith in a way that so many are too complacent to do, but I felt as if I could offer some encouragement.

    I do not think God wants you to be forever in this “in between”. If you feel called to the Eucharistic table…I think you know where your heart belongs. No other place in this world can offer this kind of nourishment, which I see that you understand. I did not receive our Lord until Easter, a few weeks ago. It was definitely a struggle to abstain from the table until then, but it was worth it.

    I learned that this practice is done out of respect for what The Eucharist truly is. By respecting the boundaries around it, you are in turn truly respecting The Eucharist itself. It seems to me that you do have a respect, but I would encourage you to look a little deeper into yourself to find that this “shock and awe aside, all protestant pride let go of, all self-entitlement released” that you spoke of may not be truly absent. It is the pride inside of us that says we deserve something. It is the reverence inside us that says, “I can wait”.


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