Dan Cranley, theological Student and intern at St. George’s has lead a Lenten book study on Thursday nights at 7pm. The book read was “Food and Faith: A Theology of Food” written by Norman Wirzba. Below is Dan’s reflection in preparation for the groups final gathering from March 29th.
Eucharistic Table Manners
Albert the great once said that eating Jesus is like swallowing a seed that then germinates in the garden of our soul. It sprouts and grows producing good fruit, perhaps fruit like that described by Paul in his letter to the Galatians: love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The Eucharist is understood and practiced in different ways, some believe the communion table to be the place where Jesus is met in the earthly elements of bread and wine, for others the table is a memorial where Christ’s broken body and shed blood are remembered, and for others the elements are a way for us to imitate Christ by participating in his suffering in the world. Within the ritualization of the communion table, it is very easy to forget that this extraordinary event was originally presented by Christ to his disciples in the context of a normal every day meal. The dinner table was a place where Jesus and His disciples came together and received inspiration, strength and sustenance.
“The meal Jesus blessed that evening and claimed as his memorial was their ordinary partaking together of food for the body.” (John Howard Yoder, Body Politics, 16) The means that daily, common eating was inspired and informed by Christ’s continuing presence with them. To remember Jesus in their eating was not simply to recall a past event. It was to call on Jesus and invite him to transform what they were doing together.” (Wirzba, 150)
COMING TO THE EUCHARISTIC TABLE
As a Christian Community we are called to Eucharistic eating, but what does this mean? How does our “nibbly” ritual of communion wafers and a sip of wine translate into an everyday eating practice that is Christ centered? Wirzba begins this exploration by stating what Christ centered eating does not mean. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he addresses the community’s failing in this regard. “I hear that there are divisions among you… when you come together to eat it is not really the Lord’s Supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with their own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk.” (I Cor. 11:18-21)
In Paul’s view, Christians are to be members of one body, a membership in which no one is dispensable or deserving of disrespect… “No member is too lowly to be served and no member is too high not to serve.” (Wirzba, 151) We as people of faith are not to be rude, irritable, or insistent on having our own way, we are called to combat division and degradation, to bear each other up because health of the entire body is dependent upon us all serving the other parts. (Wirzba, 152)
When we approach the communion table, we partake in spiritual food (healing, transformation and fulfillment of life). We in a sense eat Jesus, the bread his body and the wine, his blood. When we eat the bread and drink the wine, we are also spiritually absorbing the life, death and resurrection of Christ into our souls.
When we eat, chew and digest a physical meal, the state of that food is changed, the food is transformed into energy and is absorbed into our bodies. When we partake in the Eucharist, a slightly different thing happens. We absorb into our spiritual selves the life, death and resurrection of Christ, but he also absorbs us all into him.
“When Jesus is eaten, people learn to give themselves away, trusting that in the sharing of their lives they participate in the divine, eternal life of sharing. They learn to make their movements a source of nurture, their lives and homes sites of hospitality, and their work an art of caring and celebration.” (Wirzba, 164)
He provides for us spiritual food in himself, but is also fed himself. He is fed by our progress. “Mutual in-dwelling facilitates mutual nurture, which leads to mutual growth, which leads to the flowering of maximum life, which leads to Sabbath delight.” (Wirzba, 165)
EUCHARSITIC HOSPITALITY AND RECONCILIATION
To eat in a Christ-centered manner is to take these principles of an open Eucharistic table and apply them to our everyday eating practices. Just as we are members of One Body Jesus Christ, we are also members of one world (creation). Therefore, we recognize through our thoughts, actions and imagination that all members of creation are valuable and have a part to play. When we gather around the dinner table, we partake in the food of creation and absorb that energy into our bodies to pay back to the earth and God through the nurturing of “the other” found in creation. What a beautiful vision.
How does your participating in the Eucharist influence the way you approach food?
What are some practical ways we as the church practice Christ centered eating? Any innovative suggestion for being more successful in this?
What are some ways that you can more successfully reconcile or show hospitality to the rest of creation?