August 05, 2007

Mark 14.22-25

During supper he took bread, and having said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them, with the words: "Take this; this is my body." Then he took a cup, and having offered thanks to God he gave it to them; and they all drank from it. And he said, "This is my blood of the covenant, shed for many. I tell you this, never again shall I drink from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."

3 Comments:

At 9:26 AM, Blogger forrest said...

From a site on the Didache (an ancient Christian text, parts of which obviously go way back...)

"A. D. Howell-Smith writes about the Didache (Jesus Not a Myth, p. 120):

The simple Christology of Acts confronts us again in the so-called Teaching of the Apostles, a composite work, of which the first six chapters seem to be a Christian redaction of a Jewish document entitled The Two Ways, while the rest is the work of several Christian writers, the earliest belonging to the first century and the latest perhaps to the fourth. The Jesus mentioned in this book's account of the celebration of the Eucharist is just the "Servant" (Παις) of God, who has made known the "holy vine" of God's "Servant" David; nothing is said of the bread and wine being the body and blood of Jesus."

[That's from http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/didache.html
]
I find lots of sites quoting the Didache in favor of celebrating communion on Sundays, with an orthodox understanding, and yet this obviously calls that understanding, as well as Paul's in question, so far as any of this...
stuff... going back to Jesus.

On another hand, God can reach us in a great many ways we wouldn't expect. Consider _Take this Bread_ by Sara Miles.

I've got my reaction on
this sitebut the quick version is: there's power in these old ritual ways of feeding one another. Probably Crossan has got a big chunk of it, that the original practice of Jesus was a Jewish ritual meal in which everyone was welcome and everyone was fed. So the churches' token cookie (for most people, most of the time) brings us about as close to knowing Jesus as it does to filling our tummies with a multi-course dinner. And yet something happened to her she couldn't understand.

 
At 8:08 PM, Blogger Bill Samuel said...

It is interesting that, although it is not explicit in the text of any of the Gospels that Jesus is commanding something that all His followers are to do until He comes again, with only rare exceptions (Friends, Salvation Army) Christian groups from apostolic times have engaged in the regular practice of the Eucharist.

Paul discusses the practice in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. It is there that the customary words "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (v. 26)

Paul is exercised about the right practice of the Lord's Supper. He warns against humiliating those who have nothing (v. 22). He insists on a time of examination of ourselves before we take the bread and the cup (27-32). He warns against the sin of taking the Lord's Supper unworthily.

I think what Fox saw was the Lord's Supper typically not being taken in the spirit of Paul's instructions and warnings. Paul, I believe, would also have been outraged at the practice of the Eucharist during the era of early Friends.

You can see what Paul wrote as making the spirit, the substance, of the Eucharist much more important than the outward practice. This is true to the many times Jesus stressed that it was the inward, not the outward, which was critical.

But Jesus and Paul did not reach the conclusion that outward practices were thereby wrong. That the early Friends at least sometimes did (there actually is some variation in early Friends' writing on this as to whether it is wrong per se) is certainly a reaction to practices they saw which dishonored God.

But was the complete omission of the practice a reaction for that time and place rather than a universal, or did the Society over-react? When I look at teachings and practices of early Friends, I look at them with a view to what Christ is teaching the church at large.

Many of them have become accepted in others parts of the church. That only the Salvationists have followed the lead of Friends in dispensing altogether with the practice makes me wonder whether the lesson is really that it is to be avoided.

God chose to incarnate Himself in human flesh. The practice of the Eucharist is a smaller version of, a reminder of, the incarnation. God does speak through incarnational practices. I experience that regularly in the Eucharist.

Now the text is one of Christ bringing sharply to the disciples' attention that his execution is nigh, something they don't accept. In the Lord's supper, he combines physical symbolism with words in an effort to dramatically bring this truth to the attention of the 12.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Hi Bill!

Many people have evidently found communion in that outward practice. Including Dorothy Day, Sarah Miles, and many other good people who find the politics of church hierarchies pretty nasty. Let them commune!

My point is that the actual practice of Jesus, in his lifetime, would have been Jewish meals with the proper blessings. The only element his contemporaries are said to have found objectionable was that he celebrated these feasts with unacceptable people. If, at his actual last supper, Jesus had called for some different practice, I would expect that practice to have quickly become universal among early Christians. Instead, we find a well-known manual of church practice from that time, which calls for something designated "the Lord's supper," in which neither Paul's words ("in my memory") nor the gospels' ("my body") are used.

The only sense I myself can make of the words is as an exhortation to truly digest Jesus' message (to "eat my [spiritual] blood and body") Zen masters use similar language ("You have my flesh," or if a student has really got it: "You have my bones.") but I've yet to hear of a similar idiom in Aramaic. All I know is that Aramaic, like Hebrew, is short on elemental words & rich in metaphor. While contemporary Hellenistic mystery cults were typically intended to establish connection to their dead-but-resurrected deities by similar practices & language.

Miles was initially hooked by a Eucharistic ceremony, but eventually found shared meals with poor people she knew more powerful...

 

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