Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

The Universal and Unifying Meal

Thursday, July 26, 2018


The Universal and Unifying Meal
Thursday, July 26, 2018

The mystery of sharing food and a common table takes place on different levels. First there is the unifying idea of sharing the same food. Then there is the symbolism of the table itself: where you sit at the table, how the table is arranged, and who is invited. Together the food and table become a symbol of how our social world is also arranged. (Think of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series on food, Parts Unknown, which became the context for communicating an entire life philosophy, political commentary, and study of international friendship.)

Jesus’ last supper was a meal of deep table friendship—with his closest followers—that evolved into the formatted, highly ritualized meal of bread and wine that many of us feel obligated to participate in today. The first disciples soon came to understand it as their special way of gathering, as the way to define their reality and their relationship with one another, a “memorial” meal with Jesus and thus with the larger society.

This communion meal was originally somewhat of a secret ritual (especially during times of persecution) by which the community defined itself and held itself together. Frankly, most people have never been ready for the Eucharist’s radically demanding message of solidarity with both suffering and resurrection at the same time. Therefore, we made it into a worthiness contest and something that we could supposedly understand with our mind—both a terrible waste of time, in my opinion. Catholics even publicly say, “Lord, I am not worthy” in the Mass, immediately before we walk up as if we are “worthy”—and others are not. Ken Wilber would call this a “performative contradiction” right in the heart of the liturgy.

Yes, we are to recognize Jesus himself in the Eucharist, but we are also to “recognize the Body” (see 1 Corinthians 11:29) of those present as the Body of Christ, too (as Paul goes on to describe at great length in 1 Corinthians 12). There is no true Eucharist without a living assembly because we are being saved together and as one. The message is corporate and historical. (Yet I grew up with priests in great numbers saying “private” Masses all by themselves. And some still say we did not need a liturgical renewal!)

The Eucharistic meal is meant to be a microcosmic event, summarizing at one table what is true in the whole macrocosm: We are one, we are equal in dignity, we all eat of the same divine food, and Jesus is still and always “eating with sinners” (for which people hated him) just as he did when on Earth.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publications: 2016), 296-297.

Image credit: Sharing a meal in the Philippines (detail), photograph by Avel Chuklanov, 2017. Magalang Road, Mabalacat, Philippines.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Jesus’ most consistent social action was eating in new ways and with new people, encountering those who were oppressed or excluded from the system. He didn’t please anybody, it seems, always breaking the rules and making a bigger table. —Richard Rohr
Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.