The Christian Mime
Wednesday, July 25, 2018
At his last supper, which might also have been the Jewish Passover meal, Jesus gave us an action, a mime, a sacred ritual for his community that would summarize his core and lasting message for the world—one to keep repeating until his return to hold the group and teaching together. This deep message was to slowly sink in until “the bride” (those ready for divine intimacy) is fully ready to meet “the bridegroom” (Jesus the Christ) and drink at the eternal wedding feast (see Revelation 21:2 and elsewhere). The wedding banquet is also one of Jesus’ most common metaphors; he even starts his ministry at an intoxicating wedding banquet (John 2:1-11).
The Eucharistic mime, and that is what it is—a story enacted through motions more than words—has four main aspects that we are to imitate from Jesus’ first enactment (presented in varying ways in Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14: 22-24; Luke 22:17-20, and another way by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Given that, it is quite strange that we insist on one official wording when it is not even presented that way from the start.
1) You also should take your full life in your hands. In very physical and scandalously incarnational language, table bread is daringly called “my body” and wine is called “my blood.” You are saying a radical “yes” to both the physical universe itself and the bloody suffering of your own life and all the world.
2) You then thank God (eucharisteo in Greek), who is the Origin of all that life and who allows and uses the death that life includes. (During the Eucharistic Prayer, you are reminded of the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ.) You are making a choice for gratitude, abundance, and appreciation for Another, which has the power to radically de-center you. Your life and death are pure gift and must be given away in trust.
3) You choose to break your life and death wide open. You let your life be broken, used up, and you don’t spend your life protecting yourself. In handing over the small self you discover your True Self in God. “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat” (John 12:24). The crushed grain and grapes become the broken bread and the intoxicating wine. There is no other way for the transformation to happen.
4) You then chew on this mystery for all the rest of your days! Divine truth is known by participation with and practice of, not by more thinking or discussing or even believing. You eventually have to “eat” the truth more than ever understand it.
Eucharist is a living mime, done first by Jesus and slowly, ever so slowly, also imitated by us.
We should hold ourselves apart from this meal only if we are not at least willing to try to live this way. That is the only real meaning of it being a “sacrificial meal.” Jesus did it “once and for all” and we are still considering whether we want to join in. It is not moral unworthiness as much as simple unreadiness that might keep us away from the table—and probably, if I were honest, it should have kept me from eating and drinking most days of my life when I had no intention or desire to take, give thanks, break open, and eat.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (CAC Publications: 2016), 295-296.