Grains from the Fields and Grapes from the Vine
Bread and wine. Grains from the fields and grapes from the vines worked on by human hands to nourish and delight us.
They are everyday reminders of the Genesis story of creation: that we humans are capable of sustaining and nourishing all of Earth’s inhabitants if we but tend carefully this earth-garden.
Bread and wine. They had a special place in the ministry of Jesus. He came among us announcing the long-awaited kingdom of God was at hand, proclaiming this message not only with words but deeds as well, changing water into wine at a wedding banquet and multiplying a few loaves of bread to feed thousands in a deserted place.
Then, as the religious authorities of his day were bent upon his death, he gathered together his disciples for a last supper, and in its course he consciously identified with the bread and wine on the table. As bread and wine nourish and delight by being consumed, so he would feed our deeper spirit-hungers by giving up his life.
Taking the bread, he said to them, “Take and eat. This is my body given for you.” Taking the cup of wine before him, he proclaimed, “Take and drink. This is the cup of my blood, the blood of a new and everlasting covenant that will be shed for you and for all, that sins may be forgiven.” Then he invited them to become bread and wine like himself; not just being consumers of bread and wine, but being bread and wine for others. “Do this in memory of me.”
Bread and wine. Over the years they have been especially important in nourishing my faith life. In my younger years, receiving them in holy Communion was the preeminent time in my week for one-on-one time with Christ. Upon returning to my pew from the Communion line I would bury my face in my hands, shut myself off from the others around me, and intimately converse with Jesus.
Now, in my elder years, participation in the Eucharistic bread and wine has been especially helpful in realizing that spirituality is essentially a matter of striving to deepen in communion with everything and everyone. Bread and wine are brought to the table, Jesus’ words at his last supper are proclaimed, and we are invited to partake. And in the act of consuming them, I’m aware in a special way of being connected to the earth. The earth is not just below my feet, it is within me. They also help me be aware of my connectedness to all the others present who are partaking of the same plate and cup. And lastly, I’m aware of being connected in Christ to the unfathomable mystery of God.
When we share the consecrated bread and wine, we do it in such a way that no one gets it all and no one gets none, but everyone gets a sufficiency to nourish their spirit for a time. This gives us both a glimpse of the heavenly banquet to come, and a call to work now for a world where there is a sufficiency for everyone.
In our present polarized society, the sharing together of bread and wine in imitation of Jesus’ act can inspire and call us to imitate the way Jesus commonly ate. He ate with everybody! Indeed, this was a big complaint of the religious leaders: “He eats with sinners!” It reminds us that even though some present-day church leaders wish to exclude some from the Eucharistic table because of their political positions, Jesus consistently chose inclusion over exclusion.
Tom Lumpkin is an 83-year-old priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, Michigan, officially retired but still active with the Detroit Catholic Worker, which was his diocesan assignment for 42 years.