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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Everyday Eucharist

In the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect we spoke at home (as well as in the High German from which it derives) there are two words for eating. “Esse” is for what humans engage in when they take in nourishment.  “Fresse” for what animals do when grazing or when devouring their food.

In the case of animals, "fresse" is a neutral term, but if used to describe a person eating, it suggests a serious lack of refinement and good manners. As children we were also reminded that "esse" is to be associated with gratitude, that you don’t just dive in and begin to gobble down what’s on your plate, but first take time to express thanks to your Creator, to ask God’s blessing on the meal.

There is something especially sacred about the act of eating when you think of the fact that every item on our plate has giving up its life for the sake of sustaining our life. This is true whether that be some form of animal life that has been sacrificed for our nourishment, a vegetable that’s been uprooted or otherwise harvested and prepared for our benefit, or an egg or a seed which will never live to reproduce itself because it has been offered up so that we have what we need to live.

In the Christian tradition, Jesus further blesses the common meal when at one of them he tells his followers that when they gather to break bread they should take time to remember the giving of his body on their behalf, and when they drink of the cup they are to recall the offering up of his very life for them all.

In my faith tradition that isn’t seen as a literal act of partaking of Christ's bodily flesh or blood, but as a sacred sign that we can be sustained only by ingesting the blessing of God’s good gifts, the greatest being that of God's very self. We take God in. Jesus becomes an integral part of us.

Since it is only through divine offerings that life and growth are possible, we should never partake of the Eucharist or of any meal without reflecting on what an amazing grace it represents.
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