Breaking More Than Bread

Eucharistic-Bread

Several years ago I remember hearing about someone switching churches for a reason that I could not connect to: a man that switched from being Baptist to Episcopalian in part because he found the liturgy to be so beautiful.  Liturgy?  Really?  You mean like formal presentation of that bread and wine with those fancy clothes?

That was my cultural bias in belittling it because I prided myself on my informal formation as a Christian. My parents did not identify themselves as Christian and I became a Christian without their guidance when I was 10 and became a church goer at 14.  I did not take into my life a habit to pray before meals and cussing was not a problem for me.  In fact, I rarely made it a point to dress nice for church because God knows my heart.  There was even a season of my life when I avoided “dry, organized church” of any kind choosing to be in a house church that was off the rails and not reverent to traditions of Christianity that had unity and history to it.  So on that liturgy anecdote “Really?” seemed to make sense.

But years later, my meandering journey in following Christ took me unexpectedly into the Catholic Church.  To stay.  I actually like it.  Another interesting point is that I wanted a Christianity to experience that was consistent with a matter of fact declaration on fresh, pristine form on how, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).  In this setting I have found this verse to be fleshed out in the most fulness.

But this is not just a matter of just a ceremony for ceremony’s sake.  This is the full realization of what is to take the message of John 3:16, thank God for His sacrifice of His Son and infuse it relationally into ones soul and body.  In the Old Testament they had a bread sacrifice to God called the todah.  In the Greek translation from Hebrew they used the word eucharesteo.  This is where we get Eucharist where Jesus is present Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Did I still accept Jesus at 10 with a simple prayer? Yes.  But with The Eucharist it is blown into 3D and it draws me to a unified walk with Church in light of salvation history.

Late invention?  The accounts of having the Eucharist in the Early Church Fathers writings are numerous.  But one can see something profound with Jesus on the day of the resurrection.  Two disciples of Jesus come upon him on the road to Emmaus but do not recognize him right away.  He takes the fog away eventually like he does for anyone who seeks him honestly.

And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them who were saying, “The Lord has truly been raised and has appeared to Simon!” Then the two recounted what had taken place on the way and how he was made known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:30-35).

Safe to assume that they consumed the bread?  Almost.  Once Jesus gave thanks and consecrated, his presence is extended in the bread.  They knew him in the breaking of the bread.

Klasis is the Greek word for the actual breaking of bread.  In a solemn way this happens in a holy, fellowship time.  But there is another breaking of the bread can then be done in smaller settings that are not as formal.  There is room to build relationally with one another that does not take away from Jesus.

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke (klasis) bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46).  This is beautiful, compliments the pillar of above about fellowship and is a sanctified time because of the primary breaking of the bread in the sacrifice reflecting The Sacrifice on the cross.  It is in the institution of the Eucharist that Christ gives us the source and summit of our faith as we walk in God and together.

This is where Jesus expressed something that was to have meaning but must be apprehended (like getting the “jist” of something) and comprehending.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me (John 6: 54-57).

Here, all of the crowd save the 12 disciples walk away.  The twelve maybe apprehend and others will not soften to such an offensive mystery.  But the two men on the road to Emmasaus?  Many other Christians through the ages such as Catholic, Orthodox and Coptic?  Different story.  But now I can tell you it is my story as well.

House of Doubt:Formula Detox

Empty Promises

A universal challenge to the existence of God is on the problem of evil or dysfunction in the world.  Either God does not exist or if he does exist then he is certainly powerful but not willing to exert power to show he exists and cares.

A micro version of this is in this encounter between the Cynic of Cynics, Satan, and Jesus who according to historical Christianity is God “made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test”(Matthew 4:5-7).

There is an objective truth for all persons that do not intrinsically have divinity: There is a God and we are not him.

But the challenge that brings out this response is that if Jesus represents God as his king on earth (I find it unlikely that Satan knew of Jesus’ divinity) then he should perform in such a way because God would have to perform thus by default.  Satan was operating in his temptation with a “should formula”.  In that “should” would be a premise on the rights of the human person who walks with God to be exalted in a way that is commanding and not surrender.

made him stand on the parapet of the temple— What happens here is a lifting up of Jesus that is other than the cross.  Jesus said that he would indeed be lifted up and draw all men to himself but this was in the cross.  This is not fun or tantalizing but in the sacrificial love of Jesus and how we are instructed by the gospel it is essential.  It should also be noted that the days of this same temple are numbered because The Temple, Jesus would die and rise as the ultimate center of holy awe.

He will command his angels concerning you— This is pointing to a kingdom that is centered on the self.  This reminds me of many errors out there on the fringes of Christendom like the Prosperity Gospel.  The premise is that the heavens center on what is good for our flesh.  Though Satan uses true scripture he was of course deceitful in how he uses this.  Satan is trying sell a guarantee off of a formula that supposedly makes God man’s servant.

You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test— The point here is that God and his holiness, while an objective truth, can be personally known in an internalized way.

Like I said, Satan did not have a full understanding that Jesus is Lord and could be known universally throughout the world but at some level must have known about the cross and was maybe afraid of its power.

But if you are reading this and are an inquirer of the Christian faith I can tell you that you do not have to be afraid.  If Jesus literally will help you out of your own concrete and bad circumstances I cannot say.  But what I can say is that if your turn to Jesus and embrace the message of the cross you will find life because you will find Him.  But along the way you too may be tempted to reduce God to a formula.  Say yes to Jesus instead.  If you, like me, have bought into fringe formulas then I urge you to take a lesson from my own Hard Knocks University: ask Jesus to detox you of them to instead know him “in the power of his resurrection and in the fellowship of his suffering” (Phillipians 3:10).

Right Premise, Right Community

StruggleCommon_0

I remember learning about mores in college.  They are cultural norms about how a people collectively are supposed to live regarding both big and small things. I had to take at least one course in sociology to get into my Bachelors in Social Work program I suppose to fit a proverb one teacher said that, “the macro helps you understand the micro” (Andre Pruit, personal conversation, 2012).

But in a religious context this could lead to what is a called a moral life.  In a society that embraces moral relativism, it is helpful to see the moral norms for what they are when fully expressed: objective realities that are pointed to by natural law implicitly but articulated in a religious life explicitly.  This is pointed to by those in authority no matter what society one belongs to.  What smaller rules there can change but on the bigger ones it is a matter of objectivity being unmovable if it is religious and calling itself divine.  Moral truth also would need to be the wisdom of the ages and not the wisdom of just this age right now.  Or another point would be a “Church that is not moved by the world, but moves the world” (GK Chesterton).

“They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life [fellowship], to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:20).

To be moved and illuminated by the apostles’ teaching was to be tied to the example of giving all of ones self to the will of the Father.  This meant that the original Christians saw that to tie themselves to Jesus was to be tied together in living the life of holiness.  The cultural norm for them was in the commandment of Jesus “to love one another, just as I have loved you”.

But that is just the principle of this holy people then as well as those who walk in that calling now and is both redemptive, internalized and continuous.

Resting on the fullness of the gospel, kingdom message, of Jesus Christ there is a proper definition of the dignity of the human person and of God’s covenant love in the Christian life.

But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Once you were “no people” but now you are God’s people; you “had not received mercy”

but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul. Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:9-3:1)

This is a word about being those who experience Jesus in a community setting.  God has touched them, they live out a life of grace and the glory is given to God.  When people of faith go off track is fundamentally because they go into a downward spiral from forgetting God as their first love, they live off of their guts and glory is withheld to a human kingdom (sometimes with the most fluent of Christianese).

But do the apostles put themselves out of a job if a community does so well?  Maybe in part if if in part a true overseer of God’s people would rejoice about it.  What can be said is that whether the Body of Christ walking in the fulness of truth is observed in the 1st century or the 21st, there is a divine calling of should that should be there.

But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).

So can there be holiness in Church?  In as much as it is tied to first right instruction from apostles teaching/Sacred Tradition (which preceded the Sacred Scripture of the NT for hundreds of years in canon form) and unity in common life.  Do you, dear reader, know Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?  If so, I rejoice over what God has done.  But to be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into a holy nation that can be “sharing in a heavenly calling, reflect on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1). Most fundamentally in the balance of these principles is what I embrace now as a received member in the Catholic Church.