A Meal for the Soul
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
~ Mark 14:22
The first thing we need to remember when we take Communion (by whatever name you call it) is that it is a meal. In most churches today, the food is symbolic; we eat a scrap of bread or a wafer, not a tuna hoagie. But to the early Christians, the celebration of the Lord's Supper was . . . supper. (In 1 Corinthians 11, in fact, Paul has to scold members of the church for coming early and eating all the food up.) We call it all sorts of names, but Paul calls it communion in 1 Corinthians 10 and so I'll center on that.
The concept of communion is connection, togetherness, fellowship: primarily with Christ, but also with one another. When we commune, we take the time to appreciate something or someone else. We commune with nature by walking in the woods, listening to the birds sing, soaking in the beauty and essence of natural reality. And when we commune with Christ, we take Him in, both physically, by eating His symbolic body, and spiritually, by focusing ourselves on who He is and what He has done for us.
In terms of food, though, we get a full meal spiritually, even if our bit of bread is symbolic. We fill ourselves to the brim with the Spirit of God, for this is what Christ bought for us with His suffering and death. But let us always remember that we are, even if only symbolically, eating a meal. It is, again in the words of the early church, a “love feast.” We may actually have a better idea than the early church, because if we were eating our supper, our attention might be pulled this way and that, by the mechanics and physical satisfaction of eating. Instead, we concentrate completely on the hunger in our soul, which only the spiritual food of Christs' body can satisfy. As Martin Luther said, “it is appropriately called the food of the soul since it nourishes and strengthens the new man.”
Lord, when I celebrate your supper, let me always center my mind on the spiritual need that only you can satisfy. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer