Eating Jesus

At the Lutheran church in my hometown, there’s an atmosphere of inclusiveness I didn’t feel at the monastery I visited. In the chapel at the monastery, the area where the nuns sat and from which they conducted the services was separated from the pews by a wood lattice. It wasn’t a real barrier; I am almost certain I could have ripped the thing from its ceiling hinges if I had been so inclined. Its function was symbolic, a reminder to them and to me that we occupied different worlds. The nuns sing-songed all the prayers, the words to which were provided for guests in a little booklet, but most were Latin so even as I tried to follow along, I was lost. For me, personally, the services were a show, a lovely display that communicated nonverbally to my heart. But I gazed upon them passively.

As a non-Catholic, I was asked not to partake in communion in the monastery chapel. So I watched during mass as each nun extended her tongue to receive a wafer, followed by the nun-in-training and then the two organic farming volunteers, both apparently Catholic. I felt like the kid not invited to the party, just a tiny bit like they were sticking out their tongues at me.

Back at the guest house, the nun-in-training explained that when she takes her wafer she knows that she is eating the actual flesh of Jesus. I giggled. Honestly, I thought she was joking. I guess it goes to show how deep my Noneness runs that I had never heard such a thing before. When I laughed at this most sacred and fundamental heart of mass, the nun-in-training was inordinately kind. She retained her composure and gently maintained that, yes, she knew this miracle to be true—perhaps she saw my ignorance as a test and, if so, she passed with flying colors.

At today’s Lutheran service, the program clearly states that everyone is invited to participate in communion, but I decide to abstain. While Luther refuted many church rituals, the bread and wine into flesh and blood thing was not one of them. His only edit was to insist that the priests weren’t responsible for the miraculous transformation. It happened according to a greater authority.

I can see why the nuns discouraged me from participating. I’m not sure how I feel about eating Jesus.

An ice cream social is waiting in the church lobby at the end of the service. Someone has set out tubs of vanilla and chocolate with little bowls of toppings and squeeze bottles of caramel and fudge. I marvel at how many enticements have been added to the church-going experience and, yet, fewer people seem to be showing up. The chapel was about two-thirds of the way full and out in the lobby more than half the welcome baggies for newcomers remain in neat rows. Five hundred years ago, regular folks weren’t allowed to participate in the Lord’s Supper. Now we can wash Jesus down with a free sundae.

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31 thoughts on “Eating Jesus

  1. Well, I have enjoyed reading your journey, but I find this one a bit off putting. Whether you believe in transubstanciation – can’t spell it – whether you believe in it or not is fine, but to trivialize Jesus and the scripture retelling the Last Supper is kinda offensive.

    • Tom, You are going to have to explain how I’m trivializing it. If this is true, it is a function of ignorance, and not a desire to trivialize. Please elaborate. I’m very interested in your perspective.

  2. Sitting here laughing at your wonderful experience around communion. It certainly reminded me of my early Catholic days when the nuns taught me that I was not to bite into the host (wafer) because it was the body of Christ and it would bleed. Forever after I simply let it dissolve in my mouth. Uncomfortably it usually stuck to the roof of my mouth. Once I left the church I never gave the ritual of communion a thought. Fast forward 30 years after I had had some studies in metaphysics and metaphor and happened to walk into a large Catholic church to see what, if anything, had changed. To be sure, several things had BUT they were still going to have communion. Since it was a large church I knew that no one there knew me so I decided to get in the line to receive communion. The realization came to me that it really had nothing to do with the literal body and blood of Jesus but simply provided a ritual for knowing the consciousness of the Christ within one’s self just as handling Buddha beads might tune me into the things that Buddha taught. Religions have developed many rituals and, in fact we all develop one kind or another ourselves. I like to think of all of them as simple tools for self-realization. Not yet quite willing to run barefoot over hot coals but who knows. Maybe some day.

  3. Corinna,
    I just left a rather long comment on one of your earlier posts but saw this as I was leaving the blog and had to comment. For the Presbyterian, who is also reformed, but has some differences from the Lutherans, we believe that the Lord’s Supper is not transubstantiation (literal body and blood of Jesus) but it is more than a ritual of remembrance, which the Baptists believe. Presbyterians believe something very special happens at the table because there we encounter the risen Lord in the presence of the Holy Spirit. It’s a Sacrament in which God actually shows up to seal the promises of the faith for the community of faith. We are strengthened and encouraged at the table. It is a reason for celebration (we would have enticing cookies and lemonade on the lawn).
    Ginger

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Eating Jesus, as I have all the other essays in the series. Through your openness and keen observational skills you have allowed me to see it all again…. for the first time. Thanks for that. I hope you have a chance to experience fundamentalist Christian services (Southern Baptist). I was raised in this environment and would be fascinated, I am certain, by your reaction to such things “alter calls.”

  5. Corinna: as you’ve already experienced here, there is a wide divergence among Christians as to the meaning (and the substance) of communion. I found your comments refreshing and honest (per the usual) re your encountering transubstantiation–a reminder of my own puzzlement when first attending Mass with my girlfriend (now wife) Michelle. My own conviction is built on what Jesus said in the Gospels and Paul’s comment on it in 1 Corinthians 11 about remembering his death (what it means, what it does, my own salvation because he gave his body to be broken for me and provide payment for my sin) and giving witness to those around me. “God laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53). However understood, communion focuses us on the cross and God’s promise of a new covenant (new testament) of redemption and reconciliation and gift of the Holy Spirit so we might be his children.

    • Although I may appear to have a glib tongue at times I don’t mean to belittle the depths at which others report their experience. I have no doubt that the belief and feeling of salvation through the body of Christ is deeply felt by many, just as much as folks who report out of body and near death experiences or other miracles of faith. I just haven’t experienced them in the same way. I do, however, leave room for such experiences to happen to me. Most of my daily life is filled with a sense of gratitude for the many blessings that come my way each day. Whether it’s morning grace at the table, prayer thoughts for people who come to mind during the day, or my whispered, “Thank you, Spirit.” at night. Life is Good and getting better.

  6. I very much appreciate this post, Corinna. I never got that part, even as a kid. Like Frank, I was told NEVER to chew the host and, yes, it clung to the roof of my mouth. I also HATED sticking my tongue out. Oddly enough, it felt like some sort of invasion of my privacy. I also was afraid the host would fall out. As the priest would move down the railing (back in the old days when a railing separated the “sanctuary” from the main body of the church), the altar boy’s task was to follow right along, holding a small gold plate (the paten? Help me out here, Frank) lest a host drop. If it were to drop and hit the ground, there was this whole ritual attached to retrieving it. If it hit the paten, it was okay. The thing is, as a kid (especially a girl who generally had a crush on the altar boys who were not her brothers) I HATED the priest and the altar boys seeing my tongue sticking out (oh, and eyes closed – always) —
    but back to your point …. I couldn’t’ make sense of this being the body and blood then and I still can’t. Certainly, at some point I “got” what Frank pointed out – I saw it as a ritual that united the faithful. I just can’t buy the transubstantiation doctrine. And, in a sense, it became a deal breaker for me. But, really? I suppose there were other things that pushed me away more than that one – that just didn’t make sense. But maybe the point of religion is NOT to make sense? Maybe it is to invite some of the not logical, not rational stuff to enter our lives?
    I do appreciate your posts, Corinna.

    • Yes, Gracie, paten is correct. Transubstantiation wasn’t a deal breaker for me. I think the trinity was. I had a hard time figuring that out and when we did the three Hail Mary’s at the end of the Mass, repeating the segment, “Holy Mary mother of God” I really got confused. In my young mind I couldn’t fathom that God had a mother and where did she fit into the trinity. I think in the long run I simply lacked unquestioning faith in church doctrine. I can honestly say I have only been to one Catholic church as an adult that I enjoyed and I didn’t fully understand the language. My grandparents had immigrated from Portugal. My mother was born in the USA but all her life had heard of places she had never seen and she had hoped that some day she would be able to travel to Portugal to see these places. When I had the money to do it I said, “C’mon Mom, let’s go.” We had a wonderful trip. Knowing how devoted she is to her Catholic faith I decided that on our trip to Fatima we would stop at a small village church along the way. As I say, I didn’t understand the Portuguese Mass but I have never seen such a family oriented happy and devoted group. Young and old acted like going to church was the most fun of the day. They embraced each other, they sang the responses. There was a cheerfulness that I don’t see in Catholic churches in the USA. So many wanted us to stay and visit. We did for a little while and then drove on to Fatima. She’s a lively 94 year old now and still talks about the trip as if it was yesterday.

  7. All the rituals of all the religions are as meaningfull as our rituals are to us.
    But as time goes by we are pulling away from what we were taught to observeing what is going on NOW. In this moment we can all rest in what is going on without judgement in order to keep our inner peace.

    • if there be righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character

      if there be beauty in the character there will be harmony in the home

      if there be harmony in the home there will be order in the nation

      if there be order in the nation there will be peace in the world

      –Confucius

  8. In the Catholic Church, this is called “trans-substantiation”, or, the miraculous turning of the bread (or little white wafer) into flesh, and the wine into blood. Actually, the bread Jesus used to initiate this memorial meal was unleavened bread, since leaven in the Bible is a symbal of sin, and Jesus had no sin, so it was a perfect representation of Jesus’ flesh. The wine only REPRESEMTED Jesus’ blood that was to be shed the next day. The Catholic Church considers this trans-substantiation to be a miracle, but in my opinion it falls short of a miracle. How so? If we recall that when in Egypt, when Pharaoh would not free the Israelites, one of the 10 plagues was that God turned the Nile river into blood. That WAS a miracle because it looked like blood, it had the consistency of blood, it smelled like blood, because it WAS blood. But when the wine is supposed to be turned into blood as part of the Catholic communion service, the wine still looks like wine, it has the consistency of wine, it smells like wine, and when consumed, it tastes like wine. Why? Because it IS STILL WINE! No miracle takes place. In fact, were those participants of this ceremony actually drinking blood–whether Jesus’ or anyone else’s blood, they would be breaking one of God’s laws NOT TO EAT (or drink) BLOOD! See: Leviticus 17:10, 12, 14; Acts 15:20, 28-29. To eat human flesh would be cannibalism, which is also condemned in scripture. Do you think God would condemn the drinking/eating of blood and human flesh, and then approve of it in the case of Jesus’ flesh and blood? The bread and blood of the communion are symbols only of Christs flesh and blood.

  9. Corinna,

    I think you are a little bit of a rebel! Seriously, I listened to the series last week on Loosing Religion and can completely relate.

    I did laugh at what you’ve written here. I’ve been there.

    It just so happens that today at Sunday Morning Service I heard an interesting explanation of the process through which the Eucharist becomes holy:

    A description of what takes place is given in a book, “The science of the sacraments” by CW Leadbeater, a Theosophist. Leadbeater was clairvoyant. He could see with his inner sight what happened during the consecration of the elements.

    There is a miracle of transubstantiation that takes place in the blessing of the sacrament. When the communion elements are consecrated, what some would call a miracle occurs. A line of fire is created which extends from the elements up to the Lord Christ and through him, all the way to the highest aspect of God.

    In that moment from the very heart of the Christ, a divine manifestation flashes out into the elements. As seen spiritually, the host glows, with an unearthly radiance. Though the outer form of the bread and wine is unchanged, the substance is definitely altered. Like the light of the sun and the streamers of its corona, Leadbeater says, “the host pours forth spiritual rays in forces to bless all the people. Not only in the congregation, but in a considerable portion of the countryside.”

    The greater the devotion of those receiving communion, the greater is their reception of Christ’s Light and its affect upon their higher natures. When we receive this light, the masters have told us we are assimilating the essence of Christ’s Consciousnesses and becoming Christ in our own body and our own blood.

  10. Corrina,
    I’m still praying for you as you are on your “journey”. My prayer has been that the Holy Spirit will lead you to a place where you will hear the truth about Jesus Christ and be able to understand it. Religion is about so many rituals and rules, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is so much more than that. I would encourage you to start reading a Bible beginning in the book of John.

    Jo L.

  11. Consider the fact that a good percentage of practicing Christians do not attend any church. The body of Christ is not inside of a building. If you have received the Spirit of God, you are in the body of Christ. The mark of a true Christian is reflected in the 9 gifts of His Spirit. See Gal 5:22,23. If a person has God’s Spirit these fruits will be evidenced in their life. This search for faith is best found by reading your own Bible.
    Just because you go inside a building with a sign outside that says it is a church doesn’t guarantee it is fully composed of Christians. As you go on this Heinz 57 Church of the week journey you are likely to come to the end more discouraged and confused than when you started. But that doesn’t make for good reading…or does it?

    • James….Oh yes….it makes for good reading. I think it strange that many think that Corinna doesn’t have a relationship with Jesus and each in their own way attempts to tell her that Jesus is the only way. Why wouldn’t one believe that Jesus is guiding her on her search. I understand why atheists become atheists: After awhile the 57 varieties that beckon are too confusing to deal with.

      • Actually, we atheists would argue that unbelief is a matter of clarity, not confusion. There’s simply no evidence for a creator of the universe. Without evidence that any god exists, stories about particular gods don’t really matter that much.

        • I feel compelled to respond to your comment here on Corrina’s blog, Matt! First, I don’t believe in heaven as a literal distant place like my view of what a traditional christian might. That being said, I believe there are Atheists in heaven because they followed the golden rule and claimed their victory over time and space. I also believe there are “scripture obsessed,” “squares” that didn’t make it to heaven because their psychology is wanting!

          I’d be interested why you are visiting Corrina’s blog, Matt? I don’t think one needs to believe in a supreme creator to be actualized and integrated into their conscious waking mind rather than driven by their unconscious. Frankly, I believe a major ingredient of enlightenment is truly understanding oneself. And I can interchange religious concepts and even allow myself to be part of a specific practice along the way of liberation.

          If you didn’t know it, and if you care to know it, there are groups of atheists that follow Carl Jung’s works. He work is involved in becoming actualized. But if you can’t stand to even consider religious archetypes and terms like collective unconscious, that would not work for you.

          This is an interesting fact on at least one branch of Buddhism just to stir up a little discussion, of course:

          If atheism is the absence of belief in gods, then many Buddhists are, indeed, atheists.

          Buddhism is not about either believing or not believing in God or gods. Rather, the historical Buddha taught that believing in gods was not useful for those seeking to realize enlightenment. In other words, God is unnecessary in Buddhism. For this reason, Buddhism is more accurately called nontheistic than atheistic.

      • Yes, I know that some atheists find Buddhist teaching valuable and that, indeed, Buddha intended his teachings as a guide to living in the here and now. I’m not well-versed in Jung, but his thought seems far too tied up in spirituality and the occult to be of much use. Jeffrey, I’m curious about your concept of heaven. If you don’t believe that it’s a literal place, how can you believe that people (or their souls or some such) inhabit heaven? Some of your other language has me baffled as well: “victory over time and space,” “becoming actualized,” “the way of liberation.” This language seems needlessly new-agey/spiritual if your aim is simply to know yourself. I see no reason to believe that consciousness is the result of anything supernatural, so speaking about it in mystical (or mystical-sounding) terms is problematic for me. I’m following Corinna’s blog as I find the examination of faith and religion interesting.

        • Matt,
          I see heaven as another dimension that is beyond time and space we perceive through our five physical senses.

          Napoleon Hill, who write “Grow Rich with Peace of Mind,” among other popular works, referred to higher thoughts coming from the Ether. In his last publication aforementioned, he described a group of invisible masters that guided him and sponsored him along his journey of life. These masters refer to heaven as the Etheric Octave– in relation to the vibration of octaves in music.

          Psychic phenomenon apparently researched by the KGB and CIA has pockets of scientific research that has reportedly proven its existence. But psychic phenomenon occurs on a lower vibrational octave than heaven.

          A parallel might be drawn to the higher vibration of the Etheric Octave by examining how some gasses can precipitate into a liquid or solid depending on temperature because the molecules slow down in vibration as the temperature drops. This is related to the space between an electron and a nucleus of the atom. It’s been speculated that an entire galaxy could reside between them.

          There is a famous center in Topeka, Kansas called the Menninger Foundation who in their Voluntary Controls Group studied siddhi powers of Indian yogis. Particularly interesting is research on Jack Schwarz and his ability to do all sorts of seemly bazaar things like healing up puncture wounds in his bicep made by knitting needle in a matter of minutes and stopping his heart with his mind. But that research has nothing to do with heaven or power to transcend these octaves.

          Going out of our bodies in Astral Travel like the popular medical intuitive Caroline Myss, Ph.D. did at the Monroe Institute in her original “opening” does not get us into the heaven worlds either.

          There is a whole network of cities in the Etheric octaves above the earth. In the Christian Bible it’s referred to as going out in our “finer body” to these cities. That is going to the heaven worlds. I’m sure other religions like Jewish Mysticism and books like the Zohar discuss it. But then we are incorporating the idea of a spiritual world and the concept of God.

          As you might see from the above, the currently building Revolution in Human Consciousnesses is different from human psychic phenomenon. It is based on accelerating into the Etheric Octaves while still on our physical bodies. It is perceviable and experiencing phenomenon in God is possible.

          I’ve left out one missing element. There is a difference between the mechanical human body and the spirit. Science might again one day clone humans. But that does not replicate the consciousness.

          Described in the Christian Bible, the DNA of animals and humans were mixed into hybrid species before the “flood of Noah”. It’s documented in Gensis.

      • This is pseudoscience, Jeffrey. Napoleon Hill’s Law of Attraction theories (more recently seen in the popular “The Secret” book/movie) are complete nonsense that use science-sounding terms (esp. refs to quantum mechanics) to try and sound legit, but have no grounding in science whatsoever. Your Etheric Octaves concept is no different than a traditional idea in heaven in that neither is testable — there’s no way to prove or disprove either’s existence. As for documentation in Genesis: this is also the book that brought us a universe created in six days, the first human made from scratch (and the second made from first’s rib), and a talking snake. Not exactly the go-to reference work for scientific knowlege. In fact, it portrays the pursuit of knowledge as humanity’s greatest sin. (It also, of course, says nothing about DNA.)

        • All interesting stuff and when you come down to it it’s the same kind of “reasoning” where each feels they have the truth of a matter reminding me of the several conversations I held with the Jehovah’s Witnesses who write on this blog. One side believes they have the “truth” and there is no compromise to be had. Lots of talk but when the last word is said and done each will return to their own corner. And, perhaps feel as the Jehovah’s Witnesses do when they write that even if the party they are talking to might not be interested it may be that other readers will get the “witness” and begin to reason in their favor. In a way, I find the polarity sad in either case and I think it is why there are people who are “nones”. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in the end Corinna decided to continue as she is with an acceptance of people as they are and no need to debate the issues.

          • Frank,

            I’ve been amazed and respect the Jehovah’s Witnesses who seem to have a church in every corner neighborhood here in my metropolitan city. They seem to have attracted quiet a loyal crowd. My personality is not suited for multilevel marketing selling all my friends.

            I’ve enjoyed riding on Corinna’s coat tails learning to communication better with the written word. Sometimes even my wife is like talking to a brick wall. So I certainly like a good discussion as long as it is polite and/or done in good spirit. I do like to get a little tough and cheek that sometimes is distasteful to my wife or oldest daughter and need to practice more the timeless book “Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis.

            Jeffrey

        • Matt,

          I have to agree with you to some degree on “the Secret”. My wife got all interested in “What the Bleep.” But I found it boring. The Jewish Mystical tradition and science have both shown earth to be about the same age and to have originated in the big bang out of nothing. Why do they even bother? Inquiring minds.

          For a spiritual believer, the biochemistry in your body is mechanics of this world. Near death experiences, bliss in communion with with your higher centers are all reflected in the physical world– “as above so below.” If you really want to know about heaven, mystics say you can experience the Etheric Octaves for yourself. That’s why traditional religion is not my flavor.. I wanted PROOF!

          The best scientist is YOU! You can prove it in your own scientific laboratory. Pick a branch of religion and follow the practice for three years and see what happens. Hold back your pocketbook if it makes you feel safer. Be a scientist in your own laboratory. But only pick a branch that is your flavor and makes perfect sense to you.

          Genesis does mention DNA as the “seed” of man and the “seed” of animals. But like much oral tradition, one must read between the lines or understand seeming absurdities! And not take everything literal?

          Napoleon Hill did not use pseudoscience but more sociology to study the principles of the wealthy. I thought what was left out in “The Secret” is karma. The plan of an individual soul is not always about getting materially wealthy. I do believe we attract to us what we need our soul needs according to karma –good or bad. Doesn’t matter if you believe it because it is science of this world: cause and effect.

          When asked, I will not withhold sharing the path where I experimented as a scientist and found my own reality. But I AM an American who believes with wholeheartedness in freedom of religion (or none).

          Peace be with you.

          Jeffrey

  12. Maybe famous poet Emily Dickinson had the right idea: “I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260)

    by Emily Dickinson

    I’m Nobody! Who are you?
    Are you – Nobody – too?
    Then there’s a pair of us!
    Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

    How dreary – to be – Somebody!
    How public – like a Frog –
    To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
    To an admiring Bog!

  13. Corinna,
    If Christianity is what you are “investigating”, I have an observation and suggestion. There are over 400 different denominations or branches of churches. Each present their own interpretation of what Christianity supposedly is all about. If you are interested in the basic tenets of the historic Christian faith take the time, for starters, to read(meditate on) these books of the New Testament: John-Acts-Ephesians-Colossians-1 John Bill

  14. Jeffrey: You are certainly free to be what you are. I would like to suggest that, if you are going to attribute certain teachings to the Bible–whether people see it as myth of not–that you attribute things that are actually there. You are, apparently, referring to the verse in Genesis 6:4 (right before the beginning of the flood) about the “sons of God” going in to the “daughters of men” (much disagreement as to who this refers to), but the last thing anyone would suggest is that this refers to animals–it’s just not there.
    I would like to suggest that, after some forty years of reading the Bible (and there are still many things I do not understand), it is much simpler to read the actual lines, not between. God’s message is pretty straightforward for the most part, and easy for even the simple-minded to understand. It’s not so much a matter of “spiritual” knowledge as of will….

    • Walt,

      Using various translations of scripture or Fundamentalism does not work for a highly educated secular youth?

      “The flood” can be proven scientifically to be somewhere between a lovingly written mythical wisdom story and a bogus fraud put forth on simpleminded people? For example, there is currently on earth so many species of animals and insects it would be impossible to fit them all in an ark the size of an aircraft carrier!

      There are documents including those of Pythagoras that believe the flood happened about 11,500 years ago when Atlantis sunk. And there were plenty of other continents that did not sink like Atlantis. Those in the “know” at the time left Atlantis with Noah and migrated to India and elsewhere before the deluge.

      I was not referring to Genesis 6:4. I’ve read multiple times in one of my translations that at the time of “the flood” there was an edict that {no longer could the seed of men cross with the seed of animals}.

      BTW, the New American Standard version for Genesis 6:4 online mentioned the fallen angels directly by name: “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”

      I think C.S. Lewis was right about those evil {incarnate} seeking to not only devour us but divide us!

      Jeffrey

  15. Corinna,

    I have been reading through your blog. I wanted to clarify something you mentioned:

    “While Luther refuted many church rituals, the bread and wine into flesh and blood thing was not one of them. His only edit was to insist that the priests weren’t responsible for the miraculous transformation.”

    Luther in fact repudiated transubstantiation, which is the doctrine that the substances of the bread & wine are transformed into the body & blood of Christ by the pronouncement of the priest, while the “accidents” (appearances) of bread & wine remain. Luther believed that the substances of the bread & wine remained unchanged, but that the body & blood of Christ was mysteriously present with the bread & wine by virtue of Christ’s words of institution (i.e., “This is my body,” etc.).

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