This morning, right before communion, the priest held up the bread and wine, and said:
“Behold what you are; become what you receive.”
This exhortation was authored by St. Augustine and is now occasionally used at the Episcopal Eucharist.
Today, the statement struck me and won’t let go.
I am not a theologian. I do know, however, that there is disagreement between the RC church and other Christian denominations over doctrinal matters regarding communion. The former maintains “transubstantiation” takes place – the changing of the substance of bread and water into Christ. Martin Luther held, and various Christian denominations still do, that it is “consubstantiation” – the existence, simultaneously, of both natures.
I have recently learned of a third possibility. In The Wisdom Jesus, Cynthia Bourgeault explores what might have happened at the Last Supper. Quoting from Gurdjieff, she says that Jesus “… opened up a classic “subtle body” channel between himself and them (the disciples), using bread and wine as the specific vehicles of his presence… the bread and wine became an instantiation, “a specific instance,” of his own resurrection body. Through their intentional participation in this spiritual practice, the disciples could continue to “ingest” his energetic presence, and he could continue to teach them from “inside their own skins,” at a subtle energetic level.”
I find all of these challenging. And, greater minds than mine will be willing to dive in deeper here. Though I resonate most with the third assertion, found in Cynthia’s book.
What flows, for me, from St. Augustine’s statement, “Behold what you are; become what you receive”:
- We are urged to identify the Godly as part of our nature;
- We are encouraged to continue our transformation into the fullness of our Godly nature
- We acknowledge that God is both “out there” and “in here”
What I begin to ask myself, as I ponder these, is what do I receive (or refuse) on a given day, and what that does to me/for me? Does it help me identify the Godly part of my nature? Does it help me fully live into that nature?
If there is a great possibility, on the energetic and physical levels, that I will “become what I receive”, then there are great implications for my choices in his area.
I know someone who stopped watching the news, concerned that she would be consumed by so many the negative happenings in the world, all of which were beyond her control. I understand that.
I am not suggesting that we turn a deaf ear, however, to the suffering of the world – however we define world. But, I am wondering about the quality of intake, so to speak, and choices around that.
In the world of recovery, it is said that addictions are a low-level search for God. Some have used drink, needles, sex, shopping, and fixing others, as ways to either transcend this world and find communion, or to play God and re-arrange the world more to their liking. If the concept of God embodies truth and love and light and creativity, then we know that addictions lead directly in the opposite directions.
Addictions are often about intake, though of the most unmeasured kind. If we “become what we receive”, we have indeed seen addictions turn many people into ungodly versions of themselves.
I am not sure what I hold to be true about the Eucharist – what is happening, what is “really” happening, etc. I don’t know if I am receiving God in that piece of bread. But, what I decided to do, today, is pray to be open to the working of God within me, toward whatever end that may be.
And, then, of course, I was fearful that I really meant it.