"Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever." He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum. When many of his disciples heard it, they said, "This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?" But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, "Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father." Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." -John 6:56-69
To see Thee is the end and the beginning, Thou carriest us, and Thou dost go before, Thou art the journey, and the journey’s end.
-Boethius c. 480-524
The Christ they wanted is not the Christ who appears.
He's not a magician. Or a political savior. He wants them to participate in transformation, beginning with themselves. Who wants that? Such a transformation is too costly. Why can't Jesus just do the good work in the world while they watch?
He says, THIS is my body. This ordinary bread. And people, too. The poor. The helpless. The outcasts. This body expands too far.
This isn't what we've been hoping for. Let's go somewhere else. And yet... where else can we go?
Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. - John 6:68 Not going anywhere, -Suzanne
Meditation One (Introit)
Measuring The Cost
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself. He threshes you to make you naked. He sifts you to free you from your husks. He grinds you to whiteness. He kneads you until you are pliant; And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God's sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life's heart.
When you love you should not say,
"God is in my heart," but rather,
"I am in the heart of God."
-Kahlil Gibran 1883-1931
from The Prophet
Disciples turn away from Jesus, French Master 1475-80 (Christ gives Communion to Apostles) detail
The Harrowing of Hell, Interior of Chora Church, Kariye Camii, Istanbul c.1315 Jesus, Adam and Eve, notice keys, "locks, bolts, spancels, cuffs," ...etc below.
The Harrowing of Hell. Notice the bolts to the broken doors of hell on either side of Christ. I don't know the source of this image. If you do, please let me know.
Christ giving communion to Apostles while some turn away, French Master, 1475-80
Meditation Two (Insight)
From Some New-harrowed Hell
I’d prefer, right now, to see one of those bright Byzantine
Christs come striding across from the opposite hills
And in this regard time shall be made of the essence
Fresh from baptizing Adam, vast and masterful,
Lugging a patriarch along with each arm no doubt
From some new-harrowed hell
And scattering from his feet a fine debris
Of locks, bolts, spancels, cuffs, gyves, fetters, stocks,
And other miscellaneous hindrances
And in this regard time shall be made of the essence
And what would our Neighborhood Watch do then?
Stone Floods, (Dublin: New Writer’s Press, 1995) quoted from A Eucharist Sourcebook, Liturgy Training Publications
See art - below, left, of the Harrowing of Hell
Meditation Three (Integration) What We Give To You
Lord Christ, we ask you to spread our table with your mercy.And may you bless with your gentle hands the good things you have given us.We know that whatever we have comes from your lavish heart, for all that is good comes from you.Thus whatever we eat, we should give thanks to you.And having received from your hands, let us give with equally generous hands to those who are poor, breaking bread and sharing our bread with them.For you have told us that whatever we give to the poor we give to you.
-Alcuin of York735-804
The Last Word
God has enough
of all good things
Of communion with humans,
God can never have enough.
-Mechthild of Magdeburg c.1210-1282
Meditations with Mechthild of Magdeburg, Bear & Co.
To whom can I go?
“How long will you go limping with two different opinions?” Elijah asks the crowd on Mount Carmel. Maybe he even hopped around in a circle to illustrate how an uneven loyalty brings you nowhere but back to where you started from.
"If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. I suppose they were waiting for a spectacular outcome. They got one.
But first Jezebel's 450 prophets of Baal prayed as “they limped around the altar they had made.” At noon Elijah mocked them. “Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (One of the sharpest satires on paganism ever penned. He has gone aside is probably a euphemism for attending to natural needs, says the footnote in my Oxford Annotated Bible.)
And now in a gesture of prophetic showmanship Elijah pours so much water on his bull and altar that it runs into the trenches around the sacrifice. Yahweh zaps the soaked offering. And the 450 prophets of Baal who eat at the table of Jezebel must die.
Jezebel's soldiers chase Elijah into the desert where he complains to God that “I, even I only, am left” to help the people turn their hearts again to God. And gives up.
I love this story. I love Elijah, the dejected, lonely prophet curling up under a broom shrub to die of despair. I love the practical angel who brings him a pancake and a jar of water and says without a hint of condescension, “You have to eat for the journey to the mountain of God.” I love that Elijah gets up and continues his journey forty days and nights to Horeb and sqeezes himself into the very cleft of the rock where, in midrashic tradition, Moses saw the backside of God. (Exodus 33:17-23).
And I love that Elijah did not hear God in the wind breaking the rocks in pieces, nor in the earthqake and fire. But Elijah perceived the Divine Presence in a silence so profound it was like gauze touched by the most gentle breeze.
I love that God is revealed in silence. Silence has carried me into a sixth decade of my desert journey. Silence. The beginning, the ending, the middle, the center, the perimeter and beyond the parimeter - silence within, silence without, when I rise, when I sleep. Deeper and deeper silence. Deeper and deeper love in darkness. Where can I go then from your Presence? (Psalm 139).