“The sacrament of Holy Communion is a ritualized, symbolical, spiritual ‘feeding’ upon the divine energy flowing into us in the living reality of Incarnation through the indwelling Spirit of God.” -Theologian and writer Tom Harpur in “Water Into Wine.”
When you think of Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper or the Blessed Sacrament, what comes to mind? What does it mean?
Are your ideas quite sober, thinking of it as a sorrowful sacrifice or time of judgment? Do you see it as a time to search out and contritely confess your sins? Why?
For many of us Holy Communion has been a time to remember the death and sacrifice of Jesus for our sins. The bread is symbolic of Christ’s broken body and the wine or grape juice represents His flowing blood shed for our sins. “Are You Washed In The Blood” we used to sing in my childhood church. We may remember being told Jesus did this in order to appease God’s strict judgment and wrath of damming us to eternal hell! Shudder!
From where do these ideas of judgment and wrath originate? From the Bible? But where did the Bible come from, who put it together? And what about those creeds, Apostles and Nicene? Our present “canonized Bible” and traditional church creeds originated from the Fourth Century Roman Catholic Church. During this time certain letters and documents were chosen to be a part of what were called Christian Scriptures or the Canon. Around 430 and 450 CE the Apostles and Nicene creeds were composed to maintain strict belief systems of interpretation. Meanwhile thousands of other writings and manuscripts from early Christianity were burned and destroyed along with many of their writers, and followers.
The pre-fourth century church, however, flourished with much more diversity without such a central authority. How can we know this if many of the earlier documents were destroyed? In 1945 over 50 surviving documents in 12 leather bound books of the pre-fourth century church were discovered in northern Egypt in a place called Nag Hammadi. Earlier, several others were discovered in 1895 but never published. They have rocked traditional Christianity ever since. International scholars have been able to translate and publish them into various languages including English. We discovered the early church included a very large percentage of those saw the life of Jesus and his teachings quite differently, even the creation of the universe.
Holy Communion before the 4th Century was a joyful feast, a time of dancing and celebration. Many if not most early church writings did not teach the idea of Jesus’ sacrifice on a cross for the sins of the humanity. Salvation was not secured by sacrifice or creeds but by an “awakening.” These writings tell of Jesus’ death as merely a demonstration of our none-separation from God in physical death. One, “The Round Dance of the Cross,” says it wasn’t even Jesus who died but simply his release from all the sufferings of this life. Holy Communion represented the symbolic awakening to Oneness in Spirit. The bread represented one’s awakening while wine represented the joyful fermentation of Spirit within our souls.
We also know the early Christian church in the south India state of Kerala taught and lived these same ideas for centuries. The Kerala church existed as one of the many various forms of Hindu or Buddhist expressions. During the destructive “mission movements” of the nineteenth century, the Kerala church was destroyed and replaced by one forced to adhere to the Orthodox teachings of Rome.
However the sacrament of “Holy Communion” continues on in the practices of Hinduism and Buddhism today in rituals called Puja, Prasad and Yajna. These rites include bread and drink celebrating or sacrificing to the Great God or Brahman. The word “sacrifice” simply means “a sacred offering” and contained nothing of the idea of suffering or penance. Yes, it’s easy to think of sacrifice and suffering as a way to control God or others. It no doubt became part of the early evolution of humanity in thinking. If grain, livestock and even children were sacrificed, offered up in fire, they might win divine favors. Yuk! Yet it still remains popular to our human egos.
Today as we celebrate Holy Communion I urge and encourage us to see this as a “Happy Meal” experience of our Divine Oneness. See our eating and drinking as symbolic of our absorbing the flavor of divine oneness into our essence! See is as a letting go and deep trust beyond our mortal bodies and temporal time bound world into that which is eternal, everlasting, and changeless. Let the drums roll and the cymbals clap! Let there be dancing and singing in the isles! Let us celebrate our Eternal Oneness with Divine love.
We live in a day of reformation and re-awakening. The tradition Christian church loses millions while atheism continues to expand rapidly, with good cause. Taking tradition Bible stories as literal and creeds as final truth have become lunacy to millions. A new wave now sweeps shut many such centers which once flourished while Eastern type communities keep sprouting up like fresh grass in spring time. In one of the late Ken Keyes’ books, “The Hundredth Monkey”, he wrote of a young monkey on a south Pacific Island among hundreds of other monkeys, who began washing sand and dirt off tubular foods before eating. Such seemed much more pleasant and easier on the teeth. For ions, however, no one had “done it that way.” Soon the whole island of monkeys adopted the new idea and form. In time it somehow spread miles across the ocean to other islands and other monkey tribes. The point? If a few or one person begins to think differently, to “re-invent the wheel,” others soon will jump on or in. Look around you and you’ll see for yourself. Few of us drive horse drawn buggies. A worried, sad, depressed world seeks liberation and hope within these short, suffering filled lives. Many traditional, “sand eating” churches can’t give it. A new awakening can help them let go and find peace, hope, and a perspective far beyond that which is contained in the five senses. May we may be part of that awakening each day. Let’s be among the “new monkeys.”
“Sacrifice and Reincarnation: Ancient Hindu roots to Catholic Eucharist” By Hugh O’Donnell April 28, 2009
Tom Harpur, “Water into Wine”
Marvin Myer, “The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus”