I’ve now posted my responses on the questions of the symbolism of the Cross
, and the Altar
. Here follows the next question, and my response:
What do you believe the Bread and Wine symbolise?
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. These places are both each as real as the other. One, we know rather well; it’s the world we live, sleep, eat and breathe in. It’s the world of roads and trees, of sunsets and birdsong, of shops, churches, schools, banks, mountains, the moon and all the planets of the solar system and beyond. It’s the world of computers, the internet. The world of money and politics, of human lives in all their pettiness and splendour.
The other one… well, that’s harder to define. It’s a place, but not as we would know and recognise a place strictly within our understandings of the fabric of space and time. In scripture, Jesus sometimes describes the heavens as a hidden place. And normally it stays hidden, mysterious – separate. But sometimes, it’s a little bit less hidden than at other times. One such occasion that comes to mind is that of the Israelites wandering in the desert. Scripture says that the people were hungry and grumbling among themselves about the lack of food and so Moses gave them bread from heaven.
Hold that thought.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth. At the end, the heavens and the Earth pass away and there comes into being a new heaven and a new Earth. Yet no longer will the heavens be hidden; the holy city of Jerusalem is described as coming down out of the heavens from God and more than this, God himself will dwell with his people. The inhabitants of the earth and the inhabitants of the heavens will no longer be separated; that is to say, the peoples of the world will live with the Lord and worship him together with his angels. All will be seated at the feast of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac and eat together at the table of the Lord. But we are not now in the beginning, and we are not yet at the end. The heavens remain hidden to us, always there but rarely seen. Yet Moses gave the Israelites bread from heaven. However, Jesus says that the true bread of heaven is the one which doesn’t just fill hungry tummies but which gives life to the world. Twice he says he is the bread of heaven, then again he says he is the living bread of heaven.
In John, Scripture says:
“I myself am the living bread which came down from Heaven, and if anyone eats this bread he will live for ever. The bread which I will give is my body and I shall give it for the life of the world.”
This led to a fierce argument among the Jews, some of them saying, “How can this man give us his body to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Unless you do eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you are not really living at all. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up when the last day comes. For my body is real food and my blood is real drink. The man who eats my body and drinks my blood shares my life and I share his.”
And, in Luke, Scripture says:
“Then he took a loaf and after thanking God he broke it and gave it to them, with these words, “This is my body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of me.”
So too, he gave them a cup after supper with the words, “This cup is the new agreement made in my own blood which is shed for you.”
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. At the end there will be a joining, an overlapping of the heavens and the Earth. As we wait for that which is not yet, we have a taste and a promise of it in the bread and the wine. The bread and the wine are simply bread and wine. The bread and wine are not just bread and wine, though. Somehow, there is an overlapping between that which we see and experience, and the hidden and believed in; an overlapping between the bread we eat and the wine we drink. and the body and blood of Jesus – broken for us on the cross and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. In the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine, the Holy Spirit of love who brushed away the shadows of death from the corpse in the tomb gives to us afresh, continually, and for always, the Lord who loves to meet with us at his table as we, the church, remember him.