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Articles by Brian Jackson

The Bread of Life

2 December 2009

In years past, Thanksgiving has been something of a gateway to Christmas for secular culture. With the recent and explicit establishment of "Black Friday", the contrast between American Christmas and Thanksgiving has become more obvious: in Thanksgiving, tradition dictates a sense of introspection; Christmas demands eyes sharp for bargains and hands ready to grab for as much as possible. In November, people are relaxed. In December, the pace is frantic. Prior to the Thanksgiving meal, families come together to recall the wonders of the past year. Prior to the Christmas morning, families come together to anticipate the consumer goods of the future. In both, they are counting their blessings, but in two very opposite directions.

In the reflection of Thanksgiving this year, I've been thinking more and more about a different observance with a similar dichotomy: Communion.

Those unfamiliar with Communion may not grasp its significance - understandable, since many Christians have an incomplete understanding.

Allow me to back up. In John 6:35, Jesus describes Himself as the "Bread of Life". Students of the Bible have an immediate connection in time between this identification and the Last Supper, where Jesus' body is pictured in the breaking of the bread. But what is the significance of this designation?

Let's not forget the obvious adage here, "you are what you eat". Bread isn't only something to taste - the substance of food you digest becomes part of your body.

Communion pictures not just the consumption of the God's grace, but also the assimilation of the character and attributes of Christ. It is impossible to separate God's blessing for the believer from His transformative work.

This is also one reason why the Catholic insistence on the doctrine of transubstantiation is so unacceptable - to substitute the physical and cheap for the priceless spiritual is a great tragedy. By making the ritual into the thing of value, Catholic doctrine institutes human effort in place of divine power, reversing the role of the symbol and its referent.

The Lord's Supper is aimed at keeping the remembrance of Christ's death at the front of the Church's mind. When Christians proclaim His death in Communion, we are also proclaiming that we, too, share in that death, and consequently, we will share in His glorification. The simple bread-and-wine commemoration need not provide some sort of metaphysical power - Christ's intervention has already been established. We celebrate the Lord's Supper in remembrance, giving thanks for God's provision.

And here I come full circle - with the post-apostolic establishment of Christmas, it is easy to center one's attention on Christ's entrance in the flesh. The special observance given to us by Jesus himself isn't like Christmas, though - it's Thanksgiving, and we celebrate it every time churches come together over Communion.


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