You Are What You Eat

From the Daily Office Lectionary for Wednesday in the week of Proper 21, Year 1 (Pentecost 18, 2015)

1 Corinthians 8:8 ~ “Food will not bring us close to God.”

Apparently St. Paul is quoting someone? I have not the vaguest idea who that might be . . . but it seems a strange thing to say as the proponent of a religion whose principal act of worship is a meal!

I haven’t done a service of the Holy Eucharist using Rite One of the current Book of Common Prayer in so long that I can’t remember the last time. The last time I used the 1928 Book of Common Prayer was more than twenty years ago. Nonetheless, phrases from those services are indelibly etched in my psyche. One of them is this sentence from the Prayer of Humble Access as it is found in the earlier liturgy: “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.” If ever there was a refutation of Paul’s quotation from whomever, it is found in that sentence which (in my opinion) is at the heart of Anglican eucharistic theology: food, this food we call “communion,” does indeed bring us closer to God!

Of course, Paul wasn’t thinking of that when making his arguments about eating meat sacrificed to pagan idols. His thoughts, however, did turn to Christian table fellowship almost immediately for just three chapters later he recounts: “For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Cor 11:23-26)

Perhaps Paul might better have quoted the aphorism, “You are what you eat,” to make his points both about pagan-sacrifice meat and the eucharist.