Bread and Wine as the Tip of the Iceberg

Yesterday morning I had a conversation with someone about the Eucharist. We had been talking about the Bread of Life discourse in John’s Gospel and the person confessed to some difficulty with the idea of bread and wine becoming the actual Body and Blood of Christ.

As we talked, I remembered a passage in Michael Himes’ The Mystery of Faith talking about what it means that the Catholic “eucharistic celebration centers on bread and wine that we believe becomes the blood of Christ.

Speaking about the bread, Himes observes that “there is no intrinsic difference” between the bread and wine that become the Eucharist and the bread we eat for sandwiches and the wine we offer friends at dinner. Thus, he asks, “If this bread can become the body of Christ, why not all that other bread? If this wine can become the blood of Christ, why not all wine?” And, he pushes further, if the bread and the wine, why not the grain, the vine, the soil and the rain that produce the bread and wine?

In fact, Himes says, “if this tiny fragment of the material world can be transformed into the fullness of the presence of Christ, and therefore the fullness of the presence of God in human terms, then why not the whole material universe? And that is, of course, precisely the point.”

Reminding us that in the liturgy of the feast of Corpus Christi the Eucharist is termed “the down payment, the first installment of future glory, Himes says:

Precisely right: the eucharistic bread and wine are, as it were, the tip of the iceberg, the point at which we see what the whole universe is destined to become. The whole universe is destined to be transformed into the presence of Christ, the fullness of God in the flesh. The whole universe is destined to be transformed into the presence of God in Christ.

It may be hard to grasp completely, but it sounds awfully exciting to me.


4 thoughts on “Bread and Wine as the Tip of the Iceberg

  1. I love the way you have expanded the notion of communion to a blessing and Eucharist of all things. The way I expand it is that in recite the prayer to multiply the offerings as communion is being passed out and I imagine that it becomes whatever sufferings sentient beings need to relieve their suffering. I imagine the kingdom already here among us.

    • Beautiful Elisa. I included in my book “Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetan Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation” a meditation that is very eucharistic in the way you describe.

      • I can’t wait to read your book. I had the great fortune of living and working at a Tibetan Buddhist Center, Milarepa Center, (Gelupa) for three years while finishing my seminary degree and beginning my first call as Associate Pastor. I never could have imagined how it informed, deepened, and expanded my Christian faith. Thank you for your work and for showing how deeply we are all connected.

  2. Teilhard de Chardin’s “Mass on the World” begins:
    “Since once again, Lord — though this time not in the forests of the Aisne but in the steppes of Asia — I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I, your priest, will make the whole earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labors and sufferings of the world.
    “All creation, all the labors and sufferings of the peoples of the world are offered up with Jesus, who became flesh, who gives himself to us, Body and Blood, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.”

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