I grew up with a clear understanding of the symbolism inherent in communion: the bread and cup represented the body and blood of Jesus.
I started thinking about blood today. It can symbolize life, family, guilt, death. There’s a grittiness to it . . . even goriness. Yet that’s not what I usually associate with communion. I do think of the death aspect; though more often I think of the sanitized, alive aspect. My new life.
But blood is real before it’s a symbol.
It is messy. Blood outside the body tells a story. Something happened. Often it is evidence of grievous injury or loss of life.
Yet, when I think of communion and Jesus’ sacrifice and my salvation, I’m more comfortable picturing the tidy little plastic cup carefully and precisely filled with grape juice. I see it with light from the stained glass windows of my childhood filtering through it and smell the pleasant, fruity aroma. I don’t picture the dark, near-opaqueness of blood. I don’t picture blood streaming from a shredded back or dripping from a pierced brow or flowing from feet and wrists. I don’t inhale the sickening smell of too much blood and not enough life.
But today I did.
I held my broken piece of bread and my cup and remembered a real flesh-and-blood man who chose to die a brutal death that I might live. His nerve endings sent frantic messages to His brain letting Him know it was physical pain He was experiencing in addition to the spiritual separation from His Father and the emotional ache of abandonment by His friends. He could have opted out, but He loved them—He loved me—enough to endure each second and minute and hour of agony.
Yes, there is joy to communion, and light, and hope—there should be. But there should also be the gravity of what the symbols in my hand represent and recognition of what they cost.
It wasn’t a cheap salvation; it can’t be a cheap sacrament.