March 10, 2017

Eating in a Hurry

Yesterday there came around in the Office of Readings the instructions for the Passover in Exodus chapter 12.

This is how you are to eat it: with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you will eat it in a hurry. It is the LORD’s Passover. (Exodus 12:11)

The Passover is eaten like those in flight,  fleeing from the oppression and slavery of Egypt, reeling with God's plagues, into the long journey that will one day bring God's people into the Promised Land.

And so it for us who have been grafted into the covenants God made with his people, with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, in the new and eternal covenant sealed in the Precious Blood of Jesus Christ, who has passed over--through the suffering, alienation, and death our first parents earned for us by their disobedience and we ourselves continue to provide for ourselves with our sins each day--to the Let there be light of the First Day of the new creation revealed in his Resurrection.

In this saving passing-over, Jesus Christ has given to us as our spiritual food the same Body in which he makes this journey, so that the movement of his passing from death to life might come to live in our bodies and become the operating principle of our lives, drawing us each day from the futility of the old creation into the hope and promise of the New.

And we receive this Holy Communion, eating like those in flight. We flee from all the futile conduct handed on to us by our ancestors (cf. 1 Peter 1:18), all the tendencies to sin, to maladaptive and destructive ways of thinking, to selfishness that only turns back to harm us--all these orientations to our own misery that we learned before we knew any better (and this is the handing on of original sin in its practical consequences). When all of these injuries and legacies of sin living in each one of us mix together and form structures and embedded injustices, they become the bundle of passions and sufferings that the spiritual life has traditionally called the world. And our spiritual life, our life in the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son, is in part the daily effort to nudge ourselves into this flight from the world. This effort is called ascesis.

But just as we are fleeing from something in Holy Communion, we are also fleeing towards something. We orient and reorient ourselves each day to the new creation of which we have been made citizens by baptism. We run toward the discovery of who we are in God's eyes, our true personhood and identity hidden under all the layers of illusion and all the 'fake news' we have been taught about ourselves by the world. We learn to love with the very love of Christ that has condescended joyfully to make a home in our heart, to love others (and indeed every created thing) more and more as God sees them in their unique and unrepeatable God-given dignity, and less and less according to our own selfish wants, prejudices, conveniences, and worldly ideologies.

This is the journey on which we are in a hurry when we eat the Passover, when we receive Holy Communion, until finally we receive Holy Communion for the last time, as viaticum, knowingly or not, as our provision for the last step of the journey for which we have been (hopefully) preparing well, our own passing over, in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, from this world to the Father.