The jazz standard, “Body and Soul” has been around since 1930. It has been recorded by legends such as Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday and Ella Fitzgerald, and as recently as 2011 as a duet by Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse. The titular phrase, body and soul meant everything, completely in, the whole megillah. In case you’re not familiar with that last one, megillah is the Hebrew word for scroll. On Purim, the entire scroll of the book of Esther is read. The whole megillah.
And since we’re on the subject of Hebrew, there is a Hebrew idiom, flesh and blood, that means the entire person, the whole megillah. As much as you wanted to strangle a member of your family, you couldn’t because they were your own flesh and blood. They were part of you. You were a part of them, flesh and blood, the whole megillah.
For five weeks now we have been in the sixth chapter of the gospel of John in which Jesus repeatedly refers to himself as the bread of life. The setting for chapter six is the Passover and the people were no doubt thinking about the story of the Exodus. Jesus is portrayed parallel to Moses, and something more than Moses. Both go to the wilderness, both go up a mountain, both attract large crowds. Most of all, both see to it that the crowds are fed. In the Exodus story, Moses prays and after the dew burns off, a flaky sweet bread-like substance called manna appears (I like to think it was baklava, but I digress).
Jesus takes the comparison further: he not only provides the bread, he claims that he is the bread. He doesn’t just encourage the people to eat the bread that is him, he tells them to devour it, wolf it down, consume the whole megillah. flesh and blood, body and soul. Is it a metaphor? Yes, certainly, but it is also more than a metaphor.
Years ago, I had a parishioner comment that I wore “clunky” shoes.” When I asked her to repeat, she told me that when she knelt for communion all she could see was my clunky shoes. I told her that she needed to accept the challenge of thinking about something other than my footwear at the Lord’s Supper.
So what do you think about? Is it just another thing that we do because we have always done it? Or are you fully consuming the whole megillah? Do you take communion and then are done with it for another week, or are you devouring every morsel of who and what the Christ of God is; does he become a part of you? As for that everlasting life, it isn’t something you have to die to experience, it is happening right now.
Here is a prayer of St. Basil of Caessarea, a bishop in Asia Monir in the fourth century:
O Master, Christ our God, King of the ages, and maker of all things: I thank thee for all the good things which thou hast bestowed upon me, and for this partaking of thine immaculate and life-giving Mysteries. Wherefore I pray thee, who art good and lovest mankind: Keep me under thy protection, and in the shadow of thy wings; and grant unto me with a pure conscience and even unto my last breath, to partake of thy holy Mysteries, unto remission of sins and unto life everlasting. For thou art the Bread of Life, the Fountain of holiness, the Giver of good things, and unto thee we ascribe Glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.