He is risen! Hallelujah!
Today is the most special day in the world of Christianity as it marks what Christian faith is all about: the infinite and powerful love of the Lord by which He gave His only Son who, in turn, offered His life for humanity’s salvation.
photo from Failou Trabi, Diocese of Lyon
I love it because it is a concept that is beyond intellect. How can a father sacrifice his son? How can one give up his life for others? Why would you endure suffering for something you cannot physically grasp? How can someone rise from the dead?
These would ordinarily not make sense. Hence, the narratives surrounding Christ are full of concepts that are beyond the realms of human understanding. And yet in Christian teaching, you will find truths that are unbreakable and everlasting.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a kid who, as today’s world of social media goes, did a ‘food review’ of the Eucharist. He probably thought he was being funny, probably posted it for laughs or, in today’s lingo, ‘for the likes’. He stole a consecrated host, took a photo and in utter desecration, posted his ratings and criticisms of the Body of Christ online. He ranked the host’s design, saying he liked the ‘vibe’; crispiness, saying it was not soggy and had a satisfying crunch; ‘wow factor,’ saying it tasted like cornflakes; and taste, describing it as ‘decent’.
Well, as someone who has been reviewing food for almost 20 years, I beg to differ.
On a truly basic, perhaps even banal level, one must appreciate the communion wafer not only for being sleek in its paper-thin circular design but also for being elegant with the emblems of peace or the cross on it, as well as for being gluten-free.
But to appreciate what one eats purely on the basis of what you can see and what you can taste betrays an incomplete appreciation of the culinary experience. As in wine appreciation, you must look at the terroir, the source, the origin of what you are trying to appreciate.
Older than Christ
And nothing can beat the history of the Eucharist because it springs from a tradition that is even older than Christ Himself.
The tradition of the offering of bread and wine goes as far back as recorded in the Book of Genesis, when Melchizedek, king of Salem and a priest of God, had brought out bread and wine and blessed Abraham, foreshadowing Christ, who also offered bread and wine. St Jerome wrote, “Just as Melchizedek had done, the priest of the Most high, when he offered bread and wine in the prefiguration of him, he (Christ) too would present it in the truth of his own body and blood.”
Meanwhile, the tradition of the unleavened bread finds its roots in the tradition of the Passover, as recorded in the Book of Exodus, when God commanded His people to eat unleavened bread to symbolize the hurry with which they were fleeing Egypt, and there was no time to let the bread rise.
And the concept of communion in which we partake of the bread and wine goes back to when Christ Himself, who was not speaking metaphorically, said, as recorded in the Book of John, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
So this small circular wafer is not just like Haw Flakes or Marie biscuits that you can appreciate for its flavor. Each of these paper-thin, coin-shaped wafers, consecrated in Holy Mass, carries with it a tradition that goes all the way back not just to Christ but to the very beginnings of humanity itself.
Tree of life
In Genesis, after eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve were denied the fruit of the Tree of Life. But Pseudo-Hippolytus wrote around the fourth century: “… in place of the old [Tree of Life], [Christ] plants a new one … the cross is the tree of eternal salvation; from it I nourish myself, from it I feed myself.” Hence, in Revelation, the privilege of eating of the Tree of Life is restored to those who hear what the Spirit says to the churches. And what we hear is the Word, and the Word is Christ, and Christ is the Eucharist. And St. Augustine later explained, “We too are fed from the Lord’s Cross … when we eat his body.”
So dear young aspiring food critic, remember this the next time you make a review: food is not just about what’s on your plate. It’s not just about what you can see and taste. There is tradition, there is history, there is culture. And in this case, beyond reverence and holiness, which you were too arrogant or ignorant to acknowledge, you also missed the sense of community that comes with partaking of this bread—so joyous that it transcends to communion. Most of all, you missed the greatest element that elevates this culinary experience to a momentous, life-changing occasion: you failed to taste the Holy Spirit that descends upon you like the dewfall, imparting joy, love, hope and the gift of eternal life.
What a waste. But don’t worry. Your sins are forgiven.