Chardin's Desert Eucharist

Reading an essay this morning by J. G. Janzen, I learned that Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once wrote the following Eucharistic blessing for a time “when he found himself in an Asian desert without bread and wine and had simply invoked all the parts and all the happenings of creation as that day’s Eucharistic elements”:

“Do you know therefore, speaking through my lips, pronounce over this earthly travail your twofold efficacious word: the word WITHOUT which all that our wisdom and our experience have built up must totter and crumble — the word THROUGH which all our most far-reaching speculations and our encounter with the universe are come together into a unity:

“Over every living thing which is to spring up, to grow, to flower, to ripen during this day again the words: This is my Body.

“And over every death force which wants in readiness to corrode, to wither, to cut down, speak again your commanding words which express the supreme mystery of faith: This is my blood.”

I’d not thought before of wine/blood symbolizing death (though I know shed blood does, of course), though I knew of bread/body symbolizing the flourishing of life. Normally I’ve heard songs associating both bread and wine with the transformation of earthly grains and fruit. While I’ve always been mindful of how the context of the Eucharist — the betrayal and execution of Jesus — highlights death and destruction, it’s provocative to ponder that we are taking in the death as well as the life of all creation through Jesus, when we commune.

Are only the dying and the deaths transformed? Or is the good flourishing of our daily lives not only upheld, and sustained but also transformed in Christ? Perhaps such questions are mistaken, for death and life are so interwoven in our mortal bodies.

We live amid and beyond our dying–as does the food and drink we consume.

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