We are the bread?

August 18, 2013

Richard Rohr had some daily meditations (here’s one) recently about the Eucharist, and I have been wondering whether it could be seen as parallel to how some other religions view sugar (I tend refer to candy) — we taste the sugar and are transformed, no description of what it tastes like is adequate, we taste it as if someone had popped it into our mouths (during spiritual union), and then, eventually, we come to the realization that we are the sugar, too.

Is that similar with bread?  Sugar connotes an almost pure energy, to me at least, while bread has more of a comforting aspect to it.  So I don’t know if the two substances operate in these images, experiences, and rituals in the same way.

Here’s a possibly related point.  While visiting other people, I picked up on an attitude they were engaging in of dwelling on some very difficult times from years ago.  They wanted me to read material about them and focus on them, and, and this is what sort of tipped me off, walk around constantly as if everything is terrible and we ought to be gloomy, always.  Then they looked to me for comfort and cheering up.

I don’t think one human being can comfort or cheer another out of a deep depression.  I’ve tried.  I cannot reach the person — they have become inaccessible.  To the extent possible, I think people should not do that which is conducive to increasing depression, that ways of reducing it or its likelihood or severity are needed instead.  These people I visited also don’t believe in God.  Which is fine, except that seems to mean they have no effective way of off-loading or dissipating the cares they carry that they cannot handle.  So they turn to me for that, too.  They also engage in self-pity and bitterness.

In my experience it is necessary not to “go there,” into depression, if at all possible.  Some of these people have regained their footing through the use of modern medicine, and I am grateful for that.  But regardless of whether they come predisposed to such mood issues, this over-dwelling on gloom and helplessness and rejection of modes of help seems to me counterproductive.

So my concern about focusing on bread and not sugar is a concern about relying too much on “comfort” to pull us out of a nosedive.  I think the most effective posture is to nip in the bud going down a road that will end in our needing huge amounts of comfort to rescue us.  [How many metaphors did I manage to mix in that sentence?]  I dislike hearing the contemporary mantra that we have to “take care of ourselves,” because it is so vulnerable to (mis)use as a weapon or as an excuse for self-indulgence and lack of consideration for others, for example.  But I do think some version of it is what I’m talking about here:  we need to take care of ourselves as best we can so as not to foster depression.

To the extent that bread instead of sugar orients us towards comfort and not something more energetic, I prefer the sugar motif.  But in point of fact, I love both candy and bread.


3 Responses to “We are the bread?”

  1. Jeff in New Jersey Says:

    I do not think the two people you visited were genuinely depressed. It sounds more like two people in “folie a deux,” having conditioned themselves to continuing with a mental attitude from the past.

    Some Protestant groups are (or were) pre-occupied with hell and damnation, and a generally gloomy attitude as one went through life was thought appropriate.

    I was not quite able to follow your logic about sugar and the Eucharist. This is a Catholic sacrament. Catholics are supposed to believe that after the priest blesses the bread and wine, it is literally and actually transformed into the flesh and blood of Christ, with no wine and bread remaining. Jesus did make rather strange statements about his followers “eating his body,” and some even in his time thought him insane on that account.

    As late as the sixteenth century, men and women were burned at the stake for admitting they did not believe in the magical transformation of bread into flesh. It is doubtful that Saint Augustine believed this either, but he was too big a theological figure to be declared a heretic.

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