More reflections on the way to a completed lecture for the diakonia course:

The Eucharist was born at the threshold of Christ’s suffering, Christ’s transitus, Christ’s Passover: “On the night he was betrayed” (I Corinthians 11:23). The field of ritual studies uses the idea of liminality to speak of the place that is between, the place you occupy while you are moving from one place, one state, one community, to another. Liminality is dangerous, because it is neither one thing nor another. It is transition, potential, danger. The liminal person (in a rite of initiation, for example) is quarantined, isolated, separated from the community as they undergo their passage.

We may be used to thinking of the Eucharist in rather static terms: it is the Body and Blood of Christ received by the faithful. It is what we receive. The bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are given these gifts for our healing and salvation. And so it is.

But when we ponder the possible ways in which the Eucharist has anything at all to do with people who are themselves in transition, who are suffering, who are neither here nor there, but are rather quarantined, isolated, I think that static categories in which we often think about the Eucharist no longer are of much help. We need to think in terms of liminality, transition, journey, accompaniment. And, ultimately, in terms of hope. Hope given, hope made visible and tangible.

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