Eucharistic Donation: a Fly in the _Oinos_

For the last few months I have been serving as an LEM (Lay Eucharistic Minister) at our home parish, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in South Austin. I have served the chalice at Communion before, but it is always, it seems, an ongoing learning process. This last week I had some questions and so I called our church’s curate to talk them through with him.

After doing a great job answering all my questions, he volunteered something very interesting to me. He said, “Oh, and if a fly were to happen to fall into the wine, what you should do is use a clean wafer to dig the fly out, and then immediately eat the wafer and the fly.”

Unfortunately, nothing of the kind happened this last Sunday at the rail, much to my chagrin. However, when I was talking about these instructions with another friend of mine, he looked at me, rolled his eyes, and asked with something like quizzical disgust, “Why in the world would you eat the fly? Why not just throw it away or something?”

Why in the world, indeed. I thought back to a conversation Bella (my five year old) and I had recently had about the three “givings” or donations which occur in the Eucharist.

First, God gives to us, God gives to Adam, creation in the form of wheat and grapes.

Then, priestly Adam receives the creation, under the species of wheat and grape, from God. We then transform it from glory to glory, turning it into bread and wine, which we offer, give, or sacrifice, together with our tithes and offerings, and “our selves, our souls and bodies,” back to God in the Eucharist.

God then receives this offering (which is sacramentally and / or symbolically the whole creation) from us and transforms or transfigures these creatures of bread and wine into the body and blood of his Son Jesus Christ, bringing them to a new state of glory. God then gives them back to us, the new Adam, and we feast on, and become, the body (and blood) of Christ.

Now, back to the fly. Without needing to buy into any particular theory of “what happens” to the elements of bread and wine, this rendition of the “three givings” has something really important to say what is going on in the eucharist. In particular, it shows how the eucharist is a symbol, or a microcosm, or a “microchron,” or indeed a sacrament(al sign) of the whole creation.

In the Eucharist, all of creation is transfigured into Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, Christ becoming all in all. Everything is changed: trees, rocks, people, etc. What is in the chalice is (a sacramental symbol of) the whole world.

So it makes sense that if anything were to fall into that chalice, we would consume it. In so doing we would be consuming the whole world which is the body and blood of Christ.

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