Bread and wine are common foods and familiar symbols for Christians. They remind us of the Last Supper and of Jesus’ sacrifice for the salvation of humankind. Some Christians believe they also become the body and blood of Jesus. But this is not the only transformation that happens to these two symbols.
Think about how the bread came to be. First, a seed must be planted in the ground. Before the blade can emerge from the ground, the seed must die. As the blade grows, an ear of wheat forms. Once mature, the ear is harvested and the chaff removed. The grains are then crushed and ground into flour. Finally, the wheat flour is mixed into dough and baked.
And what about the wine? First the vines must be planted. Early growth on the vine is pruned to allow the roots to strengthen. Only after the vines have been nurtured for several years can they be allowed to bear fruit. When the fruit begins to form, it must be protected so it can be allowed to ripen. When the fruit is ripe, it is plucked from the vine and crushed. The juice of the grape must then be allowed to ferment for a time.
The seed and the vine are not our symbols. The ear of wheat and cluster of grapes are not our symbols. Each must first go through stages of growth and transformation. The process each undergoes cannot be rushed. And sometimes other factors like weather or disease can thwart the process all together. But with care and patience, they are ready to become the gifts we offer, the symbols we recognize. They are ready to become the body and blood of Christ for us.
The bread and wine are also symbols of our lives. We, too, are constantly undergoing a process of growth and transformation to become the body and blood of Christ for others. St. Teresa of Avila said: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.”
I would invite you to allow the symbols of bread and wine draw you into deeper reflection about your own life. What are some of the times in your life that you had to die in order to for new life to emerge? When was early growth pruned, and how did that pruning strengthen your roots? Even as you matured and began to bear fruit, what parts of your life seemed crushed only to be transformed into something different than you expected? How did you respond during times of growth or transformation that required patience? What elements in your life are trying to thwart the process, and what can you do about them? How are you being transformed into the body and blood of Christ in your family, your workplace or school, your neighborhood or your faith community?