Thursday, March 24, 2005

No juice at the first Communion?

A deeply weird treatise on Maundy Thursday, the Lord's Supper, and Jerry Falwell, courtesy of UPI:
On the first-ever Maundy Thursday almost 2,000 years ago, Christ took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this whenever your drink, in remembrance of me.'(1 Corinthians 11:25) The cup contained Passover wine.Today, many U.S. pastors, especially the Rev.Jerry Falwell, condemn the drinking of such a beverage as sinful.Indeed, in most American churches, including sanctuaries of most mainline denominations, sweet grape juice is served instead of wine in shot glasses or plastic finger cups at Holy Communion.

Hence many ministers in the United States have a saying about vacant vessels or heads: There are 'as empty as Jerry Falwell's wine cellar.'

Among other dubious facts, the author announces:
Inspired by teetotalism, Thomas Bramwell Welch, an American Methodist dentist, and his son Charles first pasteurized grape juice in 1869, heating it and thus killing the microorganisms that cause fermentation.

Since then, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and most other Protestants use Welch's grape juice or similar products for communion.Only Lutherans and Anglicans stuck to wine.Some of their congregations even serve up a particularly potent drink to give the "communicant a bit of a kick -- or a little help to the Holy Spirit," as some Lutheran pastors like to say.

Roman Catholic churches have withheld the chalice from laity since the high Middle Ages and are only now slowly returning to the "common cup," which then of course contains real wine.


And:
What modern medicine has only recently rediscovered was well known two millennia ago -- wine had healing properties.In his parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus said that an injured man's wounds were treated with oil and wine.(Luke 10:34) And the apostle Paul advises his readers to drink a little wine "for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments."(1Timothy 5:25) But out of all Biblical narratives there is none where wine flows more lavishly than in story about Christ's first miracle at the wedding feast at Kana in Galilee; there he turned water from six stone jars into the best of wines.

This amount of wine is truly staggering.Experts on first-century Palestine have calculated that the volume of six stone stars corresponded to 652 to 948 modern bottles of 0.75 liters each.Wine, the Bible tells us, is one of God's abundant gifts of love to his people.Like music, its function is to lighten man's lot this side of Paradise.But linked to its role in Christ's Passion, wine (and not grape juice) also has a significant role for the end of times.

I don't know off the top of my head whether the measurements given for the stone jars is accurate, and perhaps it doesn't matter. Whatever their exact size, they were big, and the people who came to wedding parties in Jesus' day drank. A lot. Over the course of several days.

In any case, all the mishigas over wine reminds me of a good story Roberta Bondi used to tell about her grandmother, a confirmed Methodist teetotaler. Granny was having a hard time with going to a wedding where wine was to be served. So the family said to her, "Well Granny, what about Jesus? He drank wine, you know."

The old woman sat silent for a moment, considering this piece of data.

"I know," she said at last. "And I think the less of him for it."

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