I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE
Various cultures can be identified by the personal appearance and activities of those who identify with a specific culture. Some of the identifiers for culture are religion, dress, the arts -performing and visual, and food. The things that identify culture are also the very things that can effect culture.
Food is an interesting part of culture. Its smells, tastes, and sights are easily recognizable, but are sometimes muddled and unfamiliar. The sharing of a meal is a moment when people become more unified, especially when the parties are from different cultures.
Food restrictions abound across diverse cultures as do the deep cultural connections surrounding certain special meals or times of celebration.
The Eucharist is one such meal. The word Eucharist means thanksgiving. It is a religious ceremony remembering the meal that Christ shared with his disciples in which he institutes this ordinance. Jesus takes up some bread, breaks it, gives thanks, and shares it with his disciples while simultaneously using it as an object lesson for them. The breaking of the bread symbolized the death of Christ’s own body for his disciples. During Jesus’ ministry he uses bread as a teaching tool in connection to himself on multiple occasions. In the sixth chapter of John’s gospel bread is used many times as an illusion to Christ’s own life and death. After a miraculous sign of the feeding of 5000 from only two fish and five loaves, he breaks out in a discourse on himself being the bread of life with those in attendance as well as the religious leaders of the day. It is in this context that we read one of the “hard sayings” of Jesus. This one is especially hard given the words Jesus says when he states,
“Truly , truly, I say to you , he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it an not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."
“Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves, He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in him. As the living Father set Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also shall live because of Me. This is the bread which came down out of heave; not as the fathers at, and died, he who eats this bread shall live forever.”
Who says that sort of thing. What a taboo subject. Especially since it is being presented to a culture with strict dietary restrictions. To present oneself as food for others is radical. All this being said, I really don’t think that Jesus’ intention was to present his literal members of his body as food for them to consume. Jesus taught out of metaphor and analogy. The essence of what he is getting at is that Jesus is the sustenance of eternal life, not biological life. It is only by feeding on Christ in belief, prayer, and obedience to His spirit that one will gain such life. We must get Christ into our bloodstream, our inner members in order that He might live in us. I think biblical scholar Matthew Henry says it best when he states in his commentary on the gospel of John:
Having thus explained the general meaning of this part of Christ’s discourse, the particulars are reducible to two heads:—[1.] The necessity of our feeding upon Christ (v. 53): Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. That is, First, "It is a certain sign that you have no spiritual life in you if you have no desire towards Christ, nor delight in him.’’ If the soul does not hunger and thirst, certainly it does not live: it is a sign that we are dead indeed if we are dead to such meat and drink as this. When artificial bees, that by curious springs were made to move to and fro, were to be distinguished from natural ones (they say), it was done by putting honey among them, which the natural bees only flocked to, but the artificial ones minded not, for they had no life in them. Secondly, "It is certain that you can have no spiritual life, unless you derive it from Christ by faith; separated from him you can do nothing.’’ Faith in Christ is the primum vivens—the first living principle of grace; without it we have not the truth of spiritual life, nor any title to eternal life: our bodies may as well live without meat as our souls without Christ.[2.] The benefit and advantage of it, in two things:—First, We shall be one with Christ, as our bodies are with our food when it is digested (v. 56): He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, that lives by faith in Christ crucified (it is spoken of as a continued act), he dwelleth in me, and I in him. By faith we have a close and intimate union with Christ; he is in us, and we in him,ch. 17:21-23 ; 1 Jn. 3:24 . Believers dwell in Christ as their stronghold or city of refuge; Christ dwells in them as the master of the house, to rule it and provide for it. Such is the union between Christ and believers that he shares in their griefs, and they share in his graces and joys; he sups with them upon their bitter herbs, and they with him upon his rich dainties. It is an inseparable union, like that between the body and digested food, Rom. 8:35 ; 1 Jn. 4:13 .
Scripture pervades my mind and as I work the words make their way out of me and into my artwork. For this proposal I have made several pieces that are reminiscent of bread as well as similar to seed forms. I am not sure how this work will take on its final form, but I seem to believe that they will be installed engaging vertical space in some way and not only the floor space. It is my hope to connect the casting of seeds to the consumption of food in some way. Spiritual seed and spiritual sustenance.