RADICAL LOVE – EUCHARIST: THE LOVE OF GOD – extract taken from THE FOUR O’CLOCK TALKS – Discussions with JOHN MARTIN SAHAJANANDA compiled by Carrie Lock (pg. 171)
by Brother Martin
‘How can we understand the Eucharist?’
The most important symbol that Christ left is the Eucharist. He said, ‘Do this in memory of me’. The Eucharist explains Jesus Christ and it explains Christianity. The essential teaching of the Eucharist is the radical love of God and the radical love of neighbor. Through the Eucharistic celebration, the human grows into the Divine and the Divine becomes human. The bread and wine of the Eucharist is the sign of Jesus who died to himself and then ascended to God and became one with God, the body and blood of God. Jesus has to descend again in the form of love of neighbor: “’Take and eat; this is my body. Then he took the cup gave thanks and offered it to them saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you …’”(Matt.26: 26-27). The Eucharist is about giving and receiving and that is the essence of Christianity. We have to grow into God radically through 100% love of God and 100% love of neighbor. Jesus is the archetype of that radical love of God and neighbor, and this is what we see in the Eucharist.
I remember a short story I read in school which contained a very powerful symbol and which can assist us to understand the Eucharist. It has stayed with me my whole life. The story is about a father who was about to die. He had four children. He called his children to him and he said ‘Go and collect a stick each and bring them back to me’. When the children returned, the father told them to each break the stick they had collected. They broke the sticks and then the father told them to each bring one more stick. This time he told them to tie all the sticks together in a bundle and then to break the bundle, but they were unable to do so. Then the father said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ I’m adding that last bit; he didn’t really say that in the story. Then the father died. Suppose every morning these four collect a stick, break it, and then go and collect another stick and tie the sticks into a bundle and try to break the sticks again. What message would this bring? What was the message of the father to his children? Yes, where there is unity there is strength. He was telling them, ‘be united’. If you are divided, you can be broken very easily but if you are united, nobody can break you. Do this in memory of me.
In the same way, Jesus knew that he was about to die and he wanted to say something to his disciples, something very important about how he lived his life. He was worried that they would forget his message so he showed them through a symbol, a ritual. He took the bread and said ‘Take and eat’, and then he took the wine, ‘Take and drink.’ He then said, ‘Do this in memory of me.’ What does it mean? For me this image has two aspects: the ascending and the descending aspect. To understand this, we need to go deeply into the relationship between God and creation. Every scripture, every great person and every ritual reveals one important message that we have to discover: who we are and how we have to live our life. To understand what the Eucharist is telling us about who we are and how we are to live our life, let us consider the nature of God and creation.
In the Hindu tradition, it is said that creation is the manifestation of God. Creation comes into being by the performance of a sacrifice: maha yagna. This sacrifice is the infinite becoming finite, one becoming many, the unlimited becoming limited. This sacrifice is not a painful act; it is the abundance of God’s love. In Hinduism, they say creation is the divine manifestation of God.
In the life of Jesus, we can say that creation is the body and blood of God; it is the manifestation of God, but creation is not aware of the origin. In order to discover that origin, what do we have to do? We have to perform a sacrifice We have to do yagna. And what is that yagna? It is sacrificing the lower so that we discover the higher. We have to sacrifice our limited identity for the sake of the infinite identity, for the sake of the Divine.
The way to God is to know our true self and to renounce or expand our ego. One aspect of the Eucharist is this aspect of renouncing. The bread and the wine, the finite, are elevated to the level of the Divine so that they become the body and blood of God, the infinite. This is possible through sacrifice. Sacrifice means renouncing oneself so that the lower becomes the higher, humanity becomes the Divine. This is the ascending aspect. But of course, as long as we live in this world, we need other identities also in order to relate to one another, and for that reason we have to come down again and that is the descending aspect of the Eucharist. That is the second yagna, the second sacrifice that we need to make in order to relate, to give and receive: ‘This is my body, take and eat. This is my blood, take and drink’. It is only in giving and receiving that we are fully alive.
The true self needs to use the limited self as the door through which to go out to others through relationships. Without the body, God cannot manifest. The body, the finite, is the door of the infinite. We need both the finite and the infinite; without one, we cannot have the other. God is both. The two sacrifices we have to make are to sacrifice the higher for the sake of the lower and to sacrifice the lower for the sake of the higher. This is really the meaning of the Eucharist.