Exodus and Eucharist

eucharisticon23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” –1 Corinthians 11:23-25
New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
“The Institution of the Lord’s Supper”

On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus and his closest friends and community were gathered for a ritual Jewish observance of Passover.

Passover is an observance of the way that God led the Israelites out from slavery in Egypt in a covenant of protection that was sealed with the blood of a slaughtered spring lamb.

On the night of the Last Supper, the embodied God reveals that He will free the people from the tyranny of sin once again, but this time God himself will be the sacrifice of flesh and blood for all people.

Holy Eucharist is about as ‘meta’ as it comes. It is endlessly self-referential; the followers of Christ re-enact a revelation of sacrifice and salvation, that is in and of itself a re-enactment of a revelation of sacrifice and salvation, that is a product of sacrifice and salvation, and so on back to the source. Its origin is in an ancient Hebrew ritual of protection that predates Exodus, then as path to liberation from slavery in Egypt, and ultimately to a resurrection from literal death and salvation for all people. The sacrifice that is motherhood is not absent from this narrative either, as St. Augustine reminds us, “Jesus took His flesh from the flesh of Mary.”

Mary is the literal Tabernacle of God, there is no redemption story in Christ without the faith and acceptance Mary has of God’s Will. Moreover, charis is the Greek word for grace and it has its origins in fertility and beauty goddess. The chalice is often a feminine symbol and when filled with a red wine, well, its reasonable to draw some connections especially when one considers the way we pray to the Mother, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee.” Mary is the Eucharist just as much as her son, a fact which is very controversial within Christianity. For example, Catholics are accused of idolatry for their reverence to Mary but remain adamant that transubstantiation of the Eucharist can only occur if the individual performing the ritual has a penis because Jesus had a penis and apparently needed a wand to perform the trick. However, there are protestant sects that would disavow the worship of Mary but see no conflict in allowing a woman to preside over the Eucharist. Eucharistic theology has been in conflict since the ritual was formalized.

Before delving too deeply into Eucharistic theology, let’s go back in history.

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The Whore in the House of Jesse

By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient. (Hebrews 11:31)

Rahab the harlot lived on the margins of her society, literally. In the late bronze age when her story takes place historically, it was common for people to build housing adjacent to or within fortification walls like that of Jericho. She was a harlot who kept her family afloat by keeping her tavern well. Rabbinical literature cites Rahab as one of the most beautiful women of the bible alongside Abigail, Sarah, and Esther. She is marginalized by her location within Jericho, living right on the perimeter just under the skin of the city and also metaphorically by her harlotry. But, it is this exact marginalization that makes her God’s servant. She is a woman very much in the right place at the right time with the right job: a whore whose tavern borders the town barrier on the evening of a reconnaissance mission before conquering it.

Sex Working and The Bible has some incredible commentary about this story from a roundtable discussion between incredible sex workers whose work has left inedible marks in the history of human rights activism. The ability to faciliate their analysis and to center it as valuable theological commentary is something that is rare and precious. Ipsen points out that Mary Magdalene is debatable but Rahab really is not unless you want to absurdly hold semantic ground. She’s a vital character to study because she is lauded by the bible for her actions and held as a model.

What the commentary from the sex workers really grabbed onto was the disenfranchisement that Rahab must have felt to be able to sell her city out. She is loyal to her house but she is not loyal to her city and based purely on what she had heard about the Isrealites and their escape from slavery with the miraculous support of their God who stands with the marginalized. To be loyal to her city would be loyalty to the hierarchy she is subject to and she hitches a ride to freedom with this quick and decisive act. It is very much what makes her a worthy matriarch for this powerful and divinely inspired lineage: she does what it takes to take care of her family and she has a keen vision of freedom and liberation.

And that ye will save alive my father, and my mother, and my brethren, and my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death. And the men answered her, Our life for yours, if ye utter not this our business. And it shall be, when the LORD hath given us the land, that we will deal kindly and truly with thee. (Joshua 2:13-14)

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