The Wine of Creation

July 31, 2008 | 14 comments
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A vineyard of red wine.
I the Lord do keep it;
I will water it every moment:
lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.

Isaiah 27:2-3

The vineyard of red wine is, in context, probably Israel or Zion. But I’m interested in secondary meanings. Christ says that wine is blood, as does Jacob. Christ’s atonement is likened to treading the wine out of grapes, crushing us but also getting the wine–the blood–on his garments. Having blood on garments is scriptural symbolism for taking on sin. Blood is the essence of mortality. Christ is crushing the sin and the mortality out of us, taking them both on himself.

A vineyard of red wine is us, in our mortal state, full of blood. That is to say, full of mortality and sin. Writ large, the vineyard all of fallen creation. God cares for creation night and day. He is tender like a father with his deeply disabled child. He would gladly trade places with his son, or even die for him, if only his son could be healed.

At the end of his mortality, Christ says he will not drink the fruit of the vine again until he drinks it new with us in the Kingdom. Ceasing to drink the blood reflects his transition from mortality to immortality. Drinking it new with us reflects the coming redemption of mortality. No longer is the blood corrupted, decayed, rotted, fermented, into something sickly sweet and full of temptation. This is one meaning of the Word of Wisdom. We abstain from the old wine in memory of the new wine that is to come.

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14 Responses to The Wine of Creation

  1. Adam Greenwood on July 31, 2008 at 11:51 am

    My thanks to my Lovely One, who got me onto this scripture last night and worked through it with me.

  2. J. Nelson-Seawright on July 31, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Adam, if red wine symbolizes sin in a stable enough way for the Word of Wisdom to be interpretable in these terms, then why is it an integral part of the sacrament, even in Mormon practice during the 19th century? This seems a dissonant note in your account.

  3. BrianJ on July 31, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    I like everything except the WoW reference, which seems extraneous to me (as with JNS). The connection between wine and mortality is not one I had made before. Thanks.

  4. Adam Greenwood on July 31, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Gentlemen, see the post below.

    Thanks, Brian J.

  5. BrianJ on July 31, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    By the way, I wrote about Passover symbolism and the sacrament here. I think it’s a good way of putting Christ’s words into context. It’s difficult, however, to know exactly what went on in the Last Supper since the Gospel accounts differ in detail. At any rate, the important point is that there are several scheduled times during a Passover to bring out the wine, so Jesus’ reference to not “drinking of the vine” and the sacrament cup may have been different occasions within the feast.

  6. Sara Greenwood on July 31, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    The sour grape is ripening in the flower

    Jer. 31: 29-30
    29 In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour agrape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.

    “Well,” Adam said. “Shall we have grapes for desert?” He fetched sour grapes off the vine. Everyone loved them.

  7. J. Nelson-Seawright on August 1, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Adam, the other post speaks to sacrament wine as a symbol of mortality, which seems possible but not definite to me, but it doesn’t reach to the idea of wine as a symbol for sin. That’s the part that strikes me as a troubled idea, and one that does not yet fully convince.

  8. Adam Greenwood on August 1, 2008 at 11:39 am

    JNS, I don’t see the distinction between sin and mortality that you do. In the Garden of Eden story, death and sin enter the world at the same time. They are all part of the corruption of fallen nature. I see Christ descending below all things not just as a process of subjecting himself to mortal ills and ailments but also to sin and its suffering. Christ gave himself over the power of the devil, which is what sin does. This is one reason why in the Mormon account, the atonement applies to both sin and “innocent” suffering.

    For these theologic and symbolic reasons, I would understand if the Church decided to use wine for the sacrament but strictly forbid alcohol in other settings a la the Word of Wisdom. That’s up to God and the prophets, though, and certainly isn’t urgent

  9. J. Nelson-Seawright on August 1, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Adam, the decision to stop using wine in the sacrament was, to my understanding, purely economic at the time. So that cessation probably doesn’t have theological implications, particularly, one way or another.

    I think the tricky thing here is that your account would imply that, by taking the sacrament water, we are partaking of Jesus’s sinful nature. That seems an exact mirror image of the meaning that the ordinance is usually discussed as having. In other words, this may be a reasonably sharp departure from past Mormon and broader Christian discourse, and one that would require more careful explanation and justification than it has seen so far.

    Regarding why the atonement applies to sin at all, this is a very unresolved question in Mormon thought as in Christianity in general, isn’t it?

  10. Adam Greenwood on August 1, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    “Adam, the decision to stop using wine in the sacrament was, to my understanding, purely economic at the time. So that cessation probably doesn’t have theological implications, particularly, one way or another.”

    I think that’s an artificially crabbed way of thinking about the symbolic content of what we do. Its just not true that a practice can have a certain symbolic content only if that symbolic content was the primary and consciously intended original purpose of the men who instituted the practice.

    “I think the tricky thing here is that your account would imply that, by taking the sacrament water, we are partaking of Jesus’s sinful nature.”

    I don’t see that at all. I’m sure you don’t mean is this way, but to me it sounds more like a cheap debater’s dismissal than a charitable and sympathetic attempt to understand.

  11. J. Nelson-Seawright on August 1, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    OK, Adam. I see that this is emotional for you, although it’s unclear why. Let’s call an end to the uncharity, etc.

  12. Adam Greenwood on August 1, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I’m not sure why me thinking that your interpretation is off makes me inexplicably emotional. Perhaps it *is* best if we call it quits.

  13. J. Nelson-Seawright on August 1, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Apologies, Adam. Some of your last comment, in particular “artificially crabbed” and “cheap debater’s dismissal,” read as emotional to me. Do forgive the misinterpretation. Regardless of our interpretation of the symbols involved, I’m happy to think that you and I share the same ritual supper each Sunday.

  14. Adam Greenwood on August 1, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Ditto, JNS.

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