A few weeks ago I shared with you the first of my Sacrament poems, Bread of Life. For some reason, just the act of sharing it made me feel closer to my faith than I’ve felt in a long time. So I’ll take the liberty of sharing a second poem, in the hope that it might help both me and perhaps someone else.
I’ve always loved the symbolism of the Sacrament. The idea of Christ literally feeding us is so evocative of the deep necessity we all share for his love and Atonement. I can appreciate that from an aesthetic standpoint, wine is an appropriate stand-in for blood. But I kind of like the fact that we use water for the Sacrament instead of wine. Water is such an elemental thing. What substance is more necessary and fundamental to our body’s function (and the very ecology of our planet) than water? Rain is life, falling from heaven.
The Scriptures are replete with references to water, from the very beginning, when the Spirit moved on the face of the waters, to the moment when the Savior was immersed in the water by John the Baptist to symbolize his death and resurrection. I remember as a missionary teaching my investigators that when we partake of the Sacrament, it is like a “little baptism,” and we are figuratively cleansed again, just as we were when we were immersed in the water. That little cup of water passed to us each Sunday is a powerful thing.
As a kid, I remember my mother telling me that it was possible to drown in a cup of water. I don’t think she meant a Sacrament cup, and it was mostly a caution against swimming without a buddy. But when I think of baptism as a symbol of death, I always think of drowning.
It reminds me of the Buddhist Vedantic teaching that our small individual selves are tiny drops temporarily separated from the unbounded ocean until we reach enlightenment and the illusion of self and separation fades away. In that way, baptism represents for me the symbolic death of my inwardly-focused, selfish self, and my reunion both with the divine source and with the rest of the universe, as I pledge to focus myself outward, bearing the burdens of others, mourning with those who mourn, and comforting those who stand in need of comfort.
I like imagining baptism as a terrifying, exhilarating leap into those eternal, all-encompassing waters. Terrifying, because it represents the real death of my old self and my old habits–the old me of yesterday on whom I desperately want to improve. Exhilarating, because I trust in the promise that the death I fear will lead me to eternal life.
The Sacrament gives me that exhilaration of leaping again into a life of discipleship, in a tiny cup of water–the drop that holds the ocean. While we don’t believe that the bread and water literally become Christ’s body and blood, through the act of consuming them they literally are converted into our body and blood. We carry away the Sacrament as a literal, physical, life-sustaining part of us. Partaking is an act of communion, of acceptance, and of merging ourselves with the divine.
I read of living waters
And I see them flow for some,
But the wells of salvation and promise
Leave me dry.
Am I a dead sea,
Too full of heavy tears?
Am I a broken cistern,
Pitted by pain, defaced by fears?
Leave the salt of bitterness behind,
Leave the broken burden of empty days,
Take His outstretched hand,
Close your eyes
And leap in the living water,
Drown deep in the living water,
Drink deep of the living water
And come forth new.
Let the water flow through your veins
And fill your fainting, famished soul,
For He is the living water
To heal your thirst and make you whole.