An Allegory of Communion

The fruit in this painting is so real you may feel as if you can reach out and pluck a grape. It was painted by a Flemish artist named Alexander Coosemans and showcases an arrangement of still life symbols. Grapes symbolize Christ’s blood, while wheat stalks represent the bread that is his body. Two cornucopias represent the generosity of Creation, while a pomegranate symbolizes eternal life and procreation. Peaches are symbolic of virtue and honor, paralleling the slow but steady growth of our spiritual lives. Pear halves represent faithfulness, and a single rose with its many petals represents the wounds of Christ. However, it is the sacred host—the wafer—which bears an embossed image of the crucifixion, and the chalice containing the precious blood that occupies center stage.

One of the joys I have as a pastor is to distribute Holy Communion. It is a sacred and meaningful moment. In the book of John, Jesus speaks of the importance of eating his flesh and drinking his blood. These words were hard for people to hear. What in the world is Jesus talking about?

Being Human connection: John tells us that “The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat? (Jn. 6:52-59)’” This argument illustrates that our minds cannot always comprehend God. He doesn’t always fit into our logic. Jesus says some things that are confusing and disturbing. However, even if our minds don’t always understand, hopefully our hearts can. Jesus encourages us to move from the mind to the heart, to not merely accept his teachings but to be fully immersed in his life. To not just know about him but to know him—to be wholly consumed by him.

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

Featured art: Alexander Coosemans, Allegory of the Eucharist, 1654, Musée de Tessé, Le Mans, France