Much of the following is inspired by David Hart's Beauty of the Infinite.
Deuteronomy 14:23, 26: "And you shall eat in the presence of Yahweh your God at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the first-born of the herd and your flock, in order that you may learn to fear Yahweh your God always. . . . And you may spend the money for whatever your heart desires, for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of Yahweh your God and rejoice, you and your household."
There is grape juice for minors at the center of each tray.
But there is also wine. Why wine? Because Jesus is the true Dionysus, the true God of the vine. The Dionysus of the Greeks offered only wine of death. Mad with the wine of Dionysus, the women of Thebes tore king Pentheus limb from limb, and Pentheus' mother blindly bore her son's head back to the city in triumph. Drunk with the wine of Dionysus, Lycurgus mistook his son for a vine and cut him down. The wine of Dionysus leaves a trail of destruction, insanity, murder, cannibalism, warfare and rape.
But Jesus, the true God of the vine, offers the wine of blessing and abundance, a thank-offering to God. The wine offered by Jesus cheers God and man, marks the renewal of covenant, and is shared by lovers. It is the wine of the new creation, drunk by the new Adam, Noah, after the flood cleansed the world. It is the wine of victory that Melchizedek brought to Abraham after his battle. It is "the wine of agape and the feast of fellowship" (David Hart), the wine of mutual joy. It is the wine, as Solomon said, that makes life merry.
The wine of the true Dionysus is not safe. It is the wrath-wine of the holy God, the transcendent God, the God who escapes our every effort to control or corral Him. The wine of Jesus is the wine foaming and strong in His cup, wine that he pours out to make his enemies stagger and fall. The wine of Jesus too sends people mad, for some who come to this table are sick, and some are fallen asleep. This wine is not safe; but it is the cup of blessing.
Why wine? Because the Lord of the table requires it, and He is the true god of the vine.
But there is grape juice for minors in the center of each tray.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Sunday, August 07, 2005 at 08:21 AM
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