In the Sculpture Garden in City Park in New Orleans, there is a piece by a French artist named Ipousteguy. The sculpture is called Grand Val de Grace, partly after a military hospital in Paris for which it was commissioned in 1953. It shows a man carrying the broken body of what might be a comrade. The poignant image might serve as a commentary on war, on brokenness, or on the Body of Christ.
In each of the three scripture readings offered for today’s liturgy we read or hear the words covenant and blood. While the word covenant as used in the Old Testament may have had various shades of meaning, there was always contained in it an understanding of connection or bonding with another. Not all covenants were ratified by the shedding of blood, but it was an integral part of the covenant with Abraham and the covenant on Sinai.
As Jesus celebrated the Passover on his final night, he raised it beyond a commemorative meal to the level of a covenant, using the wine as a symbol of his blood that would be poured out as a ratification of this new covenant. But there was also another sign in this covenant. The bread – broken – was his body that would be given up. Covenants were extremely significant new moments in the faith relationship between the people and God, and Jesus was ushering in such a new moment. No doubt, those at supper with him were mesmerized, but with the passing of time and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, the significance of the new covenant dawned, and the community’s understanding of itself as the Body of Christ, bonded to one another, grew.
What we are challenged to celebrate today is our understanding of ourselves as the broken body and the poured out blood of Christ bonded with all humanity and with all creation. It is in the broken bread, the poured out wine that we find and are salvation. The wounded soldier returning from war finds one more broken than he, whom he can raise and carry. We never have far to look to find one more broken than ourselves whom we can raise and carry. James, now eight, witnessed his mother being stabbed to death a few years ago. Alicia, with the pleasant smile that lifts the spirits of others, was molested by a relative when she was four. Sarah stands by the traffic lights almost every day since her husband died last year begging for a living. We know that wherever we live we see the body broken and the blood poured out, and wherever we look a hand reaches out. We also know that we are given the arms and the heart to raise up and carry one other, even while someone else carries us.
Today, there will be many acts of devotion and reverence. There will be processions all over the world to bear public witness to a creed. But the only one credible procession to bear witness to this feast is the procession of each one carrying a broken sister and brother with devotion, reverence, tenderness and love in the company of the One who was broken for our sakes.
Elizabeth Ferguson, OP