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Coconuts, Sweet Potatoes and Communion

Contextualization in Missions, Cultural Sensitivity Add comments

coconut treeWhen I went away to college, I thought receiving Holy Communion was radical stuff. Little did I know, the world of the Blessed Sacrament is about as varied and diverse as the people who receive it. Filipino Christians have been known to replace bread and wine with coconuts, which are a mainstay in their diet. The coconut is broken, and the recipients drink of its milk and eat of the fruit’s flesh, though some have complained about the milk’s pale color. In Taiwan, a communing Christian may encounter a duo of sweet potatoes and tea while partaking of the Body and Blood.

Indonesia offers an interesting twist. Theologians there tried using chicken meat in the sacrament. The popular bird is considered to be a symbol of God’s love, based on the words of Jesus himself in Matthew 23:37, “how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings …” The rooster also serves as a reminder of our vulnerability. A warning that we, too, could deny Christ as Peter once did. Strong rice wine is also used to replace traditional wine or grape juice. Now that would make for an interesting Sunday morning service.

The unique ways in which Christ’s command to take and eat are put into practice today are a beautiful reflection of God’s creation. No matter what the means of receiving Holy Communion, we all share the common reminder of the sacrifice Christ made for us, a sacrifice which bonds us to Him for eternity.

Coconut tree photo by Swami Stream

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