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Sacrifice-Communion Rituals
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  1. Sacrifice-Communion Rituals Sheila E. McGinn, Ph.D. Professor of Religious Studies John Carroll University

  2. Sacrifice-Communion Rituals • A type of ritual designed to put participants in direct (even “physical”) contact with Transcendent Object of worship • Sharing meal with Deity • “You are what you eat” motif • Reinforces communal identity, boundaries, ethos • Ritual meal is enacted memory (anamnesic) • Evoking memory of Primal Event of communion with the Deity • Re-presencing the encounter with the Transcendent Reality Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  3. Eating Requires Sacrifice • Communion with Deity requires death … • Literal death of sacrificial victim • Metaphorical death of participants who offer the sacrifice Because … • All eating requires the death of what is consumed • Plucking of grain or vegetables • Butchering of animals • Crushing of grapes for wine • “Eating is aggressive by nature…. The implements required for it could quickly become weapons.” (Margaret Visser) • Table etiquette and rituals (e.g., setting table, lighting candles) developed to divert attention from violence. Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  4. “You Are What You Eat” (Communion Ritual from The Emerald Forest) Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  5. Sacrifice-Communion Rituals • Holy Communion • Thanksgiving dinner • Seder • Offering of first fruits Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  6. What Sacrifice Will Be Offered? • Ancient rituals included explicit slaying of victim • Animal • Human • Vegetable • Holocaust: • Sacrificial victim is totally consumed by fire • Communion: • Part of victim burned, “eaten” by the God • Part of victim consumed by worshippers Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  7. What Sacrifice Is Offered? Presentation of the Gifts, Gaudete Sunday 2007Historic St Peter Church, Cleveland, Ohio Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  8. Making the Offering (Offertory, Gaudete Sunday 2007 at Historic St Peter Church, Cleveland, Ohio) Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  9. Who May Share the Sacrifice? Communion Invitation, Gaudete Sunday 2007Historic St Peter Church, Cleveland, Ohio Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  10. What Kind of Ritual Is This? “Lamb of God,” Gaudete Sunday 2007Historic St Peter Church, Cleveland, Ohio Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  11. “You Are What You Eat” (Communion Ritual, Gaudete Sunday 2007 at Historic St Peter Church, Cleveland, Ohio) Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  12. Group Discussion Questions • Have you observed or participated in any of these kinds of rituals? • If so, were they religious rites? • How could you tell? • What did you hope to gain from your participation? • What did you gain from it? • Why might sacrifice-communion rituals be important to a society? • Why might they be important to individuals? • Why would they be important to a religious community? Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  13. Class Discussion Questions • What key symbols do you see in these rituals? • What commonalities do you find among all of these rituals? • How do the rituals illustrate the beliefs and values of the celebrating community? Sacrifice-Communion Rituals

  14. Communion-Sacrifice Rituals • Delineate and maintain identity of celebrating community • Boundary marker: who eats vs. not • Reveal and reinforce intrinsic connection between worshippers and Transcendent Object of worship • “You are what you eat” • Enact communal ethos and commission participants to live it • Proclaims that unity with Divine requires death Sacrifice-Communion Rituals