Deacon Kyle Sanders (I like to affectionately call him Almost-Father since he will be ordained this summer God-willing) asked me if he could write a post about a wine as a symbol of divine love. He’s an incredible man of God so of course I agreed. I had no idea when he sent this over that it would MOVE MY HEART as much as it did. Thank you, Deacon, for your beautiful witness in all that you do. I’m praying for you as you approach ordination. Your friendship means a lot to me! Cheers.
“O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine …” Song of Songs 1:2
Wine is a glorious gift from heaven sent to cheer men’s hearts (Psalm 104:15). It is a symbol and image of joy to the Mediterranean culture in particular. Wine brings forth community among friends and enemies. It is a great equalizer.
Its aromas are complex like sifting through a phrase in Greek trying to place each word and its meaning. Done slowly it provides a great revelation to the ‘meaning’ hidden underneath. The feelings in the mouth are as complex, wetness, dryness, sweetness, tartness. No one wine is exactly the same as another, even if coming from the same grape. Each vineyard provides its own stamp due to its climate, the nutrients it uses, the exact process of fermentation.
The greatness of wine comes from the image of the Greek god Dionysius and the Roman god Bacchus, intoxication. It delights the heart in such a way as to transport it ever so briefly from the earth to a ‘heavenly’ experience of natural joy. Inhibitions are released. Fears enter into the past. What is left is the joy of the moment given up through the mediation of wine.
Some see this greatness as its downfall, the very problem with its consumption. It leads to drunkenness; drunkenness leads to the lowering of inhibitions; the lowering of inhibitions and the loss of the proper use of reason leads to making decisions that are improper to the dignity of the human person. This reticence is unavoidable. In fact, it can be a proper exercise of temperance, or it can, like many in history have done, become a denial of the gifts of God out of fear of idolizing the gift over the giver. Indeed, drunkenness is sinful. That I cannot deny. It has been habitualized to the point of seeping into the very genetics of certain families. Wherein the joy, due to the sins of generations of fathers, is mitigated by the suffering of addiction. That, however, is the privation while the exclamation rather is that wine can show us God and our relationship with him.
We often think of intoxication as a lower point in the life of a person. This is in part due to the inculturation of the Puritan mindset that says the drink is evil. To the intoxicated person, however, they feel much different. Often, it comes with a ‘sense’ of freedom (I sense because only Christ can provide true freedom). It comes with a ‘sense’ of joy and utter delight in the present moment.
When the Bride in the Song of Songs says, “Your love is better than wine.” She is using wine and intoxication in this particular sense. She is saying the Bridegroom’s love is more intoxicating than wine. It brings her greater freedom and greater joy. Greater than she could have possibly imaged.
That is the experience of the soul in union with God.
In a prayer often said after receiving communion, the Anima Christi, the faithful one prays, “Blood of Christ, inebriate me.” The wine come down from heaven has been transformed. That which caused drunkenness is the source of my sanctification. The faithful soul wants nothing more than to be consumed in the inebriation of the love of God poured out through this wonderful full self-gift of Christ received in the matter of wine.
Wine no longer has the same power over us. It has been transformed by the Eucharistic species into the fullness of its image. It is a sacrament. Consider it a great gift that the Second Vatican Council wished for the faithful to more often receive both sacred species. When going to receive the blood of Christ, pray from the depths of your heart, “Blood of Christ inebriate me.” “Fill me body and soul with Your love. Let me walk away drunken, so overwhelmed with your love. Let me share in the Pentecost of the apostles when all thought them inebriated. No they received the fullness of Your spirit.” “Like a man drunk let not my lips be silent in proclaiming your wonders, the wonders you have done in my soul.”
When you have wine in social situations, to toast a bride and a groom, with a meal, in collusion with cheese, remember the feeling which comes from it is an image and shadow of the full reality of intoxication. Then wine becomes a place to contemplate the love of God, at any time, in any place.
Deacon Kyle Sanders is in his final year of formation for the diocesan priesthood. He will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans this summer. He writes for the blogs Reverenced Reading and Universal Faith. In the rare event, he has spare time he will read a book, play music, or watch a film. Although he prefers beer over wine, he has a growing appreciation for wines especially from Sicily.