Just enjoyed a nice glass of wine with a pretty decent pizza…which reminded me of the great privilege Jesus gives to wine every day during every Mass said throughout the world…which reminded me of a piece from issue 6.1 of Envoy:
When my wife and I first met, she was in the wine business. No stranger to the finer things in life, myself, I took her to an Irish restaurant and bar on Third Avenue in New York on our first date—a place that boasted a selection of no fewer than seven wines.
I’ll never forget being handed the wine list that night. Short thought it was it might as well have been written in Aramaic. Never before had I navigated a selection of wines in the presence of a woman who knew wine. The only thing I was confident about was that my standard routine of thoughtfully examining the cork and pretending to know what that first dribble out of the bottle was supposed to take like was NOT going to fly.
After several very long seconds, I turned the choice over to Mary Ann and had a dating experience most men only dream about having. She saved me money! Declaring every selection wildly over-priced, she suggested that we forget about ordering wine.
What a woman!
Now, don’t take that story to mean that every wine with a reasonable price is worth drinking. There is such a thing as too cheap to possibly be any good.
For various unpleasant reasons, I once spent a lot of time consuming large amounts of a particular jug wine. I had long since put it aside when Mary Ann came along, but the damage had been done—not to my liver but to my tongue. I couldn’t have told you the difference between a cab and a Tab.
I shiver at the sight of those jugs nowadays. In fact, I shivered that very shiver in the sacristy of my parish church recently while preparing to serve as lector for Mass.
There it sat, that familiar old jug, its noxious contents having been poured out for use at Mass.
What about truth in advertising? I thought. About the closest that stuff comes to being the work of human hands is when somebody puts it on the shelf at a liquor store.
I was so appalled that I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind as Communion approached. How could I possibly receive properly when I was certain to wince while drinking from the chalice?
And what about poor Jesus? I only had to drink the stuff. He had to transubstantiate it. Nice way to treat our savior.
Eventually, I approached the altar, took the chalice and drank. The reality of what I was doing struck me at the same time and I didn’t wince. I experienced an unexpected sweetness and turned back toward my pew, startled.
It was like Cana all over again.
As is his habit, God had done something great with something lowly. At the moment of consecration that wine was turned from something graceless into something full of grace. Its not-so-subtle flavor was still there—but it was eclipsed by the sweet sacrifice of the Eucharist.
Changing that wine into himself was an incredible act of humility for our Lord. Of course, changing a bottle of even the finest wine into himself is every bit as humble.
I only wish I could have been within a light year of such humility that day. My gripe, of course, had more to do with my past failings than with the quality of the wine. But instead of shoving my insignificant personal meanderings aside to bask in the glimpse of heaven that Holy Communion offers, I chose to indulge myself in a pointless riff on cheap wine.
But hey, what’s the point of being a cradle Catholic if you can’t act like you belong in a cradle once in awhile?