I’ve heard it said many times in various theological discussions that, given the divided state of the church, the eucharist should taste “bitter” to us when we partake of it. What was supposed to be a sign and sacrament of our unity out to taste bitter and penitential, given our manifest disunity. Seems straightforward enough, and on one level I don’t mind such assertions. Certainly we should never minimize the sin of refusing fellowship to one another in disobedience to Christ’s work of making all things one in his Crucified body.
But, really, should the current ecclesiastical state of affairs really make our experience of the eucharist more “bitter” than it would otherwise be? Should the sign of Christ’s complete and total self-giving for us and our salvation be an occasion in which we, bitterly, reflect on our ecclesiastical shortcomings? On one level, sure, its never a bad thing to lose sight of where we stand before God, but this would be the case whether or not the church was structurally united. If there is any bitterness in the eucharist it cannot be any bitterness other than our sorrow at being those who crucify the One who loves us utterly. Whatever bitterness the eucharist has does not derive from our subsequent ecclesiastical failures, but from the event of the crucifixion itself in which we are the crucifiers.
To leap too quickly from the proper, Christologically-founded penitence that should attend our remembrance of Christ’s self-giving to an ecclesiological lament over the church’s sundered structure seems to me to be something of an adventure in missing the point.