6. A Conversation with the Story of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34
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6 A Conversation with the Story of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Engaging the Scripture Text and the Filipino Christians’ Context Ma. Marilou S. Ibita Introduction Daily liturgical celebration of the Eucharist continues to be well attended by lowland Filipinos.1 However, it is also a common to see many poor people, some of them sitting at the entrance of the church all day, begging for food or money. While they are sometimes given food or money by the Mass-goers, one wonders how Christians today, especially lowland Filipino Christians, who are economically and socially stratified and who celebrate the Eucharist together, can more effectively respond to this concrete form of injustice: hunger. A survey on hunger in the Philippines on December 3–7, 2011, reveals that about 4.5 million families experienced involuntary hunger from September until October of the same year (Social Weather Stations 2011). This is a snapshot of the life context in which I seek to read the story of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:17-34). I will explore how a more conscious reading of the Lord’s Supper story, augmented by sensitivity to the Filipino meal culture (pagsasalu-salo, act and symbolic meaning of eating together), particularly the value of hating-kapatid (sibling-like partaking of food), can potentially challenge lowland Filipino Christians’ to a reconsideration of how our culture and faith celebration, embodied in the Eucharist, can enhance our motivation to respond to the issue of hunger. 97 Filipino Table-fellowship and Social Relationships Though it does not exhaust the meaning of pagsasalu-salo (“table-fellowship”) and the relationships of table-fellows in the Filipino setting, it has been observed that one can guess the degree of relationship among partakers of meals in the lowland Filipino setting by the way people treat each other. Carmen Santiago published a study on the language of food sharing in the middle-class town of Bulacan that reflects this view and can help enlighten our understanding this custom (Santiago, 1976).2 While the study is somewhat dated, the practice is still mostly the same even today. The study focused mainly on middle-class families, but Filipino graciousness as host and gratefulness as guest are not limited to this economic level or to those who can afford to prepare and serve special, expensive, and exquisite meals. Among poor Filipinos, there is sincere and gracious hospitality expressed in the form of table-fellowship despite material limitations. Table-fellowship among Filipinos mirrors different levels of personal hierarchy and their influence in table-fellowship. The Filipino map of personal hierarchy is part of the interpersonal relations that govern the way Filipinos deal with fellow human beings. The goal of this is pakikipagkapwa (“humanness at its highest level, shared inner identity”). In pakikipagkapwa, one arrives at the level where the kapwa (“other”) is sarili na rin (“oneself”). The concept of the shared inner self is the basis of the concept of kapwa (Enriquez 1994: 3; De Guia 2005) and not just smooth interpersonal relationships (Lynch 1968). For this reason, it is more concerned with the recognition of shared identity (an inner self that is shared with others) and is the only Filipino concept that embraces both the categories of outsiders and insiders (Enriquez 1994: 3). In what follows, I rely on Santiago’s work (Santiago 1976), in which she shows that the interpersonal relationships noticeable in table fellowship can be classified into two categories: ibang tao (“other,” outsider category) and hindi ibang tao (“not other,” i.e., insider category). The ibang tao category has three levels: pakikitungo (“level of amenities”), pakikibagay (“level of conforming”), and pakikisama (“level of adjusting”). The hindi ibang tao category consists of two levels: pakikipagpalagayang-loob (“level of mutual trust”) and pakikiisa (“level of fusion, unity, and full trust”). These levels build on each other. The progression of relationship between table mates is evident in the quality of relationships expressed in the meals, the kind of food prepared, and even the utensils used. The relationship among partakers usually moves from pakikitungo (which depicts the widest interpersonal distance among table-fellows) to pakikiisa (which shows the closest manifestation of unity and full trust among 98 | 1 and 2 Corinthians partakers). What is most relevant in our discussion is the level of pakikiisa (“level of fusion, unity, and full trust”), the level where the deepest or closest sense of shared inner identity in interpersonal relationship is recognized. The participants include people...