|"Unknown Allegory . . . " by Brian Kershisnik|
Holiness is in the eye of the beholder. As I took the sacrament yesterday, I thought about how Jesus turned water to wine, and Joseph Smith turned it back into water. Both acts were, I think, gestures toward acknowledging the holiness of common things.
The thing is, Jesus turns water to wine every day. “I am the true vine,” He said. Wine is water which has passed through the vine. Jesus is the Creator. This is what He does. He breathes miracles. Everything He touches turns green and buds and blossoms and changes. He can change hearts and souls. Of course He can make the extravagant, impossible move of generating fifteen firkins of the finest, holiest wine from six regular barrels filled with liquid made of two parts hydrogen for each part oxygen. Of course.
But the theology of Joseph Smith is one which acknowledges that so can man. Harold Bloom, that old poetic-religious atheist, called Joseph a religious genius, and I think his genius lies in his vision of mankind as holy and of the universal availability of sacred experience. The revelation that changed wine back into water is found in the Doctrine and Covenants. The historical background for section 27 reads like this:
Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, August 1830. In preparation for a religious service at which the sacrament of bread and wine was to be administered, Joseph set out to procure wine. He was met by a heavenly messenger and received this revelation, a portion of which was written at the time and the remainder in the September following. Water is now used instead of wine in the sacramental services of the Church.
What the angel actually said, using the words of Jesus, was this: “I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins.” Eat donuts or tortillas, but think of me, and it is sacred. So yesterday I ate store-bought white bread and drank water from the tap, and I remembered Jesus. And it was a sanctifying sacred experience. Think of the implications: holiness is what you find in your pantry at home. It is what you water your lawn with. It struck me and stayed in my mind this week the way the water looked as it came out of the hose onto the sunbaked lawn and dirt. It was perfectly clear until it reflected back the high sun and became a resplendent glory, the rounded edges of water looking liquid and eternal before they sank into the earth and became just mud and wet yellow grass. Holy mud and holy yellow grass.
Wine is holy, yes, but there’s a holiness in water, too. Simpler and more ubiquitous, but perhaps no less exquisite. It is the stuff of rain and tears. Something to swallow the pills. Walk into the world and listen to the swallows spill their songs to the clouds, harbingers of holiness. And see the miracle. Taste the wine in the water.