A person asked me recently why I use the words, “The body of Christ (or “the blood of Christ”) keep you in eternal life,” when we eat the bread and drink the juice during Holy Communion.
I explained I used these world as a toast, much as one would say, “To your health” or “Cheers” over a drink at a social occasion. In religious jargon, it is a ‘blessing’, i.e. “May you be kept in eternal life.”
This response only served to further perplex the questioner, because it seem to him I was wishing him out of this life. As I have explained elsewhere, ‘eternal’ here refers to a quality of life rather than quantity. It is that quality of life that is connected with life in the Realm of God in the here and now; the life that has always been intended for us; life to the full; a life that had always been available to us through living the way of Jesus.
So when I say, “The blood of Christ keep you in eternal life,” I am wishing you the wholeness that follows from living as a child of God. I am wishing you the peace, joy and fulfilment life would bring to us all if we didn’t stop short and settle for less. I am wishing you nothing less than to live as God lives: as spirit, no longer fearing loss of meaning or loss of life.
In the kind of life called ‘eternal’, we no longer fear death, not because we believe life goes on, but because, in this kind of life, death ceases to matter because our lives are no longer our own; they have already been given to God. (See “Stage 6” of “Stages of Faith)