Risto Santala: The wine and its interpretations

The wine in Midrash Ruth is related to the sufferings in Isaiah 53. This leads us to the essence of Holy Communion. 1 Cor. 11:25-26 interprets the message of wine with the words of Jesus: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood – as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the LORD’s death until he comes.” Here we have the same eternal perspective as in Midrash Ruth. The Passover liturgy has four cups of wine. Every cup has its own name and symbolizes certain features in the Seder. Justin Martyr gave his instructions to the Holy Communion.

He explained in about 150 A.D. that after the Eucharist the participants had to “greet each other with a holy kiss”. “Thereafter the supervisor receives the cup, in which the wine and water is mixed. The first cup is called with the name “kiddush”, which means the same as “sanctification”. The second cup has the name “magid”, and it begins the “narrative” part of the Passover. The third cup is called as “kos ha-brakha” , “cup of blessing”, as it is revealed in 1 Cor.10:16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?” The fourth cup is mostly forgotten in the Christian theology. If we examine the Last Supper with a magnifying glass, we will notice that the Gospels do not speak at all about the fourth cup. It was called “the cup of kingdom”, “kos hamalkhuth”. In Mark 14:25 Jesus promised that “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God”. According to the professor of the Oxford University David Daube, Jesus instituted the fourth cup “to compensate the real, perfect and final coming of the kingdom which is still a matter of faith and hope”. And “he referred it obviously to the fourth cup”. Jesus did not drink this cup and say “birkhat ha-shir”, ‘the blessing of the song’ because “he moved this part of the liturgy to the fulfilment of the final kingdom of God”. This fits well to the Gospel. In Luke 22:16-17 Jesus said that he will not eat the Passover “until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” and drink the fruit of vine “until the kingdom of God comes.”