By Sarah Christmyer
“Even if I am to be poured as a libation…” (Phil 2:17)
“I am already on the point of being poured out as a libation…” (2 Tim 4:6)
Every year for Lent I give up wine, and sometimes it requires drastic measures: a just-opened bottle poured down the drain or given away lest it prove too tempting.
One time, I made of it a drink offering. A “libation.” Drink offerings were offered in conjunction with other offerings, in ancient Israel. A small amount of wine, poured onto the burning lamb or ram or bull, the drink offering “topped off” the other, main sacrifice. I read once that it was a kind of supplement to the offering that showed the thankfulness of the person offering the sacrifice.
I wish I’d thought to pour my libation out upon the fire, so I could see the steam rise to heaven. Instead I poured it on the ground, offering, in thanks, the merlot that I would not drink as a “topping off” sacrifice onto the larger, Lenten offering I would make of myself.
I wonder what, exactly St. Paul meant when he spoke of being “poured out as a libation” in Philippians 2:17 and 2 Timothy 4:6? Was he looking ahead to his martyrdom? Speaking of his suffering, of giving everything for the cause of Christ? We’re approaching Easter now, and I can’t help but see Paul’s offering as a “topping off” of Christ’s sacrifice. He has given his whole life to God, and perhaps as his own life draws to an end, he is willing that his own blood be shed as a drink offering, poured out in thanks onto the greater, once-for-all sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, Jesus.
All of Holy Week, the liturgy will be preparing us for to celebrate that sacrifice that ends in glory. We’re going to hear in the Gospel this Sunday that Jesus refused the wine given him on the Cross. The wine of his blood must be poured out, before he will drink the wine of heaven. Let’s consider how we can enter into that pouring-out of life; how we can too become a libation, “topping off” his sacrifice, offering up our sufferings with his and giving thanks.
“I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1).
Sarah Christmyer is a Catholic author, Bible teacher, and speaker with a special love for lectio divina and journaling as ways to draw close to Christ in Scripture. She is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program and author or co-author of many of the studies. Sarah is an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, where she teaches Scripture to men in their Spiritual Year. Sarah also blogs at her website, www.ComeIntotheWord.com.