Water and alcohol: kenosis and plerosis

In “A History of Hooch,” Sam Anderson reviews Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol by Iain Gately. He writes the following:
“Booze has presided over executions and business deals and marriages and births. It inspired the ancient Greeks to invent not only democracy but comedy and tragedy. It helped goad America’s Founding Fathers into revolution. . . .

One of Drink’s most fascinating subplots, as it turns out, is humanity’s apparently universal contempt for water. In ancient Greece, water drinkers ‘were believed not only to lack passion but also to exude a noxious odor’; in post-WWI France, they were thought to be fat, weak, and pimply—hurtful prejudices that I, having once been publicly berated by an Irishwoman for ordering a pint of water at a pub, can confirm still exist today. In fact, such enduring hydrophobia might make for a good popular history of its own, if only we could get someone to write it.”
In short, alcohol is the drink of glory and fullness, while water is the drink of humiliation and emptiness. In theological terms, alcohol represents plerosis, while water represents kenosis. To be a water drinker is to identify with Christ in his self-humiliation and death, while to be a beer and booze drinker is to identify with Christ in his resurrection and glorification. But in the same way that the Crucified One is also the Resurrected One, so too our lives cannot be dominated by one drink over the other; rather, we must live in the dialectical tension of both water and wine. Or, even more radically, we must realize that to take up our crosses is to live in the power of the resurrection, and similarly, to enjoy the riches of Christ’s resurrection is to be the servant of all. And so we must drink water in the way we drink single-malt scotch, and we must drink single-malt scotch in the way we drink water.

We must realize that taking up our crosses in the drinking of water is to live in resurrection glory, if only by way of remembrance and anticipation: we remember the way Christ turned water into wine and we look ahead to the eschatological feast of the lamb, at which we will drink freely—always satisfied, but never glutted. The miracle at Cana itself was a proleptic realization of God’s consummation of creation, in which creaturely reality will be glorified in correspondence to the resurrection glory of Easter. Similarly, the wedding feast is the manifestation and remembrance of Christ’s blessing of wine at the Last Supper, in which the fullness of alcoholic glory took on the emptiness of aquatic humility. In the same way that the Son of God took on “the likeness of sinful flesh,” so too the liquid ambrosia took on the likeness of humble hydration.

For now, we live between cross and resurrection, between Cana and New Jerusalem. We walk in the way of water, but in the enrapturing power of hooch. We must identify ourselves with those who are unable to drink from the vine and are confined to the tap. We must live in solidarity with the many who will never enjoy the alcoholic parables of the kingdom. Those who have “tasted and seen that the Lord is good” are sent as ambassadors of Christ, as witnesses to the glory of beer and wine. We are ministers of holy inebriation. As we drink from the cup of the new covenant, we go forward as bibulous missionaries, stumbling forward in pentecostal intoxication, following Christ’s command to give drink to those who are thirsty.

Jesus said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” In the meantime, we pray, “thy kingdom come.” Come, Lord Jesus.


stan said…
"Shandy....for the in between times"
Chris Donato said…
Does this mean I have to always put a splash of water in my Macallan?

“Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” — Martin Luther