Tag Archives: Eucharist

Jesus is the Bread of Life

Morgan Bible Give us this dayThe first reading today for the sacred Liturgy of 18th Sunday Through the Church Year, reveals the pouring out from heaven of manna for the people of Israel. The manna, you will recall, is an Old Testament type for what is revealed by Jesus in the feeding narratives and then as the Holy Eucharist. A central image of Jesus in the Gospel of St. John (John 6:24-35) is that He is the Bread of Life; later we speak of this as the heavenly banquet, the spiritual food for eternal life, as a holy sacrament. Christians believe the OT typology is a direct prefiguring of what is revealed in the NT narratives where we read of Christ’s multiplications of bread, signs of Eucharist (Thanksgiving, of heavenly food on earth), of Jesus Christ being the Bread of Life.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria teaches us that “In effect, Jesus is saying ‘I am the bread of life’, not bodily bread, which merely eliminates the physical suffering brought on by hunger, but rather that bread that refashions the entire living being to eternal life. The human being, who had been created for eternal life, is now given power over death.”

The good news here is that God, our Provident Father, provides for us in varied ways: He nourishes us and gives us the medicine of immortality.

The image is a striking one: it is a medieval illumination from the Morgan Bible called “Give Us This Day.” Indeed, may we worthily received the gift of the Bread of Life for our salvation.

Saint Justin, martyr

justin martyrAmong the many saints honored today, Justin the martyr is one that needs to be invoked due to his reasonableness in the approach he took regarding the faith on all levels. He met his destiny in being beheaded in AD 165 at Rome. This second century saint and philosopher is know for his defense of the faith by using the gift of reason. Today we could use a good dose of Justin in making the reasons for being Christian known and understandable. One of the famous interchanges he had went like this: “Rusticus said: ‘What system of teaching do you profess?’ Justin said: ‘I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error.'”

In Justin’s First Apology sacramental and liturgical theologians look to Justin because of the rigor he had for being consistent with divine revelation; in the work just named Justin takes on the followers of Mithras for the mimicking of the Eucharist and confusing the faithful and distracting the proper defense of the faith. Justin’s eucharistic faith is something for us today to understand. Justin’s use of language is stunning:

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.

And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ge’noito [so be it].

And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion (ch. 65).

and

“And this food is called among us Eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” – (First Apology, 66)

Saint Pius X

Pius XToday, we celebrate the liturgical memorial Saint Pius X and the centenary of his death. He was the 257th pope. The Eucharist, in part because of Pius, is far more central to our lives as Catholics than before him. His intuition and boldness of teaching open new doors to radical gift of the Holy Eucharist. Rome Reports has a brief presentation on Pius.

From the Discourse of Pope Pius XII at the Canonization of Pius X

Sanctity, which was the guide and inspiration of the undertakings of Pius X, shines forth even more clearly in the daily acts of his personal life. Before applying it to others, he put into practice in himself his program of returning all things to unity in Christ. As a humble parish priest, as bishop, as the Supreme Pontiff, he believed that the sanctity to which God called destined him was that of a priest. What sanctity is more pleasing to God in a priest of the New Law than that which belongs to a representative of the Eternal High Priest, Jesus Christ, Who left to His Church in the holy Mass the perennial memorial, the perpetual renovation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, until He shall come for the last judgment; and Who with this Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist has given Himself as the food of our souls: “He that eateth this bread shall live forever.”

A priest above all in the Eucharistic ministry: this is the most faithful portrait of St. Pius X. To serve the mystery of the Blessed Eucharist as a priest, and to fulfill the command of Our Savior “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19), was his way. From the day of his sacred ordination until his death as Pope, he knew no other possible way to reach such an heroic love of God, and to make a such generous return to that Redeemer of the world, Who by means of the Eucharist “poured out the riches of His divine Love for men” (Council of Trent, Session 13, chapter 2). One of the most significant proofs of his priestly sensibility was his ardent concern for the renewal of the dignity of worship, and his concern to overcome the prejudices of an erroneous practice, by resolutely promoting the frequent, and even daily, Communion of the faithful at the table of the Lord, without hesitation, leading children thereto, lifting them up, as it were, in his own arms, and offering them to the embrace of God hidden on the altars. From this, sprang up a new springtime of the Eucharistic life of the Bride of Christ.

In the profound vision which he had of the Church as a society, Pius X recognized in the Eucharist the power to nourish substantially its interior life, and to raise it high above all other human associations. Only the Eucharist, in which God gives Himself to man, can lay the foundations of a social life worthy of its members, cemented by love more than by authority, rich in its works and aimed at the perfection of individuals: a life, that is, “hidden with Christ in God.”

A providential example for today’s world, where earthly society is becoming more and more a mystery to itself, and anxiously searches for a way give itself a soul! Let it look, then, for its model at the Church, gathered around its altars. There in the sacrament of the Eucharist mankind truly discovers and recognizes its past, present, and future as a unity in Christ. Conscious of, and strong in his solidarity with Christ and his fellow men, each member of either Society, the earthly and the supernatural one, will be able to draw from the altar an interior life of personal dignity and personal worth, such as today is almost lost through insistence on technology and by excessive organization of the whole of existence, of work and even leisure. Only in the Church, the holy Pontiff seems to repeat, and though Her, in the Eucharist which is ‘‘life hidden with Christ in God,” is to be found the secret and source of the renewal of society’s life.

Hence follows the grave responsibility of those who, as ministers of the altar, have the duty of it is to open up to souls the saving treasure of the Eucharist. There are indeed many forms of activity which a priest can exercise for the salvation of the modern world; but only one of them is without a doubt the most worthy, the most efficacious, and the most lasting in its effects: to act as dispenser of the Holy Eucharist, after first nourishing himself thereof abundantly. His work would not be that of a priest, if, even through zeal for souls, he were to put his Eucharistic vocation in second place. Let priests conform their outlook to the inspired wisdom of Pius X, and orient every activity of their life and apostolate by the sun of the Eucharist.

Pope Francis offers Mass in the Cenacle

 The Mass was offered in the Cenacle, the site of the Last Supper, the Upper Room with the  Ordinaries of the Holy Land, those of the papal delegation, and those who safeguard the holy sights –the places of redemption. Can you image the profundity and supreme intimacy of this experience with the Lord! The Mass was offered in private due to the size of the room. It is here that Jesus instituted the sacraments of the Eucharist, the priesthood, Confirmation and Confession. Please pray with the Pope’s homily, and keep in mind this line: the events that happened at the Upper Room: the feet washing, the Last Supper, the Pentecost –represent service, sacrifice, conversion and the promise of a new life. The Upper Room is a particular sign of the Lord’s friendship. In the days before we celebrate the Ascension and Pentecost, this homily is an excellent reminder of what it means to a Christian.

Pope Francis in the cenacle 2014It is a great gift that the Lord has given us by bringing us together here in the Upper Room for the celebration of the Eucharist.  Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples. Here the Church was born, and was born to go forth.  From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.

In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with this power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30).

To go forth, to set out, does not mean to forget. The Church, in her going forth, preserves the memory of what took place here; the Spirit, the Paraclete, reminds her of every word and every action, and reveals their true meaning.

The Upper Room speaks to us of service, of Jesus giving the disciples an example by washing their feet.  Washing one another’s feet signifies welcoming, accepting, loving and serving one another.  It means serving the poor, the sick and the outcast.

The Upper Room reminds us, through the Eucharist, of sacrifice.  In every Eucharistic celebration Jesus offers himself for us to the Father, so that we too can be united with him, offering to God our lives, our work, our joys and our sorrows… offering everything as a spiritual sacrifice.

The Upper Room reminds us of friendship.  “No longer do I call you servants – Jesus said to the Twelve – but I have called you friends” (Jn 15:15).  The Lord makes us his friends, he reveals God’s will to us and he gives us his very self.  This is the most beautiful part of being a Christian and, especially, of being a priest: becoming a friend of the Lord Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of the Teacher’s farewell and his promise to return to his friends: “When I go… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3).  Jesus does not leave us, nor does he ever abandon us; he precedes us to the house of the Father, where he desires to bring us as well.

The Upper Room, however, also reminds us of pettiness, of curiosity – “Who is the traitor?” – and of betrayal.  We ourselves, and not just others, can reawaken those attitudes whenever we look at our brother or sister with contempt, whenever we judge them, whenever by our sins we betray Jesus.

The Upper Room reminds us of sharing, fraternity, harmony and peace among ourselves.  How much love and goodness has flowed from the Upper Room!  How much charity has gone forth from here, like a river from its source, beginning as a stream and then expanding and becoming a great torrent.  All the saints drew from this source; and hence the great river of the Church’s holiness continues to flow: from the Heart of Christ, from the Eucharist and from the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, the Upper Room reminds us of the birth of the new family, the Church, established by the risen Jesus; a family that has a Mother, the Virgin Mary.  Christian families belong to this great family, and in it they find the light and strength to press on and be renewed, amid the challenges and difficulties of life.  All God’s children, of every people and language, are invited and called to be part of this great family, as brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of the one Father in heaven.

These horizons are opened up by the Upper Room, the horizons of the Risen Lord and his Church.

From here the Church goes forth, impelled by the life-giving breath of the Spirit.  Gathered in prayer with the Mother of Jesus, the Church lives in constant expectation of a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Send forth your Spirit, Lord, and renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)!

Desiring the Holy Eucharist

I saw this photo on a friend’s FB page who indicated that it came from Fr John Zuhlsdorf (Fr Z). If you don’t read Fr Z’s blog, you ought to. As my friend Fr Chris said, “Would that all the faithful had such a desire and hunger for the Holy Eucharist!” Indeed. I wish I had the same intensity as Louis, the child in the shepherd’s arms.

That today on the Ordo of the Ordinary Form is the liturgical memorial of Saint John Mary Vianney (on the Ordo of the Extraordinary Form Vianney is venerated on August 8), the gift of this picture of Louis and Cardinal Burke opens a new door for my affection for the Eucharistic Lord. Perhaps you what you see emboldens your faith in the Eucharistic Presence.

The explanation of the image:

Louis [the child] was so sad that he couldn’t receive 1st Communion; he was in tears. When he said hi to Cardinal Burke, I explained to the Cardinal why he was sad and Louis just leaned into him and cried. His Eminence embraced him so lovingly and told him, “don’t worry, your first Communion will come soon enough!”

I love that Louis poured out his sorrow to him like the shepherd that Cardinal Burke is… so dear!

Saint John Mary Vianney, pray for us.
Saint Peter Julian Eymard, pray for us.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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