Bread and Wine

After the homily at every Sunday Mass, we pray the Creed, that sweeping summary of what we believe as Christians.  We say it before we bring the bread and wine to the altar because it helps us understand what we’re doing. It begins:

We believe in God the Father Almighty,

creator of heaven and earth,

of all that is seen and unseen.

Bread and wine are symbols of the heavens and the earth– the world God has made. They represent the totality of God’s gifts found in creation which we acknowledge as we bring them to their Creator:

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.” “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of many hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

These simple gifts stand for all the gifts that come from an almighty God, a kind Father, the generous One who made the heavens and earth, the Maker “of all that is seen and unseen.” They point to a God, beyond our minds grasp, a good God, who is with us always; a loving God who is our friend.

They  represent God’s promise of life everlasting.

The prayers at Mass address God, the Creator. “All life, all holiness comes from you,” (3rd Eucharistic Prayer) “All things are of your making, all times and seasons obey your laws,” (P33) “In you we live and move and have our being. Each day you show us a Father’s love.(P34)

At Mass we approach God, Maker of all.

As Creator, God doesn’t act alone, but shares power with his creation. Our prayers at Mass recognize that: “You formed us in your own likeness, and set us over the whole world in all its wonder. You made us the stewards of creation to serve you our creator and to rule over all creatures.” (P33)

As “stewards of creation” we have an important role in the world, but we’re not the only power in our universe.  Creation itself has rights and a role in God’s plan. As we come to know the story of our own universe, we’re amazed at its mysterious development, its complexity and its beauty. It’s charged with the glory of God, and so for all our importance, we’re  meant to be respectful participants in its story.

That’s the vision of faith our Mass offers. But is it true? Our experience of life can sometimes tempt us to doubt it. Is God really the creator of us all? Does God really care? Why do bad things happen? Why do people do what they do? Why do we die? Why is there suffering? Why is there injustice. Questions like that raise doubts. Then too, preoccupation with ourselves also can weaken our vision of faith. We think we are the creators of the world and its gods.

The Mass tells the story of creation, but also the story of salvation. The Creed reminds us that God sent his only Son to be our Savior. In the mystery of the Mass, Jesus Christ is sent into the world. He comes into the bread and wine, just as he came into the womb of Mary.  Listen to the words of one of our prayers.

“Father, you so loved the world,

that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Savior.

He was conceived through the Holy Spirit,

and born of the Virgin Mary,

one like us in all things but sin.

To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation,

to prisoners, freedom,

to those in sorrow, joy.

In fulfillment of your will

he gave himself up to death,

but by rising from the dead,

he destroyed death and restored life.

And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him,

he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father,

as his first gift to those who believe,

to complete his work on earth

and bring us the fulness of grace.”

The prayer goes on to ask God, the Father, to send his Holy Spirit upon the bread and the wine, as he did on Mary.

“Father, send your Holy Spirit to sanctify these offerings,

Let them become the body and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord

as we celebrate the great mystery

which he left us as an everlasting covenant.” (4th Eucharistic Prayer)

Our Mass is a creation story and a story of salvation.

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