Tag Archives: Eucharist

Friday Thoughts: Being qua Being


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Learn from the way the wild flowers grow.

—Matthew 6:28


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Does a flower make pronouncements? Does it define itself? Does it box itself in with titles, names, and distinctions?

And yet, “not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:29)

———

A flower simply exists.

And its existence glorifies God.

There is no need for it to do more.

By its very existence it magnifies what cannot be further magnified: God’s Presence, God’s Glory, God’s Beauty…

———

“I’m a flower.”

“I’m a rose.”

“Look at me!”

Statements such as these we shall never hear.

Flowers are divinely indifferent to the world’s definitions and distinctions, to its approval and applause.

After all, it’s a person who receives the medal at an orchid show, and not the flower herself. No, her finely-placed petals would only be weighed down by such metallic-based ribbons.

What a gift it is to simply exist.

———

Flowers don’t cling to seasonal life.

When it’s time to go, they gracefully drop their heads and lose their pedals.

Never has there existed a man as poor as a flower.

Never has mankind so possessed the richness of fleeting, transitory, and momentary life.

It’s their genius to instinctively believe that death leads to new abundant life.

———

Flowers graciously receive:

Ladybugs, drops of dew. Beams of light, the relief of shade.

Flowers give and receive as if not a single thing has ever been made by man.

They welcome sun as well as rain.

They never cry over fallen fruit or a stolen piece of pollen.

They quietly applaud instead, rejoicing that their little ones have the opportunity to travel abroad—perhaps even the chance to help nurture a neighbor.

———

A flower, perhaps most of all, knows it place.

It never wishes to be bigger or thinner…greener or higher…it never dreams of being more like a tree.

A flower’s blessing is simplicity beyond you and me.

———

Christ is a flower.

He is the one true perfect eternal flower, through whom all other flowers partake, toward whom all other flowers reach.

Christ is a flower. His ways are not our own. He simply exists. Bowing His head. Dropping pedals. Feeding hungry bees. Giving and receiving. His identity is crucified—leaving nothing behind but being “qua” being.


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If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?

—Matthew 6:30


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—Howard Hain
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(Dedicated to Brother Jim, a man who knew how to simply exist.)

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The Feeding of the Five Thousand

“The Feeding of the Five Thousand”
John 6:1-15 in a couplet
Sunday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little [bit].” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

John 6:1-15

A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen.

Deuteronomy 18:15

Is Jesus the “prophet like me” about whom Moses foretold? John drops hints all over his Gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand which took place near Passover. 

According to the tradition of Israel, Moses spoke to the Lord “face to face” in a cloud on Mount Sinai. The teachings of the Pentateuch (five books of the Torah) and the Ten Commandments (two tablets of the law) entrusted to him fed the hearts of the children of Israel. By the power of God, Moses performed signs and wonders in the court of Pharaoh, parted the Red Sea, and led the Israelites out of Egypt. In the forty years of wandering in the desert, Moses fed his hungry children with “bread from heaven” (manna). Finally, Moses mediated God’s covenant with the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the feeding of the five thousand, twelve baskets of fragments are gathered, symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the feeding of the four thousand (Mark 8:1-9), seven baskets of fragments are gathered, symbolizing the seven nations of the Gentiles competing with the twelve tribes for occupation of the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 7:1). Mark records this miracle right after Jesus’ journey through the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, where he encounters the Syrophoenician woman and the deaf man in the Decapolis. Several commentators defend this interpretation based on the context of the miracle.

Simultaneously, both twelve and seven represent perfect, round, complete numbers inclusive of all peoples and nations. The Gentiles are grafted by Christ into Israel (the twelve), and the children of Adam return to oneness in Christ as at the completion of creation (seven). 

In the book of Revelation, twelve and seven are mentioned multiple times in John’s vision of the consummation of the world. Twelve tribes, twelve stars, twelve gates, twelve angels, twelve foundation stones, twelve names of the twelve apostles, twelve pearls, and a tree of life bearing fruit twelve times a year resound from the book like a thunderclap. Seven churches, seven spirits, seven gold lampstands, seven stars, seven flaming torches, seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven angels, seven trumpets, seven thunders, seven heads, seven diadems,1 and seven plagues amplify the rolling thunder to a crescendo.

The early church saw the gathering of the fragments as the unity of all nations and people in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Eucharist is the sacrament of unity:

As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.”

Didache 9.4

1 When seven is used symbolically of the dragon’s heads and diadems, it accentuates the completeness of Christ’s victory over the world. For example, the expression “out of whom seven demons had gone out” (Luke 8:2) means complete healing and restoration.

Saint Irenaeus

Tagbha carol roth

“We are all called to be holy. ‘Each in his or her own way,’” Pope Francis says in his exhortation “ Gaudete et exultate”.  We’re all different; saints are different too.

Today, the church remembers St. Irenaeus,  yesterday we remembered St. Cyril of Alexandria. Two different people, two different saints.. Cyril was a forceful, confrontative bishop of Alexandria; Irenaeus, as his name suggests, was a fair man and a peacemaker.

I learned about Irenaeus many years ago in a course on Gnosticism in Rome under Fr. Antonio Orbe, SJ, an expert on the subject. Gnosticism threatened Christianity in the 2nd century; afterwards most of its writings were destroyed. A large cache of its writings buried in the sands of Egypt had been recently unearthed and Father Orbe was just back after studying them. Until then, the Gnostic teachings  were known mostly through the writings of St. Irenaeus, whom we honor today.,

Fr. Orbe observed that as he compared the gnostic writings to Irenaeus’ reports of them he was struck how accurately and fairly Irenaeus described them,, not distorting anything they said or omitting their ideas. He was fair and respectful.  Irenaeus was fair minded and respectful to friend and foe alike. He was a peace-maker. Cyril of Alexandria was different. He would have left those writings buried in the sands of Egypt.

Irenaeus is not a bad example for today when hot words and smear attacks, distortions and lies dominate so much communication.  Peace makers like him don’t destroy, they heal and unite. That’s why they’re called blessed.

Irenaeus also had a deep respect for creation. Some scholars today insist that the ancient gnostics were broadminded, creative people–rather like themselves–  more progressive than the plodding, conservative people of the “great church”– a term Irenaeus used..

In fact, the gnostics made the world smaller than it is, because they made much of the world evil, only some of it meant anything at all. Forget about the rest of it.

All creation is God’s, Irenaeus wrote. “With God, there is nothing without purpose, nothing without its meaning or reason.” All creation is charged with the glory of God.

Irenaeus saw the Eucharist as a sign of this. Bread and wine represent all creation. God comes to us through these earthly signs. We go to God through them.

“God keeps calling us to what is primary by what is secondary, that is, through things of time to things of eternity, through things of the flesh to things of the spirit, through earthly things to heavenly things.”

We should not demean creation, Ireneaus taught. That’s also the message of Pope Francis in “Laudato si.”

The Greatest Gift

Lord Jesus,
once in the wilderness
your people ate heavenly manna
and they were filled.
And once in a desert place
you fed the hungry 
with blessed bread.

A simple thing, we say,
costing our mighty God
little effort.

But what if bread is
a body offered for all,
and a cup of wine
your own life-blood
given to those who hardly care?

A costly thing, we say,
Is there anything more
God could have done?
Anything more
Love could do
than lay down his life 
for his friends?

From Lent-Easter Meditations and Prayers 
by Fr. Victor Hoagland, C.P.

Eating Christ

Icon of the Eucharist

Friday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:52-59

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so also the one who eats me will live because of me.

John 6:57; NABRE

The Father gives life (zóé) to the Son without beginning or end. All things come from and return to the Father, the fountainhead of life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man are compared to receiving life from the Father. The phrase “flesh and blood” is a familial one:

Now since the children share in blood and flesh, he likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…

Hebrews 2:14

Applying earthly terms to divinity, the Son of God shares in the “flesh and blood” (life) of the Father, and thus “lives because of the Father.” In turn, the children of Adam share in the “flesh and blood” of the Son of God, and live because of the Son. 

By coming from the Father into the world and uniting flesh (sarx) to divinity (John 1:14), Jesus raised all of humanity and the cosmos to the Father. 

Many walked away from Jesus when he emphatically stated that eating and drinking his flesh and blood were necessary for eternal life.

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.

John 6:52-55

Followers of Christ outside of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches interpret these texts metaphorically (e.g., that eating is believing), but Christian tradition from the beginning testifies to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. 

Cannibalism it is not, however, though early Christians were accused of it. In the speculations of St. Thomas Aquinas, the flesh and blood of Christ were never separated from the Godhead, even on the Cross and in the tomb.1 Thus, to eat and drink Christ means to eat and drink God Incarnate in the wholeness of his personal union of divinity and humanity. 

Those who left Jesus may have been repulsed by images of manslaughter and the consumption of blood, which were forbidden in Jewish law (Leviticus 7:26-27). Those who remained believed without comprehending. 

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.

John 6:56

For the believing disciples, remaining with Jesus at all cost took precedence over unanswered questions and incomprehension.

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

John 6:58

The authenticity of the person of Christ, stamped with the Father’s seal (John 6:27), bonded his disciples to him. “To whom shall we go?” Peter asked (John 6:68). Outside of Christ, what hope was there for eternal life?

-GMC

1 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae III, q. 50, a. 2.

The Bread of Life

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All four gospels say that Jesus fed a great crowd near the Sea of Galilee by multiplying a few loaves of bread and some fish. It’s an important miracle.

John’s account (John 6), read at Mass on weekdays from the Friday of the 2nd week of Easter until Saturday of the 3rd week of Easter, indicates the miracle takes place during the feast of Passover. Like the Passover feast, the miracle and the teaching that follows occur over a number of days.

The Passover feast commemorated the Manna God sent from heaven to sustain the Jews on their journey to the promised land. Jesus claims to be the “true bread,” the “living bread” that comes down from heaven.

Jesus is a commanding presence during the miracle and the days that follow in John’s account. “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” he asks Philip as crowds come to him. He then directs the crowd to sit down, feeds them with the bread and fish, and says what should be done with the fragments left over. Unlike the other gospel accounts that give the disciples a active role in the miracle John’s account gives them a small role. Philip and the other disciples are tested during the miracle and the teaching that follows it.

As they embark on the Sea of Galilee to return to Capernaum after the miracle, a sudden storm occurs and Jesus’ rebukes the wind and the sea, the forces of nature, so that the disciples reach the other shore. He has divine power.

The crowds to whom Jesus speaks at Capernaum after the miracle are also tested as well as his disciples. They want to make him king after a plentiful meal and only look for a steady hand out instead of “the true bread come down from heaven.” Their faith is limited and imperfect after the miracle. They miss the meaning of the sign.

The disciples also are tested; some walk with him no more.

The miracle of the loaves and the fish remind us that Jesus is Lord and we are people of limited faith. We only see so far. The Risen Lord leads us to the other shore. He is the Bread of Life. “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life,” Peter says to Jesus at the end of John’s account. And so do we.

Water and Word

Eucharistic Bread and Fish (Roman Catacombs)

First Week of Lent, Tuesday

Isaiah 55:10-11; Matthew 4:4b; Matthew 6:7-15 

Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11

The living word of God waters the earth and awakens seeds, gives bread to the hungry and manna to the spirit. The word proceeding from the mouth of God is “sharper than any two-edged sword,” able to create and recreate the world (Hebrews 4:12). The Voice that spoke light and life into being with a word sent forth his Word to divinize the earth.

The Word of God uncoiled the serpent with a word:

One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4b

In the midst of temptation, Jesus taught us to turn to our Father:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Matthew 6:9-13

Our Father provides daily bread for the body, mind, soul and spirit. Nourished by his Word, may we become words in the Word and bread for others by our mercy. 

Another Forty Syllables for the Forty Days of Lent:

Water from Heaven breaks and opens seeds…
Our Father speaks and from his mouth proceeds
Returning Son, crushed wheat of Calvary,
Divine Bread and seed-bearing Energy.

-GMC

Cosmic Cure

Christ feeding the multitude (Coptic icon)

Friday After Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-9a; Matthew 9:14-15

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Genesis 3:6

The original harmony in the garden of Eden disintegrated following the movement of disordered desires. Bewitching the senses and the mind, the seductive fruit of the forbidden tree ensnared the first couple.

Paradisal indivisibility suffered a triple collapse as self, God, and others externalized as estranged entities. 

Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are prescribed as medicine for wayfarers to remedy the triple disharmony. Fasting disciplines the whole person with regard to appetite. Prayer finds God once again in the hidden recesses of the heart. Almsgiving restores fraternal charity and communion.

After the first deception, everything and anything outside of Eden can be turned into a mirage, including religious observances. The prophet Isaiah warns his people not to turn fasting into an end in itself or use it for display. 

Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

Isaiah 58:5

Authentic fasting is hidden and bears fruit in charity to our neighbors.

Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?

Isaiah 58:6

Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are as inseparable as person, God, and neighbor. We need all three for healing: 

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.

Isaiah 58:8a

Love of God and neighbor wells like a fountain from the center of the deified person. 

And you shall be like a watered garden,
like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11b

At the eschatological wedding feast, no one will fast because “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

The Bridegroom celebrated the brief span of life allotted to him on earth to be with his Bride in the flesh, giving us a glimpse of the divine mirth and affection:

Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast [much], but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

Matthew 9:14-15

Cracks in the cosmos caused
By crunching of the fruit
Requires a triple cure
To cleanse the heart’s core root.

Fasting heals the person;
Prayer finds God within.
Almsgiving loves neighbors,
Quashing the power of sin.

Person, God and neighbor—
Cosmos in Trinity—
Cured by consuming Christ,
Crunching divinity.

-GMC

Through the Veil

Icon of Holy Communion

Thursday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brothers, since through the blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh, and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22

In Jesus Christ, “flesh” and “blood” have triumphed over sin, death, and the devil, and live and reign forever and ever.

Flesh (sarx) encompasses all of humanity and the cosmos, from the smallest atom to the farthest star and every living being.

And the Word became flesh (sarx) and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Unlike the sacrificial blood of animals which did not regenerate spirits dead in sin, the blood of Jesus opened a “new and living way” through the sanctuary veil to the presence of God.

In Christ, the blood of the slain Abel that cried out to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10) was assumed by the Son of God together with the earth and deified.

Every drop of blood of the risen Christ contains the whole Christ. Every particle of his body contains the whole Christ—divinity and humanity, heaven and earth, and communion with the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, angels and saints.

Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. We must consider how to rouse one another to love and good works. We should not stay away from our assembly, as is the custom of some, but encourage one another, and this all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:23-25

Eucharist means “thanksgiving.”

Thank you, Father, for your Son.
Thank you, Jesus, for your Body and Blood.
Thank you, Spirit, for making us one.

-GMC