Tag Archives: Zoe

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.

Bread of Shalom

Christina DeMichele, Christ Enthroned in His Creation (Used with permission)

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:44-51

The Jews murmured about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

John 6:41-42

Unless Jesus was who he claimed to be, his statements were certainly wild and preposterous. From a natural perspective, the son of Joseph and Mary, born in a particular place and time, was destined to live and die like all human beings. Nothing about Jesus’ appearance suggested that he was a heavenly being.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.

John 6:43

The new Moses echoed his predecessor by chiding the children of Israel for murmuring and grumbling just at the time when God promised manna in the desert (Exodus 16:2; 7-8; LXX—same verb as in John 6:43).

“Whoever comes to me will never hunger,” Jesus said (John 6:35), but

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.

John 6:44

Like a chain of magnets, the uncreated person of the Father draws all created persons to himself through the uncreated person of his Son, including all flesh (sarx) and the cosmos (kosmos).

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”

John 12:32

Creation has an in-built force of attraction towards her LORD and Maker. In the beginning (Genesis 1:1), the shalom of God filled the heavens and the earth. Shalom means wholeness and completeness through communion with the LORD God, the basis of integral peace. In a shalom-filled world, all creatures move gracefully in synergy with the Spirit of God.

It is written in the prophets:
‘They shall all be taught by God.’
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

John 6:45

Jesus quoted Isaiah 54:13:

All your children shall be taught by the Lord;
great shall be the peace (shalom) of your children.

Isaiah 54:13; LXX

Like the second Adam, the first Adam in the Garden of Eden enjoyed an unmediated sonship in the Father, “walking” (halak) and talking with him in familiarity and intimacy. Yet only the uncreated Son “sees” (horaó) the Father in his plenitude exceeding the capacity of finite creatures. God alone “comprehends” God.

Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father.

John 6:46

Not by vision but by faith, the children of God are drawn up to the Father through the Son.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

John 6:47

Believing (pisteuó) goes far deeper than having right ideas about God and religion. Many who had a formidable knowledge of Scripture and theology did not believe Jesus. Only a genuine personal encounter leads to faith (pistis, the noun form of pisteuó). 

I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living (zaó) bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live (zaó) forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh (sarx) for the life (zóé) of the world (kosmos).”

John 6:48-51

Manna was provisional and a pointer to the tree of life to come from Abraham and Adam. The repetition of zóé (noun) and zaó (verb) which are cognate recall the words of the LORD God about the tree of life:

Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life (zóé), and eats of it and lives (zaó) forever?

Genesis 3:22; LXX

The Greek Septuagint version matches the words of Christ in the Gospel of John concerning the bread from heaven that bestows eternal life. Zóé in the Greek lexical universe indicates the fullness of life beyond mere physical existence, in fact, participation in the divine life. It is sharply distinguished from bios or biological, earthly existence. 

The original Hebrew word for life in Genesis 3:22, chay, includes divine, human, animal, and vegetative life as a whole—a concept that resonates with shalom. The Hebrew mind did not make the sharp distinctions between spirit and matter that characterized Hellenistic philosophy. In the beginning—bereshit, the opening word of the Torah in Genesis 1:1God, Adam, and the cosmos were one.

Restoration of shalom encompasses heaven and earth, all flesh and the cosmos. The eating and drinking Jesus risen in the flesh epitomizes shalom. Every division is overcome in the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. 

-GMC

Bread from Heaven

Christ feeding the multitude (Coptic icon)

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter

John 6:30-35

So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

John 6:30-31

The question put to Jesus by the crowd was peculiar since the sign of the multiplication of loaves and fishes took place before their very eyes. Preconceived, ingrained ideas blocked the passage to realization and understanding.

God and true religion followed a long-established script: Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt and feeding them with “bread from heaven” (Exodus 16:4). Moshe, a heroic icon of tradition, was enshrined and venerated. Jesus was newfangled. Insofar as Jesus resembled Moses, his authority was authenticated. Few gazed upon Jesus with the freshness of a tabula rasa. 

So Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.

John 6:32

The Torah itself testifies that the LORD (Tetragrammaton) rained down bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4). Moses was his holy servant and prophet, as much in need of manna as his fellow Israelites. The claim of the new Moses was from an entirely different order of reality: Jesus is the true (aléthinon) bread from heaven (John 6:32). The Greek word aléthinos literally means “made of truth,” thus real and genuine.

For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:33

Life (zóé) includes the quickening of the spirit by the Holy Spirit to adapt the person for communion in the divine life. Zóé escapes X-rays and EEGs. The life of God surpasses mere bios or biological, earthly existence. 

Zóé is what all persons intrinsically desire—to have the Light of God burn inextinguishably in the core of our being, indeed, to make us lamps in the Lamp. 

“Easter, Day 15”
Responsorial Psalm from 4:6(7)
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

So they said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.

John 6:34-35

The Christ-Bread transforms flesh into himself, divinizing and transfiguring humanity in grace. A person filled with the Holy Spirit is a fruit-bearing tree:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:22-23

A life of wholeness in God beyond hunger and satiety is a very great promise indeed. Jesus’ listeners were paying attention.

-GMC

Living Nanoscope

Christ Pantocrator, Cathedral of the Transfiguration, Cefalù, Sicily, 12th century. Licensed by Andreas Wahra under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday of the First Week in Ordinary Time (Year I)

Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 2:13-17

An eye for microscopic detail, a steady hand, and ultra-fine motor skills are required of surgeons in the operating room. Cataract surgery or blood vessel repair demand technical finesse and expertise.

Medicine has advanced by leaps and bounds in the modern era as studies of the most intricate anatomical structures have reached the nanoscopic scale, even to mapping the entire human genome.

If the life of the body (bios) is complex, how much more delicate must be the life of the spirit (zóé)? What kind of scalpel or nanoscope divides and heals the thoughts and intentions of the heart? 

A surgeon’s scalpel is a non-living tool that divides living tissue, but the divine scalpel is a “living” (zaó from zóé, divine breath of life) and “active” (energés, energetic) personal being who is all eye and light. Nothing slips from this all-seeing, razor-sharp eye because all things are contained in it.

Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.

Hebrews 4:12-13

The “word of God” is first of all Scripture, post-patristic commentators point out, critiquing the Fathers for misapplying the Johannine Logos to Hebrews.1 However, lectio divina (sacred reading) is not only a study of words in a book but encounter with the living God. Receiving the word by ear and heart unites the hearer to the Word himself by divine, energizing grace. 

The Spirit of God transports human persons from the word to the Word, from the eye to the “I AM,” and from the ear to the silent Voice in the depths of God.

“What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,”
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The sword of the Spirit makes our spirit one with his by cutting away all that is alien to divine grace. Delicate incisions between soul (psuché) and spirit (pneuma), “joints and marrow” of our inner being purify our nature for divine communion. Thoughts, reasonings, intentions, images, forms, dreams, concepts and ideas are all illuminated by the Spirit.

But whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 1 Corinthians 6:17

The transformation from the psychological (psuchikos: animal, sensuous) to the spiritual (pneumatikos: of the Holy Spirit) is the work of God.

Now the natural (psuchikos) person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual (pneumatikos) person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

1 Corinthians 2:14-15

The human person is the new temple of the Holy Spirit, of the same nature by grace as Jesus the great high priest who has severed the curtain between humanity and the Father.2

From henceforth all children of the Father are one in the Son of God. All are one in the priesthood of Christ:

But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

Untouchables, pariahs, “tax collectors and sinners” are all loved and welcomed by our high priest and humble shepherd.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Hebrews 4:15-16

-GMC

1 Examples of this critique can be found in Meyer’s NT Commentary and Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.

2 Mark 15:38; Matthew 27:51; Luke 23:45; Hebrews 10:19-20.