Eucharistic Meditation

Give us this day our daily bread.

“Daily bread” may be understood both spiritually and simply, because both meanings help us to understand salvation. For Christ is the bread of life; and this bread is not the bread of all, but it is our bread. And as we say “our Father”, because he is the father of those who understand and believe, so too we say “our bread”, because Christ is the bread of us who touch his body. Now we ask that this bread be given us today, lest we who are in Christ and receive his Eucharist daily as the food of salvation should be separated from Christ’s body through some grave offence that prohibits us from receiving the heavenly bread. For according to his words: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Cyprian, ‘Treatises, On the Lord’s Prayer’ 18, in Manlio Simonetti (ed.), Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scripture, New Testament Ia: Matthew 1–13 (Downers Grove: IVP), 135.

Eucharistic Meditation

Even of itself the teaching of the Blessed Paul is sufficient to give you a full assurance concerning those Divine Mysteries, of which having been deemed worthy, you have become of the same body and blood with Christ. For you have just heard him say distinctly, “that our Lord Jesus Christ on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, He broke it, gave to His disciples and said, ‘This is my body’. And having taken and given thanks, he said, “Take, drink, this is my blood.”. Since then He Himself declared and said of the Bread, “This is My Body,” who shall dare to doubt any longer? And since He has Himself affirmed and said, “This is My Blood,” who shall ever hesitate and say that it is not His blood?

He once turned the water into wine, akin to blood, in Cana of Galilee, and is it incredible that He should have turned wine into blood? When called to an earthly wedding, He miraculously wrought that wonderful work; should we not much more confess that He has given the enjoyment of His Body and Blood to His wedding guests [Mark 2:19]?

Therefore, let us partake of the Body and Blood of Christ with full assurance: for in the figure of Bread His Body is given to you, and His Blood in the figure of Wine, so that by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, you may be made to be of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are distributed through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, we become partakers of the divine nature [2 Peter 1:4].
Cyril of Jerusalem, ‘The Mysteries’ IV.2. Adapted from Philip Schaff (ed.), Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series II, Vol. 7 (New York: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1893), 151.

Eucharistic Meditation

The word cup is to be understood as the perfect grace of charity by which the strength for undergoing suffering for the name of Christ is infused. This is given in such way that even if the opportunity by which anyone may undergo suffering for Christ is lacking, there is still such great strength in the heart by a divine gift that nothing is lacking for putting up with punishment, scorning life and undergoing death for the name of Christ. This is well understood in that text in the psalm where it is said, “My cup overflows,” and he had just said before, “You anoint my head with oil.” What must be understood by “head anointed with oil” except a mind strengthened by the gift of the Holy Spirit? The shining quality of this oil is the unconquerable fortitude of spiritual grace by which the holy drunkenness is poured into the inner depths of the heart so that every affection of the heart, overcome, is consigned to oblivion. Filled with this drunkenness, the spirit learns to rejoice always in the Lord and to consign to contempt whatever he loved in the world. We drink this drunkenness when, having received the Holy Spirit, we possess the grace of perfect charity that drives out fear.

Fulgentius: Selected Works. The Fathers of the Church, Volume 95 (Washington: Catholic University of America, 1997), 557–8; quoted in Craig A. Blaising & Carmen S. Hardin, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Old Testament VII: Psalms 1–50 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2008), 182.

Eucharistic Meditation

But see how beautifully [king David] can speak! “I am,” he says, “the Lord’s sheep; He feeds me in a green pasture.” For a natural sheep nothing can be better than when its shepherd feeds it in pleasant green pastures and near fresh water. Where that happens to it, it feels that no one on earth is richer and more blessed than it is. For it finds there whatever it might desire: fine, lush, heavy grass, from which it will grow strong and fat; fresh water, with which it can refresh and restore itself whenever it likes; and it has its joy and pleasure there, too. At this point David would also say that God had shown him no greater grace and blessing on earth than this, that he was permitted to be at a place and among people where God’s Word and dwelling place and the right worship were to be found. Where these treasures are found, there things prosper well, both in the spiritual and in the secular realm. It is as if he were saying: “All people and kingdoms on earth are nothing. They may be richer, more powerful, and more splendid than we Jews, and they may also boast mightily of what they have. Moreover, they may glory in their wisdom and holiness, for they, too, have gods whom they serve. But with all their glory and splendour they are a mere desert and wilderness. For they have neither shepherd nor pasture, and therefore the sheep must go astray, famish, and perish. But though we are surrounded by many deserts, we can sit and rest here, safe and happy in Paradise and in a pleasant green pasture, where there is an abundance of grass and of fresh water and where we have our Shepherd near us, who feeds us, leads us to the watering place, and protects us. Therefore we cannot want.”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 12: Selected Psalms I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 160–161.

Eucharistic Meditation

We, therefore, are taught, through the slight want of faith shown by the blessed Thomas, that the mystery of the Resurrection is effected upon our earthly bodies, and in Christ as the firstfruits of the race. He was no phantom or ghost, fashioned in human shape, and simulating the features of humanity, nor yet, as others have foolishly surmised, a spiritual body that is compounded of a subtle and ethereal substance different from the flesh. For some attach this meaning to the expression “spiritual body”. For since all our expectation and the significance of our irrefutable faith, after the confession of the Holy and Consubstantial Trinity, centres in the mystery concerning the flesh, the blessed Evangelist has very pertinently put this saying of Thomas side by side with the summary of what preceded. For observe that Thomas does not desire simply to see the Lord, but looks for the marks of the nails, that is, the wounds upon His Body. For he affirmed that then, indeed, he would believe and agree with the rest that Christ had indeed risen again, and risen again in the flesh. For that which is dead may rightly be said to return to life, and the Resurrection surely was concerned with that which was subject unto death

‘Commentary on the Gospel of John’ 12.1. Commentary on the Gospel according to S. John, S. Cyril Archbishop Of Alexandria Vol. II: S. John IX—XXI. A Library Of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church, Anterior To The Division Of The East And West. Translated By Members Of The English Church (London: Walter Smith, 1885), 682–3.

Eucharistic Meditation

The soldiers … pierced his side with a spear and now insulted the dead body. O abominable and accursed purpose! Yet, beloved, do not be confused or despondent. What these men did from a wicked will fought on the side of the truth, since there was a prophecy that spoke concerning this very circumstance: “They shall look on him whom they pierced” [Zech. 12:10]. And not only this, but this deed would become evidence to confirm the faith of those who should afterwards disbelieve, as it was for Thomas those like him. With this too an ineffable mystery was accomplished. For “there came forth water and blood”. Not without purpose or by chance did those fountains spring forth. Rather, it is because the church consists of these two together. And those who have been initiated know this, being regenerated indeed by water and nourished by the blood and the flesh. And so, the mysteries take their beginning. In this way, when you approach that awesome cup, you may so approach as though you were drinking from his very side.

Abbreviated and adapted from ‘Homilies on the Gospel of John’ 85.3. Joel C. Elowsky (ed.), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament, Vol. IVb: John 11–21 (Downers Grove: IVP, 2007), 328–9.

Eucharistic Meditation

Love III

Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lacked anything.

“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here”:
Love said, “You shall be he.”
“I, the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
“Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord; but I have marred them; let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says Love, “who bore the blame?”
“My dear, then I will serve.”
“You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

George Herbert (1593–1633)

Eucharistic Meditation

We believe that the Word became flesh and that we receive his flesh in the Lord’s Supper. How then can we fail to believe that he really dwells within us? When he became man, he actually clothed himself in our flesh, uniting it to himself forever. In the sacrament of his body he actually gives us his own flesh, which he has united to his divinity. This is why we are all one, because the Father is in Christ, and Christ is in us. He is in us through his flesh and we are in him. With him we form a unity which is in God.

The manner of our indwelling in him through the sacrament of his body and blood is evident from the Lord’s own words: This world will see me no longer but you shall see me. Because I live you shall live also, for I am in my Father, you are in me, and I am in you. If it had been a question of a mere unity of will, why should he have given us this explanation of the steps by which it is achieved? He is in the Father by reason of his divine nature, we are in him by reason of his human birth, and he is in us through the mystery of the sacraments. This, surely, is what he wished us to believe; this is how he wanted us to understand the perfect unity that is achieved through our Mediator, who lives in the Father while we live in him, and who, while living in the Father, lives also in us. This is how we attain to unity with the Father. Christ is in very truth in the Father by his eternal generation; we are in very truth in Christ, and he likewise is in us.

Christ himself bore witness to the reality of this unity when he said: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him. No one will be in Christ unless Christ himself has been in him; Christ will take to himself only the flesh of those who have received his flesh. He had already explained the mystery of this perfect unity when he said: As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father, so he who eats my flesh will draw life from me. We draw life from his flesh just as he draws life from the Father. Such comparisons aid our understanding, since we can grasp a point more easily when we have an analogy. And the point is that Christ is the wellspring of our life. Since we who are in the flesh have Christ dwelling in us through his flesh, we shall draw life from him in the same way as he draws life from the Father.

Hilary of Poitiers (c. 310–c. 367), On the Trinity, Book 8:13–16. Source: Crossroads Initiative

Eucharistic meditation

Just as at one time circumcision, in so far as it had to do with effecting the remission of sins, took the place of baptism, and the Red Sea presented a likeness and figure of the same, so the paschal lamb lamb, whose flesh was eaten by the people and by whose blood the posts of the houses were marked, preceded in the figure of of the sacrament of the body of Christ. …

Finally we eat the flesh of the lamb when by taking His true body in the sacrament we are incorporated with Christ through faith and love. Elsewhere what is eaten is incorporated. Now when the body of Christ is eaten, not what is eaten but he who eats is incorporated with Him whom He eats. On this account Christ wished to be eaten by us, that He might incorporate us with Him. This is the sacrament of the body of Christ and the substance of the sacrament of the body of Christ.

Hugh of Saint Victor on the Sacraments of the Christian Faith, translated by Roy. J. Deferrari (Eugene, OR: 2007), 307.

Eucharistic Meditation

If, then, the mass is a testament and sacrament in which the forgiveness of sins and every grace of God are promised and sealed with a sign, it follows self-evidently what is the best preparation for it. Without doubt the mass is given to them that need it and desire it. But who needs forgiveness of sins and God’s grace more than just these poor miserable consciences who are driven and tormented by their sins, are afraid of God’s wrath, judgement, death, and hell, and would be eager to have a gracious God, desiring nothing more greatly than this? These are truly they who are well prepared for the mass. For with them these words have found force and meaning, when Christ says, “Take and drink, this is my blood, which is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Where such a soul believes these words, as it ought, it receives from the mass all the fruits of the mass, that is, peace and joy, and thus is thereby well and richly fed in spirit.

But where there is no faith, there no prayer helps, nor the hearing of many masses. Things can only become worse. As Psalm 23 says, “Before my eyes thou hast prepared a table for me against all my affliction.” Is this not a clear verse? What greater affliction is there than sin and the evil conscience which is always afraid of God’s anger and never has rest. Again, Psalm 111 says, “He has caused his wonderful works to be remembered, and has provided food for those who fear him.” It is certain, then, that for bold and satisfied spirits, whose sin does not prick them, the mass is of no value. For they have as yet no hunger for this food, since they are still too full. The mass demands and must have a hungry soul, which longs for the forgiveness of sins and divine favour.

But because this despair and unrest of conscience are nothing but an infirmity of faith, the severest malady which man can have in body and soul, and which cannot at once be speedily cured, it is useful and necessary that the more restless a person’s conscience, the more should he go to the sacrament or hear mass. He should do this in such a way as to picture to himself therein the word of God and feed and strengthen his faith by it; never to make a work or sacrifice of it, but let it remain a testament and a sacrament, out of which he shall take and enjoy a benefit freely and of grace. Thereby his heart may become sweet toward God and obtain a comforting confidence toward him. For so sings the Psalter, Psalm 104, “The bread strengthens man’s heart, and the wine gladdens the heart of man.”

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 35 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 109–110.