“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Father Matta El-Meskeen (Matthew the Poor)
THE FIRST MAN ate from the fruit of the forbidden tree, so Adam and his wife died. All their descendants inherited this death, for death ruled over them from Adam onward. Thus it was until Jesus Christ the Son of God came from heaven to give man the bread of life so he could live and not die. The fruit of the forbidden tree was poisoned bread which man ate and died, while Christ brought bread from heaven, made by his Father, his living divine body. It was a profoundly mysterious body, in appearance flesh and blood, its essence eternal life. In order for it to be evenly distributed between all people, he crucified it by the will of his Father, carrying all the sins of the world. By it he died and was buried, so in him all the sins of the world died. He rose from the dead through the glory of the Father, so in him all people rose through the glory of his Father. In this way, the fellowship of the new man who rises by the resurrection of Christ is true fellowship in the risen body.
Just before going to his cross, Christ introduced the mystery of the Last Supper with bread and wine saying, ‘This is my body and this is my blood,’ and he broke it and gave it to his disciples to eat from his body and drink from his blood in a divine mystery, awesome and unspeakable. This means eating the bread of God that comes down out of heaven and the blood of the only Son poured out on the cross. To have faith in the body and blood of Christ, eaten and drunk, is to attain eternal life in him.
Christ’s work was long and excruciatingly hard. It cost him his life by death on the cross, carrying the sins of the whole world. It led to his death, burial and resurrection after three days, to life and glory. In this context came the divine and illuminating verse, ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.’ He will not taste the old death but will have life eternal. So Christ completed the salvation of the whole world by his death and resurrection, offering his body as the bread of eternal life, which when a man eats of it he is saved from death.
By his death on the cross, carrying the sins of the
whole world, he put sin, the bite of Leviathan the ancient serpent, to death,
which had overwhelmed man throughout all
past ages. On the cross, Christ also defeated all the forces of darkness, Satan and all his helpers. He freed man from his most dangerous enemy who had made him taste death, sin and torture, throughout all ages until the coming of Christ.
Now, brethren, I plead with you not to make light of what Christ did to make our salvation complete, nor to make light of eating the bread of life that comes down out of heaven and that gives life to the whole world. It cost the Father the death of his Son on the cross, and it cost the only Son the price of accepting death for the sake of the resurrection which he completed in himself for the resurrection and life of every man.
The ancient symbol for the body of Christ, the true bread that came down out of heaven, was the heavenly manna which the Father sent in a wonderfully miraculous way from heaven, so the people wandering in the barren wilderness could eat it until he brought them to the banks of the Jordan. Then the manna ceased, when the people coming from Egypt entered the promised land where there was wheat for bread, the bread of rest.
The manna by which God nourished his people so they could live all those forty years in the deadly, terrifying wilderness was a miniature model for eating the body of Christ the bread of life.
God sent the manna from heaven as food for his people to strengthen them in their suffering. As for the bread of life, it is the bread of eternal rest.
THE MYSTERY OF ETERNAL LIFE, the mystery of the salvation of the world, and the greatest mystery which is Christ, this is what he expresses by the ‘bread’ and is what is expressed by all people who live the mystery of life on earth. Bread is the food of the rich and the poor. Bread and water are necessities of life. Christ makes crystal clear the nature by which he became incarnate, for it is the greatest necessity for eternal life. It is amazing that Christ chose this standard by which man may live so that its great importance for eternal life would be understandable to the mind. There is a big difference between bodily bread on earth and the bread of eternal life. The bread of life from above is living, for it does not provide food for man, rather it is the highest source for life above, that is, eternal and everlasting life. The nature of earthly bread is wheat. The nature of the divine living bread is the strangest thing a man could hear!! Christ prepared his body to be the great mystery in the bread, the mystery of eternal life. As we eat bread made of wheat to live, so Christ made his body to be food!! He did not do this to feed man, rather, by it to give life to every man, all the world.
The difference between eating earthly bread and eating the body of Christ is that the food of the body of Christ is “real” food.1 The divine “truth” is the essence of life, for the one who eats the body of Christ eats the essence of eternal life, and this itself is the greatest mystery of Christ. For this reason it was called a living body. Eating of the living body is an absolute mystery, for it has neither taste nor smell, rather, it disappears into the form of bread. This is why Christ expressed his body as the bread that comes down from heaven, living, and which if man eats he lives and does not die.
It became man’s responsibility to make bread and present it to Christ on the altar for Christ to sanctify and make his living body. The priest visibly breaks it but in the mystery of the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The living bread of Christ is not diminished by the breaking; rather, one piece equals all the bread and therefore the whole body of Christ and therefore Christ himself. The food on the altar of the church is Christ in full.
Every one eats all of Christ, and therefore and by necessity eats eternal life. In this way the whole church with all of its members participates in eating Christ, that is, eternal life. So the literal words of Christ are fulfilled that every one “who feeds on me will live because of me.”2 In this way, when all the people eat from the body of Christ they become one in the body of Christ, one in Christ.
Christ came to heal the broken image by which Adam was originally created, so that he would be in the likeness and image of God. With the entrance of sin and death the image crumbled and the likeness broke apart. When the living bread from heaven, the body of Christ, came down every man was given the chance to eat from this living bread, the body of Christ, and so man recovers the image and likeness of God to become “like his glorious body.”3
Thus Christ succeeded to restore man to God, as God willed from the beginning when he created him in his image and likeness.4
July 22, 2005
1 John 6:55.
2 John 6:57.
3 Philippians 3:21.
4 Genesis 1:26.
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