Illumination

Repentance opens up the space to receive Illumination, which is the gift of God’s grace to behold the truth of God, the creation, circumstances, and persons. As we accompany this illumination with our grateful obedience, in whatever, form is most appropriate, we are deified.

“Everything that lives and breathes is sacred and beautiful in the eyes of God. The whole world is a sacrament. The entire created cosmos is a burning bush of God’s uncreated energies. And humankind stands as a priest before the altar of creation, as microcosm and mediator. Such is the true nature of things; or, as an Orthodox hymn describes it, ‘the truth of things,’ if only we have the eyes of faith to see it.” -His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, quoted in, Cosmic Grace, Humble Prayer, p 185, edited by John Chryssavgis.

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Put On Incorruption — The Heavenly Man

“Saint Paul rejoices in the knowledge that spiritual health has been restored to the human race. Death entered the world through Adam, he explains, but life has been given back to the world through Christ. Again he says: The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven and it is heavenly. As we have borne the image of the earthly man, the image of human nature grown old in sin,so let us bear the image of the heavenly man: human nature raised up, redeemed, restored and purified in Christ. We must hold fast to the salvation we have received.Christ was the first fruits’, says the Apostle; he is the source of resurrection and life. ‘Those who belong to Christ will follow him. Modelling their lives on his purity, they will be secure in the hope of his resurrection and of enjoying with him the glory promised in heaven. Our Lord himself said so in the gospel: Whoever follows me will not perish, but will pass from death to life.

Thus the passion of our Saviour is the salvation of mankind. The reason why he desired to die for us was that he wanted us who believe in him to live for ever. In the fullness of time it was his will to become what we are, so that we might inherit the eternity he promised and live with him for ever.

Here, then, is the grace conferred by these heavenly mysteries, the gift which Easter brings, the most longed for feast of the year; here are the beginnings of creatures newly formed: children born from the life giving font of holy Church, born anew with the simplicity of little ones, and crying out with the evidence of a clean conscience. Chaste fathers and inviolate mothers accompany this new family, countless in number, born to new life through faith. As they emerge from the grace giving womb of the font, a blaze of candles burns brightly beneath the tree of faith. The Easter festival brings the grace of holiness from heaven to men. Through the repeated celebration of the sacred mysteries they receive the spiritual nourishment of the sacraments. Fostered at the very heart of holy Church, the fellowship of one community worships the one God, adoring the triple name of his essential holiness, and together with the prophet sings the psalm which belongs to this yearly festival: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad. And what is this day? It is the Lord Jesus Christ himself, the author of light, who brings the sunrise and the beginning of life, saying of himself: I am the light of day; whoever walks in daylight does not stumble. That is to say, whoever follows Christ in all things will come by this path to the throne of eternal light.

Such was the prayer Christ made to the Father while he was still on earth: Father, I desire that where I am they also may be, those who have come to believe in me; and that as you are in me and I in you, so they may abide in us.” Source

Labor Day – 2014 – Contemplating the Blessed Sacrament of Labor – Claw hammer, Stethoscope, Washer/Dryer, and Textbook

Today is Labor Day.

I was having lunch with some friends last week. The subject of Labor Day came up and one of them reminisced about how the parish he grew up in had a “blessing of the tools” on the Sunday before Labor Day. All of the members brought a tool that represented their labor. In the context of the Holy Eucharist, the tools were blessed.

What a great sacramental action. The priorities are rightly ordered. It is not our job to figure out a way to fit Christ into our workplace/career. It is just the opposite. We are to place our labor into the context of Christ Jesus. In Him we live and move and go about our daily labor.hammer

Oh yes. Lets let go of the wrong-headed categorization and comparisons of labor in terms of worth. And, it is folly to attempt to measure their worth over against one another or in convenient terms of salary, time/product ratios, etc. The arena of labor and the kind of labor knows no boundaries. It includes school, workshop, corporate desk, kitchen, hospital/clinic, orphanage, homeless shelter, etc. Your labor, no matter the kind, if in harmony with the commandments of God is holy unto the Lord.

And note that it is in the context of the Holy Eucharist. Our labor is a sacrifice of loving obedience to Christ as we abide/live in Christ.

So often we set our daily tasks over against our “time with the Lord” as if they are in competition for our devotion at a given moment. Jesus does not command an either/or regarding our relationship with Him and our daily work. The key is not to figure out a way to “balance the two” or “fit everything in.” Rather the key is to place one inside the other so they constitute a mysterious third option of the not dualistic “both/and.”

This is the Eucharistic option. This is the life-giving option. This is the enlivening option. This is The Way.

John 6.27-40 (RSV)
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see, and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven; my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Lord, give us this bread always.” 35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; 39 and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Thank you, Lord, for the Mystery of Holy Labor – Liturgy – the work of our hands, minds, hearts, on behalf of all and for the benefit of all – in and through and of Christ Jesus.

Spiritual Warfare and the Holy Eucharist

The Divine Liturgy is according to the Holy Tradition both normative and essential to the Christian life. God never sent out a memo, as far as I can tell, that said “if you feel like it” or “if it works for you.” By means of the Divine Liturgy (Holy Eucharist) we appropriately engage in spiritual warfare. This is all pre-schism and pre-reformation. The affirmation is at the heart of the “apostles’ teaching” to quote Acts. Wow…

Today’s gospel (March 30, 2014) is Mark 9:17-31. It is a story about spiritual warfare. Here is a reflection from “Dynamis.” Notice the portion I have highlighted. The author of this reflection is passing on a crucial “given.” He says it as if you, the reader, are already aware of it and he is simply reminding you of it. The author of the reflection uses the term “Holy Mysteries.” Notice that the term is plural. In the Western Church we would say “Sacraments.” So, the long and short of it is that the Sacraments are essential weapons in our spiritual warfare. Wow…

Notice also some of the other weapons – the Word of God, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving – the cardinal disciplines of Great Lent. Just a note: all of these are essential to a healthy participation in the Holy Eucharist.

I have, after the reflection, also included a pre-communion and post-communion prayer that reiterate the spiritual warfare dimension of the Divine Liturgy.

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Basic Weapons: Mark 9:17-31, especially vss. 28-29: “His disciples asked Him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So He said to them, ‘This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.’” This passage does not simply provide another account of a healing by the Lord Jesus; it constitutes an “action report” from the battlefield of spiritual warfare. A father and his son are overwhelmed by the enemy (vss. 17=18). The disciples skirmish with the unclean spirit, but cannot dislodge it (vs. 18). Finally, the Lord enters and defeats the foe (vss. 19-27).

After the victory, the Commander instructs His trainees as to why certain weapons are crucial in spiritual combat (vss. 28-29). In the concluding verse, the Lord Jesus announces the approach of His great and final battle and His subsequent victory (vs. 31). This Gospel is directed to all of us who are engaged in constant spiritual skirmishes and battles.

It is helpful to begin our approach to these verses with a passage from Ephesians in which the Apostle Paul discusses the basic rules of engagement with the enemy. First and foremost, our strength comes from the Lord (Eph 6:10). We must use the armor He provides (vss. 11, 13) when we are confronted by the wiles and power of our foe (vss. 14-16). In addition, the apostle describes the weapons required to win the spiritual struggle: Holy Scripture, prayer, the holy mysteries, and watchfulness (vss. 10, 17-18). Although Saint Paul does not mention fasting, the Lord reminds us of that weapon in today’s passage.

Addressing the relationship between fasting and prayer, Blessed Theophylact says: “Both are necessary. Good sense dictates that . . . one . . . must not only fast, but also pray; and he must not only pray, but also fast, for true prayer is rendered when it is yoked to fasting” (Explanation of the Gospel According to Saint Mark, p. 77).

Saint John Chrysostom explains the connection: “He that fasts is light, and winged, and prays with wakefulness, and quenches his wicked lusts, and propitiates God, and humbles his soul when lifted up” (“Homily 57 on Matthew,” NPNF First Series, vol. 10, p. 356).

Let us thoughtfully review each of the five essential weapons of spiritual warfare. Holy Scripture – the life-giving words of God – is a must for discerning truth and the will of the Lord in the midst of the myriad attacks we endure. As the core of Orthodox tradition, Scripture provides us with the light to cut through the smokescreen of lies from the enemy.

Prayer is our second essential weapon, and draws directly from Holy Scripture. In fact, we should become adept at using the language of Scripture to form our words of prayer. The Divine Liturgy, which is soaked in Scripture, demonstrates the method we follow.

The holy mysteries are the third weapon for disciples in combat. According to the pre-communion prayer of Saint Basil the Great, they move us to “boldness . . . increase of virtue . . . [and] keeping of [God’s] commandments.” The sacrament of communion shapes and molds our lives, making us resilient in Christ.

Fasting, in the manner prescribed by the Church, sharpens our spiritual awareness of what is happening around and within us. Let us carefully observe the days, seasons, and times of fasting, always following the directions of regular Orthodox practice as our guide.

Finally, watchfulness is the hallmark of Christ’s warrior at all times and in all circumstances. We are especially blessed to have the Jesus Prayer to aid us in the struggle against “the evil imagination, wicked deeds, and work of the devil” that seek to oppose us.

O Lord of mercies, enlighten the eyes of our understanding by Thy Holy Scriptures, enable us by Thy Spirit to pray as we ought to pray, strengthen our wretched souls and bodies through Thy Holy Gifts, help us to subject our flesh by abstinence and blameless fasting, and awaken us to cultivate watchfulness zealously that we may be victors unto the end.

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Pre-Communion Prayer by St. Basil the Great
I know, O Lord, that I have communion unworthily of Thy most pure Body and Thy most precious Blood, that I am guilty and drink condemnation to.myself not discerning Thy Body and Blood, O my Christ and God. But daring upon Thy generous loving-kindness I come to Thee who hast said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.” Be merciful, therefore, O Lord, and do not rebuke me a sinner, but deal with me according to Thy mercy, and let Thy holy things be for my purification and healing, for enlightenment and protection, for the repulsion of every tempting thought and action of the devil which works spiritually in my fleshly members. Let them be for boldness and love for Thee, for the correction and grounding of my life, for the increase of virtue and perfection, for the fulfillment of Thy commandments, for the communion of the Holy Spirit, for the journey of eternal life, for a good and acceptable answer at Thy dread judgment, but not for judgment or condemnation. Amen.

Post-Communion Prayer by St. Simeon Metaphrastes
Freely Thou hast given me Thy Body for my food, O Thou who art a fire consuming the unworthy. Consume me not, O my Creator, but instead enter into my members, my veins, my heart. Consume the thorns of my transgressions. Cleanse my soul and sanctify my reasonings. Make firm my knees and body. Illumine my five senses. Nail me to the fear of Thee. Always protect, guard, and keep me from soul destroying words and deeds. Cleanse me, purify me, and adorn me. Give me understanding and illumination. Show me to be a temple of Thy One Spirit, and not the home of many sins. May every evil thing, every carnal passion, flee from me as from a fire as I become Thy tabernacle through communion. I offer Thee as intercessors all the saints: the leaders of the bodiless hosts, Thy Forerunner, the wise apostles, and Thy pure and blameless Mother. Accept their prayers in Thy love, O my Christ, and make me, Thy servant, a child of light. For Thou art the only Sanctification and Light of our souls, O Good One, and to Thee, our Master and God, we ascribe glory day by day. Amen.

Source for prayers

Holy Things Are For The Holy — Really? Really!

In the Divine Liturgy, just before the faithful are invited to receive the body and blood of Christ, the celebrant says, “Let us be attentive! Holy things are for the holy.”

The faithful respond, “One is Holy, the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.”

On the surface, it seems, the exchange would be saying, “you can come and receive these holy things (the body and blood of Christ) only if you are as holy as Christ Himself.” In turn, that would, on the surface, seem to disqualify everyone from receiving. After all, we are not as holy as Jesus.

So, why does that dialogue occur? Surely it could not mean what it seems to mean on the surface.

We hear it that way because it touches broken need that is still operative within us to merit God’s love and gifts. And, it is supposed to do just that, to challenge us and yet invite us…

Truly, holy things are for the holy. And truly, only one is holy – the Lord Jesus Christ. AND, we are holy because we have been united with Jesus Christ. So, the holiness of Jesus Christ is our holiness. It is important to register that this is not a “borrowed” holiness. It is really our holiness!! What is His is ours!! God is not pretending we are holy.

That challenges, I dare say, a lot of presuppositions about what salvation is… Is it pretending or is it real? Are we just patched up versions of the old broken persons or new beings? Are we living from Sunday to Sunday attempting “one more time” to get it right this time?

“We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under Thy table, O Lord,” the prayer of humble access says in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. And how misunderstood is that prayer!!!!! In that prayer and every other pre-communion prayer like it, we are saying just the opposite of what we seem to be saying. In and of ourselves, in the presence of God, we are not “worthy” and should never presume to “draw near” receive communion. But we do not approach in and of ourselves. We approach in and of Christ Jesus. In fact, that is a lot of the point of what has occurred during the Holy Eucharist – being able to “draw near” attentively and legitimately “in and of Christ.” We abide in Christ. We are of Christ. We are holy by grace not by pretending. We, during the Liturgy “wake up” to who we really are and approach as we truly are, consciously and without pretending.

So, is there no room for striving. Well, yes and no. There is no room for striving if that striving is for a work we can show God for the purpose of proving our worthiness. That would be boosting and there is no room for that (see Ephesians 2). But there is room for striving if it is for the purpose of abiding in Christ Jesus and  co-operating with the Holy Spirit in the expression of the union we enjoy with in our thoughts, words, and deeds (working out the salvation that has been worked into us). There is no desire to boast in this kind of striving. There is a desire to bless the world and be blessed as a result. A desire to live what we celebrate – the Holy Eucharist.

Pope Francis puts it this way in his audience of October 2nd:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In the Creed, we confess our faith that the Church is “holy”. But how can we say that the Church is holy when she is all too evidently made up of sinners? Saint Paul helps us to see things aright when he tells us that “Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, to make her holy” (Eph 5:25-26). The Church is inseparably one with Christ, and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. It is not ourselves, or our merits, which make the Church holy, but God himself, through the infinite merits of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. God calls all of us, as sinners, to be redeemed, renewed and made holy in the communion of the Church. So the Church constantly welcomes everyone, even the greatest sinners, to trust in God’s offer of loving mercy, and to encounter Christ in the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Let us not be afraid to respond to Christ’s call, to trust in the working of the Holy Spirit and to pray and strive for that holiness which brings true joy to our lives.

We can boldly draw near, not in our own righteousness (our own worthiness in the sight of God apart from Christ as a result of how “good we have been this week”) but in His. But, His righteousness is our righteousness. This sheds light on the sacrament of reconciliation. It is, among other things, letting go of a very basis sign of needing to be righteous in and of ourselves in the sight of God – to be worthy.

The old prayer of humble access and every pre-communion prayer like it is our re-articulation of what God has been saying during the entirety of the Divine Liturgy — “you are worthy, you are loved.” We must re-articulate it in such a way as to establish, however, that the worthiness is not ours in and of ourselves but ours (truly ours) in and of Christ Jesus. This mystery of an “unworthy worthiness” and “holiness”  and the journey of living it more and more consummately is salvation. In Christ Jesus we are holy without pretending. What is His is ours. Who He is by nature, we are by grace.

The beauty of salvation. The elegant mystery of mercy. The artistic perfection of faith.

Truly, “holy things are for the holy… Draw near in faith.”

“What did you see?” — The Referential (Mysterious) Character of All Creation

Chapter 3

8. What did you see? Water, certainly, but not water alone; you saw the deacons ministering there, and the bishop asking questions and hallowing. First of all, the Apostle taught you that those things are not to be considered which we see, but the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 1 Corinthians 5:18 For you read elsewhere: That the invisible things of God, since the creation of the world, are understood through those things which have been made; His eternal power also and Godhead are estimated by His works. Romans 1:20 Wherefore also the Lord Himself says: If you believe not Me, believe at least the works. John 10:38 Believe, then, that the presence of the Godhead is there. Do you believe the working, and not believe the presence? Whence should the working proceed unless the presence went before? […]

15. You must not trust, then, wholly to your bodily eyes; that which is not seen is more really seen, for the object of sight is temporal, but that other eternal, which is not apprehended by the eye, but is discerned by the mind and spirit. […]

Chapter 8

[…] 49. Now consider whether the bread of angels be more excellent or the Flesh of Christ, which is indeed the body of life. That manna came from heaven, this is above the heavens; that was of heaven, this is of the Lord of the heavens; that was liable to corruption, if kept a second day, this is far from all corruption, for whosoever shall taste it holily shall not be able to feel corruption. For them water flowed from the rock, for you Blood flowed from Christ; water satisfied them for a time, the Blood satiates you for eternity. The Jew drinks and thirsts again, you after drinking will be beyond the power of thirsting; that was in a shadow, this is in truth.

49. If that which you so wonder at is but shadow, how great must that be whose very shadow you wonder at. See now what happened in the case of the fathers was shadow: They drank, it is said, of that Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were done in a figure concerning us. 1 Corinthians 10:4 You recognize now which are the more excellent, for light is better than shadow, truth than a figure, the Body of its Giver than the manna from heaven.

Chapter 9

50. Perhaps you will say, I see something else, how is it that you assert that I receive the Body of Christ? And this is the point which remains for us to prove. And what evidence shall we make use of? Let us prove that this is not what nature made, but what the blessing consecrated, and the power of blessing is greater than that of nature, because by blessing nature itself is changed.

51. Moses was holding a rod, he cast it down and it became a serpent. Exodus 4:3-4 Again, he took hold of the tail of the serpent and it returned to the nature of a rod. You see that by virtue of the prophetic office there were two changes, of the nature both of the serpent and of the rod. The streams of Egypt were running with a pure flow of water; of a sudden from the veins of the sources blood began to burst forth, and none could drink of the river. Again, at the prophet’s prayer the blood ceased, and the nature of water returned. The people of the Hebrews were shut in on every side, hemmed in on the one hand by the Egyptians, on the other by the sea; Moses lifted up his rod, the water divided and hardened like walls, and a way for the feet appeared between the waves. Jordan being turned back, returned, contrary to nature, to the source of its stream. Joshua 3:16 Is it not clear that the nature of the waves of the sea and of the river stream was changed? The people of the fathers thirsted, Moses touched the rock, and water flowed out of the rock. Exodus 17:6 Did not grace work a result contrary to nature, so that the rock poured forth water, which by nature it did not contain? Marah was a most bitter stream, so that the thirsting people could not drink. Moses cast wood into the water, and the water lost its bitterness, which grace of a sudden tempered. Exodus 15:25 In the time of Elisha the prophet one of the sons of the prophets lost the head from his axe, which sank. He who had lost the iron asked Elisha, who cast in a piece of wood and the iron swam. This, too, we clearly recognize as having happened contrary to nature, for iron is of heavier nature than water.

52. We observe, then, that grace has more power than nature, and yet so far we have only spoken of the grace of a prophet’s blessing. But if the blessing of man had such power as to change nature, what are we to say of that divine consecration where the very words of the Lord and Saviour operate? For that sacrament which you receive is made what it is by the word of Christ. But if the word of Elijah had such power as to bring down fire from heaven, shall not the word of Christ have power to change the nature of the elements? You read concerning the making of the whole world: He spoke and they were made, He commanded and they were created. Shall not the word of Christ, which was able to make out of nothing that which was not, be able to change things which already are into what they were not? For it is not less to give a new nature to things than to change them.

53. But why make use of arguments? Let us use the examples He gives, and by the example of the Incarnation prove the truth of the mystery. Did the course of nature proceed as usual when the Lord Jesus was born of Mary? If we look to the usual course, a woman ordinarily conceives after connection with a man. And this body which we make is that which was born of the Virgin. Why do you seek the order of nature in the Body of Christ, seeing that the Lord Jesus Himself was born of a Virgin, not according to nature? It is the true Flesh of Christ which crucified and buried, this is then truly the Sacrament of His Body.

54. The Lord Jesus Himself proclaims: This is My Body. Matthew 26:26 Before the blessing of the heavenly words another nature is spoken of, after the consecration the Body is signified. He Himself speaks of His Blood. Before the consecration it has another name, after it is called Blood. And you say, Amen, that is, It is true. Let the heart within confess what the mouth utters, let the soul feel what the voice speaks.

55. Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened, and seeing the continual progress of her grace, He rightly says to her: How comely are your breasts, my sister, my spouse, how comely they are made by wine, and the smell of your garments is above all spices. A dropping honeycomb are your lips, my spouse, honey and milk are under your tongue, and the smell of your garments is as the smell of Lebanon. A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed. By which He signifies that the mystery ought to remain sealed up with you, that it be not violated by the deeds of an evil life, and pollution of chastity, that it be not made known to thou, for whom it is not fitting, nor by garrulous talkativeness it be spread abroad among unbelievers. Your guardianship of the faith ought therefore to be good, that integrity of life and silence may endure unblemished.

56. For which reason, too, the Church, guarding the depth of the heavenly mysteries, repels the furious storms of wind, and calls to her the sweetness of the grace of spring, and knowing that her garden cannot displease Christ, invites the Bridegroom, saying: Arise, O north wind, and come, thou south; blow upon mAmbrose Of Milany garden, and let my ointments flow down. Let my Brother come down to His garden, and eat the fruit of His trees. For it has good trees and fruitful, which have dipped their roots in the water of the sacred spring, and with fresh growth have shot forth into good fruits, so as now not to be cut with the axe of the prophet, but to abound with the fruitfulness of the Gospel.

57. Lastly, the Lord also, delighted with their fertility, answers: I have entered into My garden, My sister, My spouse; I have gathered My myrrh with My spices, I have eaten My meat with My honey, I have drunk My drink with My milk. Song of Songs 5:1 Understand, you faithful, why He spoke of meat and drink. And there is no doubt that He Himself eats and drinks in us, as you have read that He says that in our persons He is in prison. Matthew 25:36

58. Wherefore, too, the Church, beholding so great grace, exhorts her sons and her friends to come together to the sacraments, saying: Eat, my friends, and drink and be inebriated, my brother. Song of Songs 5:1 What we eat and what we drink the Holy Spirit has elsewhere made plain by the prophet, saying, Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man that hopes in Him. In that sacrament is Christ, because it is the Body of Christ, it is therefore not bodily food but spiritual. Whence the Apostle says of its type: Our fathers ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink, 1 Corinthians 10:3 for the Body of God is a spiritual body; the Body of Christ is the Body of the Divine Spirit, for the Spirit is Christ, as we read: The Spirit before our face is Christ the Lord. Lamentations 4:20 And in the Epistle of Peter we read: Christ died for us. 1 Peter 2:21 Lastly, that food strengthens our heart, and that drink makes glad the heart of man, as the prophet has recorded.

59. So, then, having obtained everything, let us know that we are born again, but let us not say, How are we born again? Have we entered a second time into our mother’s womb and been born again? I do not recognize here the course of nature. But here there is no order of nature, where is the excellence of grace. And again, it is not always the course of nature which brings about conception, for we confess that Christ the Lord was conceived of a Virgin, and reject the order of nature. For Mary conceived not of man, but was with child of the Holy Spirit, as Matthew says: She was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18 If, then, the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Virgin wrought the conception, and effected the work of generation, surely we must not doubt but that, coming down upon the Font, or upon those who receive Baptism, He effects the reality of the new birth. Source: “On the Mysteries,” Chapters 3, 8, & 9, St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (340 – 397)

“…let no man forget to eat this Bread, lest his heart should wither”

Of the Institution of the Worshipful and most August Sacrament

When, therefore, our Lord Jesus had instructed His disciples in true humility, both by word and example, and the time of His Passion was close at hand, He desired to teach both them and all of us another of His virtues, not less necessary for our salvation than the one already spoken of; that is to say, perfect love. These two virtues He left us as His testament for an everlasting remembrance, desiring to impress them on our inmost hearts, for in them lies our whole salvation, and without them we cannot be saved. Nay, even had we nothing else, these alone would suffice. Hear, now, what our most gracious Lord said to His disciples: “My little children, a new commandment I give unto you;” as if He would say: “Many lessons, and divers and numerous 30commandments have you from Me. But now, a new commandment I give unto you, the highest, indeed, of all commandments, and the compendium of all My teachings; and this is, that you love one another as I have loved you; that as I lay down My life for you, so also you should love one another unto death, and help one another; that, as I have loved him who betrayed Me, and have prayed for them who have brought Me to the cross, so also you should love your enemies, and do good to them, by lending loving help to all who persecute you, and bring evil upon you.” This new commandment of love our Lord Jesus taught, not only by word, but also by deed. And when He desired to make known to us that we were His true sons, and that out of His eternal love He bore us in His bosom, and that from everlasting we had been in Him, and, as it were, in our origin, had rested in Him from all eternity; and that no earthly father had ever John Taulerembraced us with such exceeding love as that with which He had embraced us. Then it was that, as a most faithful father, He left us His most august testament, and bequeathed to us that excellent good, which is nobler and better than heaven and earth, even His own most sacred Body for food, and for our drink His most precious Blood. O wonderful mystery! O most high Sacrament! Oh, all ye, as many as love God, come, make ready, behold, wonder, marvel, praise, announce and magnify the Name of the Lord. For so great, so marvellous a work hath our Lord wrought in us, that whosoever desireth to look into it with his inward understanding, can only shrivel up in spirit, and faint away in mind, and lose all power for exceeding great astonishment. And even if a man desire, according to the poor little measure of his human frailty, and by the help of God’s grace, to look through and search the depth of this love by means of his reason and understanding, as far, namely, as God vouchsafeth out of love to allow him to do this, yet will his heart melt away, and burn, and glow with the flame and fire of love. For, although it was a great and wonderful work that God Almighty vouchsafed to take upon Himself the nature of man, and to clothe Himself with the sackcloth of our mortality, yet doth this work leave all His other works far behind. For, in the former work, He took upon Himself, indeed, our manhood, but in this work, joined and united with His Manhood, He poureth out upon us His own Godhead, so that we receive It within ourselves. In the former He took on Him our manhood, in the latter, we are clothed with His Godhead.

For, as the food taken by man passeth into his substance, and becometh of one nature with man, so whosoever worthily receiveth this Food, is made one thing with our Lord by grace. And as our Lord saith by Augustine, we change not this divine Food into our substance, but rather are transmuted and transformed by it into Himself, and thus are made deiform, and of one nature with Him. Now this is the way by which we put on Christ, as the apostle admonisheth. Oh! who can ever reach, by any act of the understanding, unto this infinite abyss of deepest love, which God hath willed to make known to us in this sublime and wonderful Sacrament? And this, indeed, He did at the end of His life, that it might be, as it were, the sum, and compendium, and everlasting remembrance of all His works. Moreover, although it was at the last supper that He first instituted this Sacrament, and gave It to man to take, yet It included within Itself the whole Christ, God Incarnate. For in this Sacrament He had His true Body, and His living soul, and He was Very God; and these three we receive in this Sacrament. Where, now, is the heart that will not glow with burning love, and be stirred and moved to devotion, when it considereth with what exceeding love He, the King of glory, the Lord of majesty, was consumed for us vile creatures, who are but dust and ashes, in whom, besides, He found nothing but frailty, and sin, and want? Yet of such He can say: “My delights are to be with the children of men.” Can He lift us higher than by setting up His own temple within us? Can He love us more than by vouchsafing to become the food of His own creatures? He is the highest and most perfect Good, with which no other good can be compared, and which can never fail; and because His fatherly and loving Heart could think of nothing better, nothing higher, He gave us Himself, so as to prove to us His bountiful goodness, and the deep love of His Heart. Bountiful altogether is the bestowal, when He giveth Himself, but how much more bountiful when He giveth Himself in this way! For He gave Himself to be out father, and brother, and companion, and food, and ransom, and mediator, and advocate. Lastly, He will give us Himself for our everlasting reward, and will so satiate us in Himself, that He will be to us all that we can desire.

Nor is this all, for over and above all this bountiful goodness, He is ever ready to come into our hearts, and to bestow upon us all the merits of His Incarnation, and Life and Passion. He saith by His prophet: “Thou shalt call and the Lord will hear thee. Thou shalt cry aloud, and He shall say, ‘Lo, here I am.’” And He Himself saith: “If any man love Me, My Father will love him, and We will come and make our dwelling with him.” Look, O my soul! to thy dignity, and rejoice exceedingly in thy God, Who hath lifted thee up from the dung-hill of thy sins, that thou mayest be the dwelling-place of the Adorable Trinity, thou who wert formerly the devil’s slave.

Nor was it enough for this most ardent Lover to show us such exceeding love. More deeply still must He lower and submit Himself unto us. He will not wait until He be invited and desired by us: He cometh Himself first, and knocketh, and prayeth us to let Him in. Hear what He saith in the Apocalypse: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man open unto Me, I will enter in, and sup with him, and he with Me.” O blessed and happy soul, that listeneth to his Lord’s knock, that watcheth, and with longing waiteth for His coming, so as not only straightway to open to her Lord and Bridegroom, but even with her lamp burning, and full of oil, to go out to meet Him, and to take Him back with her, saying: “Let my Beloved come into His garden!”

Oh! how great the happiness to receive Him, as He cometh back from the heavenly marriage-feast, drunk with wine, full of grace and truth, coming forth from His Father’s most pleasant Bosom, all delightful 35and full of comfort, flowing with spiritual delights, ready to give His loving bride the kiss of peace which He Himself had received from His Father. Oh! what a happiness to eat with Him, Who thus giveth Himself for food! Who, I ask, could ever have so cast himself down, or so raised us up? Heaven and earth are filled with the glory of His divine Majesty, and yet He refuseth not to be handled, and taken and eaten by us worthless worms of earth. The heaven of heavens is not large enough to contain His greatness, and He telleth us that it is His delight to be with us, who lie hidden in the filthy homes of earth.

Oh! whose is the spirit that will not marvel with exceeding wonder? Whose is the heart that will not melt away at the burning fire of this unutterable love? How could He have given us surer proof of this His burning love for us? It is a small thing to Him to send His holy angels to honour and visit us, but that He, the King of angels, should come to His own servants, that He should visit the sick, and comfort the weak, and lift up the fallen, and console the desolate, and give heart to them who despair, and instruct them who doubt, and call back them that wander, and refresh them that hunger, and give warmth to them that are lukewarm; in a word, that He should heal all 36our languor, and all our sins, and this not by any strange medicine, but by His own precious Body and Blood! O wonderful mystery, O most high Sacrament, O unutterable love, O unheard of bounty, in which the Giver is Himself the Gift, the servant eateth his Lord, the creature receiveth his Maker, the minister is commanded to sit at the table of the most high King, and is filled to overflowing with divine food; in which man is fed with the Bread of angels, the Father distributeth the Body of His only Begotten, and giveth His friends to drink, in all abundance, of the precious Blood of His dear Son! Who hath ever heard of greater or more lavish bounty? Where is the understanding that can look into and grasp the mysteries of this wonderful Sacrament? What more could God have done for us? How could He have more closely joined to us His most high Godhead, than to become our food, and to incorporate us wholly into Himself? For as bodily food, when taken by man, falleth down softly into his inward parts, and nourisheth all his members, and at length passeth into his substance, so, in like manner, Christ letteth Himself sink down into our souls, in order to fill us wholly with Himself, and He draweth all our powers into Himself. And if He meeteth our souls thus worthily made ready, so as to enable Him freely to accomplish within us His own pleasant work, then, too, according to the Scriptures, He buildeth up and destroyeth, He killeth and giveth life, He teareth up and planteth, He darkeneth and giveth light. For He is that Lamb Whom St. John saw sitting on the throne of heaven, and making all things new. Even as He once made our souls, when before they had no being, to His own image and likeness, so also He reneweth and marvellously reformeth them according to the same likeness, which in us hath become defiled and broken. Thus, too, thou mayest hear Him say by the mouth of one of His prophets: “I Myself will feed My sheep, and I will make them to lie down. That which hath perished I will seek; that which hath been cast away I will bring back; that which is broken I will bind together; that which is weak I will strengthen.”

Oh! who can grasp in mind, or who is able to discover in thought, all the marvels, and all the happiness, which this divine Food worketh in the soul that worthily receiveth It? Oh! how pure, how holy, and, above all, how divine doth such a man straightway become by means of this Food? For if the nature of the elements is such as, after the manner of their author, to consume all things, and make them like themselves, and transmute them into their own substance, how much more will this 38most noble Food, which is God Himself, consume whatever in man is vicious, or carnal, or sensual, and cause to spring up and encourage all virtue and all good; and, chief of all, will at last transform the whole man into Itself, and unite him with Itself, and, so far as is possible for a creature, make him of one essence with God, and like to Him. While this is being done, that is to say, while man is being conformed and made like unto this Food, he also becometh wholly quickened in spirit, for he receiveth the Bread of Life, so that now he may say with the apostle: “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” He is made, in like manner, wholly angelic and heavenly, for he hath eaten of the Bread of angels, and of their food. Lastly, he is made all divine, inasmuch as he hath received God Himself, Who hath so filled him, and, so to speak, deified his powers, that he can no longer seek, or desire, or meditate upon, or love anything, save only God, while to do God’s will, and whatever God’s love requireth, is for him enough. What, then, can be wanting to us, when we have partaken of this most noble Food? O merciful God! what more couldst Thou have done for us, or what hast Thou done? Even hadst Thou brooded with all Thy power and all Thy wisdom upon this one thing, namely, how to bestow upon man some great gift, and to show to him some striking proof of Thy exceeding love, yet so far as my understanding can grasp, no nobler, or higher, or more useful, or more saving gift couldst Thou have lavished upon us. For Thou hast poured out upon us the whole treasure of Thy grace. Thou hast opened to us Thy fatherly Heart, and allowed the veins of Thy exceeding love to flow in all abundance over us. Openly hast Thou made known to us with what great love for us Thou burnest and art wounded. And because Thou couldst no longer hide this blessed wound, and burning fire, the flame broke forth, and Thou sufferedst man to feel the force of Thy love, giving to him Thy most sacred Body for food, and Thy precious Blood for drink, that so man, looking upon the immensity of this love, might, in his turn, be inflamed and wounded by love, and, at the same time, by its sublimity, might be inwardly forced and admonished to repay it in some way, and satisfy its longings.

See here, how marvellous and unheard of hath been the meeting and the union of the Divine Wisdom with our nature. It took from us our weakness, and our mortal manhood, and bestowed upon us Its own adorable Godhead. And the better to do this, It could find no more suitable or pleasant way, than to leave Itself to us under the appearance of food and drink. 40O power of God, to be ever praised, that under the appearance of a little bread could give His own high Godhead, could give His own perfect Body and holy Soul unto all men, equally and wholly to be their food, which, while wholly received by every man, yet remaineth in Itself whole and incorrupt! O marvellous wisdom of God, that instituted this subtle and saving means of salvation for us, and decreed it! O incomprehensible goodness of God, that for the sake of our salvation hath perfected such sublime works of love! O saving Food, whereby the children of men pass into the children of God, and humanity is absorbed that God may remain! O longed-for, sacred, and adorable Bread, that refreshest the mind, not the belly; that strengthenest the heart, nor weighest down the body; that gladdenest the spirit, nor darkenest the understanding; whereby sensuality is killed, and our own will brought down to nothing, that God’s Will may have place, and God’s Spirit may have rule, and God’s working may come across no hinderance! Of a truth, it was needful for man, who had swallowed the serpent’s poisonous morsel, to drink the heavenly draught of Christ’s precious Blood, in order to recover the salvation he had lost. Clearly it was fitting that he who had fallen through food that brought him death should be raised up again by the Bread of life; that he who had died through the fruit of the tree, should come to life again in like manner, by the fruit of the Tree, and that he who, through the tree of disobedience, had been sentenced to everlasting death, should, by the Tree of obedience, be restored to everlasting glory. On that former tree hung the food of death, on this latter the medicine of life. In that ran the sap of concupiscence, on this hung the grape-clusters of salvation, which, pressed out in the vine-press of Christ’s Passion, gave us that new wine, by which the heart of man is gladdened. Clearly, this is that chosen grape-cluster, sweet to the taste, which they who were said to spy out the earth, that is, the holy apostles, carried on a staff, as they explored with interior eye the kingdom of heaven; as, for example, St. John, who saw in the Apocalypse the Lamb, as it were slain, and St. Paul, who himself also went forth to look at the Land of Promise, when he was rapt into the third heaven, and who, when he had returned to himself, confessed that he knew no other sign, save the grape upon the vine, that is, Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. This is that true grape-cluster which hath no sourness mingled with it; this is that sweet-tasting Bread, or heavenly manna, full of spiritual delights, wherein there is nothing rough or coarse, for it is not made of the grain of the Old Testament, administered by Moses, but it is the flour of wheat, that is, of the grace shown through Christ Jesus; no mere figure, but the truth.

Wherefore, let no man forget to eat this Bread, lest his heart should wither. For as we fell into ruin through food, so by food we must be quickened again to life. Of that former food it was said: “In whatsoever day thou shalt eat thereof, thou shalt surely die.” But of this is it said: “If any man shall eat of this Bread, he shall live for ever.” As often, therefore, as, through the cheating of Satan, that wicked serpent, we have fallen into sins, and have drunk the cup of death when held out to us by the enemy’s temptation, so often ought we to make ourselves ready to partake of this heavenly medicine, with sorrow, and penance, and devotion, and burning longing. Never let us cease at all to succour our sick and suffering souls, since to no man doth our tender-hearted Lord refuse His grace, nor is there anything He is more ready to give than Himself. And, of a surety, whatever favours, whatever grace our Lord Jesus brought into this world, and gave to man when He took his nature, all this He bringeth with Him, and bestoweth upon every man who worthily partaketh of this worshipful Sacrament. Moreover, whatever virtues Christ performed during His Life,—all 43the fruit of His Death, Resurrection and Ascension, the blessedness of His gracious Body, the virtue of His precious Blood, and lastly, the merits of His most noble Soul,—all this He bringeth with Him into the soul that worthily receiveth Him. What more desirest thou? In this most august Sacrament, whatever can be thought of, or desired, is received. For herein is received the true Son of God, Jesus Christ, very God and very Man, ever one God with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Truly, then, it was right to say, that whatever virtues or merit Christ performed, and obtained in His Life and Passion, all this is received in this Sacrament by the soul that is worthily prepared. Nay, our sweet Jesus is ready to give us all these virtues through His tender and bountiful goodness, just as if we had performed them ourselves. Let us hasten, therefore, zealously to cleanse our hearts from every stain of sin, and to adorn them with virtues and good works, that we may be always fit and worthy to receive this saving food, to the everlasting glory of our most gracious Maker. Amen. Source: Meditations on the Life and Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, Chapter 4, by John Tauler (1300-1363)

“We are also nourished by means of the creation…” in the Holy Eucharist

St. Irenaeus of LyonChapter II. – When Christ visited us in His grace, He did not come to what did not belong to Him: also, by shedding His true blood for us, and exhibiting to us His true flesh in the Eucharist, He conferred upon our flesh the capacity of salvation.

1. And vain likewise are those who say that God came to those things which did not belong to Him, as if covetous of another’s property; in order that He might deliver up that man who had been created by another, to that God who had neither made nor formed anything, but who also was deprived from the beginning of His own proper formation of men. The advent, therefore, of Him whom these men represent as coming to the things of others, was not righteous; nor did He truly redeem us by His own blood, if He did not really become man, restoring to His own handiwork what was said [of it] in the beginning, that man was made after the image and likeness of God; not snatching away by stratagem the property of another, but taking possession of His own in a righteous and gracious manner. As far as concerned the apostasy, indeed, He redeems us righteously from it by His own blood; but as regards us who have been redeemed, [He does this] graciously. For we have given nothing to Him previously, nor does He desire anything from us, as if He stood in need of it; but we do stand in need of fellowship with Him. And for this reason it was that He graciously poured Himself out, that He might gather us into the bosom of the Father.

2. But vain in every respect are they who despise the entire dispensation of God, and disallow the salvation of the flesh, and treat with contempt its regeneration, maintaining that it is not capable of incorruption. But if this indeed do not attain salvation, then neither did the Lord redeem us with His blood, nor is the cup of the Eucharist the communion of His blood, nor the bread which we break the communion of His body.  1 Cor. x. 16. For blood can only come from veins and flesh, and whatsoever else makes up the substance of man, such as the Word of God was actually made. By His own blood he redeemed us, as also His apostle declares, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of sins.”   Col. i. 14. And as we are His members, we are also nourished by means of the creation (and He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills Matt. v. 45. ). He has acknowledged the cup (which is a part of the creation) as His own blood, from which He bedews our blood; and the bread (also a part of the creation) He has established as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies.

3. When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made,from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal, which [flesh] is nourished from the body and blood of the Lord, and is a member of Him?—even as the blessed Paul declares in his Epistle to the Ephesians, that “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.”Eph. v. 30. He does not speak these words of some spiritual and invisible man, for a spirit has not bones nor flesh;  Luke xxiv. 39. but [he refers to] that dispensation [by which the Lord became] an actual man, consisting of flesh, and nerves, and bones,—that [flesh] which is nourished by the cup which is His blood, and receives increase from the bread which is His body. And just as a cutting from the vine planted in the ground fructifies in its season, or as a corn of wheat falling into the earth and becoming decomposed, rises with manifold increase by the Spirit of God, who contains all things, and then, through the wisdom of God, serves for the use of men, and having received the Word of God, becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ; so also our bodies, being nourished by it, and deposited in the earth, and suffering decomposition there, shall rise at their appointed time, the Word of God granting them resurrection to the glory of God, even the Father, who freely gives to this mortal immortality, and to this corruptible incorruption,  1 Cor. xv. 53. because the strength of God is made perfect in weakness,  2 Cor. xii. 3. in order that we may never become puffed up, as if we had life from ourselves, and exalted against God, our minds becoming ungrateful; but learning by experience that we possess eternal duration from the excelling power of this Being, not from our own nature, we may neither undervalue that glory which surrounds God as He is, nor be ignorant of our own nature, but that we may know what God can effect, and what benefits man receives, and thus never wander from the true comprehension of things as they are, that is, both with regard to God and with regard to man. And might it not be the case, perhaps, as I have already observed, that for this purpose God permitted our resolution into the common dust of mortality, that we, being instructed by every mode, may be accurate in all things for the future, being ignorant neither of God nor of ourselves? Source: Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 2, by Irenaeus (120–202)

“Be what you see; receive what you are.”

What you see on God’s altar, you’ve already observed during the night that has now ended. But you’ve heard nothing about just what it might be, or what it might mean, or what great thing it might be said to symbolize. For what you see is simply bread and a cup – this is the information your eyes report. But your faith demands far subtler insight: the bread is Christ’s body, the cup is Christ’s blood. Faith can grasp the fundamentals quickly, succinctly, yet it hungers for a fuller account of the matter. As the prophet says, “Unless you believe, you will not understand.” [Is. 7.9; Septuagint] So you can say to me, “You urged us to believe; now explain, so we can understand.”

Inside each of you, thoughts like these are rising: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, we know the source of his flesh; he took it from the Virgin Mary. Like any infant, he was nursed and nourished; he grew; became a youngster; suffered persecution from his own people. To the wood he was nailed; on Saint Augustinethe wood he died; from the wood, his body was taken down and buried. On the third day (as he willed) he rose; he ascended bodily into heaven whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. There he dwells even now, seated at God’s right. So how can bread be his body? And what about the cup? How can it (or what it contains) be his blood?”

My friends, these realities are called sacraments because in them one thing is seen, while another is grasped. What is seen is a mere physical likeness; what is grasped bears spiritual fruit. So now, if you want to understand the body of Christ, listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful: “You are the body of Christ, member for member.” [1 Cor. 12.27] If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying “Amen” to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear “The body of Christ”, you reply “Amen.” Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true! But what role does the bread play?

We have no theory of our own to propose here; listen, instead, to what Paul says about this sacrament: “The bread is one, and we, though many, are one body.” [1 Cor. 10.17] Understand and rejoice: unity, truth, faithfulness, love. “One bread,” he says. What is this one bread? Is it not the “one body,” formed from many? Remember: bread doesn’t come from a single grain, but from many. When you received exorcism, you were “ground.” When you were baptized, you were “leavened.” When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, you were “baked.” Be what you see; receive what you are. This is what Paul is saying about the bread. So too, what we are to understand about the cup is similar and requires little explanation. In the visible object of bread, many grains are gathered into one just as the faithful (so Scripture says) form “a single heart and mind in God” [Acts 4.32]. And thus it is with the wine. Remember, friends, how wine is made. Individual grapes hang together in a bunch, but the juice from them all is mingled to become a single brew. This is the image chosen by Christ our Lord to show how, at his own table, the mystery of our unity and peace is solemnly consecrated. All who fail to keep the bond of peace after entering this mystery receive not a sacrament that benefits them, but an indictment that condemns them.

So let us give God our sincere and deepest gratitude, and, as far as human weakness will permit, let us turn to the Lord with pure hearts. With all our strength, let us seek God’s singular mercy, for then the Divine Goodness will surely hear our prayers. God’s power will drive the Evil One from our acts and thoughts; it will deepen our faith, govern our minds, grant us holy thoughts, and lead us, finally, to share the divine happiness through God’s own son Jesus Christ. Amen! “On The Eucharist,” Source: Sermon 272, St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)

The Effectual Power of the Word — Sacrament

If the heavenly word was effectual in the earthly spring, if it was effectual in other things, is it not effectual in the heavenly sacraments? Therefore thou hast learnt that what was bread becomes the body of Christ, and that wine and water are put into the chalice, but become blood by the consecration of the heavenly word…

Wilt thou know that it is consecrated by heavenly words ? Hear what the words are. The priest speaks, “Make for us,” he says, “this oblation approved, ratified, reasonable, acceptable, seeing that it is the figure of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who the day before he suffered took bread in his holy hands, and looked up to heaven to thee, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, and giving thanks, he blessed, St. Ambrosebrake, and having broken, delivered it to his apostles and to his disciples, saying, Take, and eat ye all of this; for this is my body, which shall be broken for many.

Likewise also after supper, the day before he suffered, he took the cup, looked up to heaven to thee, holy Father, almighty, everlasting God, and giving thanks, blessed it and delivered it to his apostles and to his disciples, saying, Take, and drink ye all of this ; for this is my blood.” Observe all those expressions. Those words are the Evangelists’ up to Take, whether the body or the blood. After that they are the words of Christ ; Take, and drink ye all of this; for this is my blood. And observe them in detail.

Who the day before he suffered, he says, in his holy hands took bread. Before it is consecrated, it is bread, but when the words of Christ have been added, it is the body of Christ. Therefore hear him saying : Take and eat ye all of this ; for this is my body. And before the words of Christ it is a cup full of wine and water. When the words of Christ have operated then and there it is made to be the blood of Christ which redeemed the people. Therefore, see in how many ways the word of Christ is mighty to change all things. There the Lord Jesus himself testifies to us that we receive his body and blood. Ought we to doubt of his trustworthiness and testimony?

Now come back with me to the point which I set out to prove. It is a great and awful thing that he rained manna on the Jews from heaven. But distinguish. What is greater, manna from heaven or the body of Christ? Certainly the body of Christ who is the maker of heaven. Then he who ate manna died. Whosoever eats this body shall have remission of sins and shall never die.

Therefore [when thou receivest] it is not superfluous that thou sayest Amen, already in spirit confessing that thou receivest the body of Christ. The priest says to thee, to thee, The body of Christ. And thou sayest, Amen, that is, true. What the tongue confesses let the heart hold fast…

Give us this day our daily bread. I remember my sermon when I was dealing with the Sacraments. I said to you that before the words of Christ that which is offered is called bread : when the words of Christ have been uttered, it is no longer called bread, but is named body. Why then in the Lord’s Prayer, which follows afterwards, does he say : Our bread ? He called it bread indeed, but he called it … supersubstantial. It is not the bread which passes into the body, but that bread of eternal life, which supports the substance of our soul…  The Latin … calls this bread “daily which the Greeks call “coming.”  Therefore what the Latin and what the Greek text said seem both useful. The Greek indicated both in one expression, the Latin said “daily.” If it is daily bread, why dost thou take it once a year …? Take daily what is to profit thee daily. So live that thou mayest deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily, does not deserve to receive it once a year; as holy Job offered sacrifice daily for his sons, lest perchance they should have done any sin in heart or word. Therefore dost thou hear that as often as sacrifice is offered, the Lord’s death, the Lord’s resurrection, the Lord’s ascension and the remission of sins is signified, and dost thou not take this bread of life daily? He who has a wound needs a medicine. The wound is that we are under sin ; the medicine is the heavenly and venerable sacrament.

Give us this day our daily bread. If thou receives daily, “this day” is “daily” to thee. If Christ is for thee “this day,” he rises again for thee “daily.” How? Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Therefore “this day” is when Christ rises again. Yesterday and to-day he himself is, says the Apostle Paul. But in another place he says, The night is far spent, the day is at hand? Yesternight is far spent, the present day is at hand. Source: “On the Sacraments,” Book 4.4 & 5; 5.4, by St. Ambrose of Milan(340 – 397)