When You, O Lord, were baptized in the Jordan, worship of the Trinity was made manifest; for the voice of the Father bore witness to You, calling You His beloved Son. And the Spirit in the form of a dove confirmed the truth of His word. O Christ our God, Who has appeared and enlightened the world, glory to You. [Troparion] This is a hymn from the Byzantine Liturgy of the Theophany, the manifestation of the Holy Trinity.
The Roman Liturgy refers to the Epiphany and, as the antiphon for Second Vespers in the Roman rite notes: Three mysteries mark this holy day: today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ; today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast; today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation.
As St. Maximus of Turin teaches: …Christ is baptized not to be made holy by the water, but to make the water holy, and by His cleansing to purify the waters which He touched…the consecration of Christ involves a more significant consecration of the water. For when the Saviour is washed all water for our baptism is made clean, purified at its source for the dispensing of baptismal grace to the people of future ages.
The above is another example of how Christ touches matter and transforms matter into sacrament, such as He will do at the last supper with the matter of bread and wine, which by His touch and prayer become Him, and touches the matter of men, the Apostles, and they become Him, that is in persona Christi, as handed on by the Apostles do all bishops and priests.
This gifting of Himself to us in the Holy Eucharist and in the Priesthood continues to be an ever present reality through the work of the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier.
When contemplating these passages from St. John we need to see them as words spoken in the here and now and not read/hear the Holy Gospel as some reportage of things past.
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. [v.54]
This ‘has’ is the now, the immediate, an assertion of what happens when we receive Holy Communion and there is also in this immediateness a promise that we shall be granted resurrection.
Sacraments, and the sanctifying grace imparted by reception of sacraments, are not something we earn. They are gift. The lavishness of Divine Love!
For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. [v.55]
Even though the external appearances, texture, colour, of the consecrated bread and wine appear unchanged, the actual reality remains invisible to the senses, for the actual reality IS Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity: The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as "the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend." In the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist "the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained….." It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament….. Thus St. John Chrysostom declares: It is not man that causes the things offered to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but He who was crucified for us, Christ Himself. The priest, in the role of Christ, pronounces these words, but their power and grace are God's. This is my body, he says. This word transforms the things offered. [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church #’s 1374/1375]
Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” [v.56-58]
There is a teaching principle: tell the students what you are going to tell them, tell it to them, tell them what you have told them.
From verse 26 to verse 58 this is precisely what Jesus does. It is worth slowly re-reading them and it becomes clear that Jesus is so intent on this proclamation of Himself as the source and summit of faith in the Holy Eucharist He, as in the verses immediately above, repeats the same teaching in various phrases.
These things He said while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. [v.59]
Jesus is not a designated rabbi, as yet no one knows He is our High Priest, deliberately He chooses to give this central teaching about His self-gift in a synagogue, a place like a parish church in our day, therefore the Holy One teaches about His self-gift in a sacred place, this teaching is that important.
Soon we will enter the week of Prayer for Christian Unity and perhaps the greatest wound in Christianity is how over the centuries, because of the break in Apostolic Succession, millions of our brothers and sisters have been, are, deprived of the Holy Eucharistic.
This should be a focal point when we pray for Christian Unity, that we pray for such a hunger in our brothers and sisters that they return to the fullness of sacramental life to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Not everyone can participate in daily Mass and receive Jesus in Holy Communion for reasons as varied as are life’s situations and challenges. Not just daily but throughout the day we can all make a spiritual communion: … it is good to cultivate in our hearts a constant desire for the sacrament of the Eucharist. This was the origin of the practice of “spiritual communion”, which has happily been established in the Church for centuries and recommended by saints who were masters of the spiritual life. Saint Teresa of Jesus wrote: “When you do not receive communion and you do not attend Mass, you can make a spiritual communion, which is a most beneficial practice; by it the love of God will be greatly impressed on you”. [St. John Paul II, encyclical on the Holy Eucharist and the Church: ECCLESIA DE EUCHARISTIA, ch.4; para 34]
My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
© 2019 Fr. Arthur Joseph