LOOK BEYOND THE BREAD YOU EAT . In reflection #7 on Pope Francis’ 2022 Apostolic Letter, ‘Desiderio Desideravi,’ Latin for Jesus’ pre-Last Supper
words: “I have earnestly desired [to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”]
[Luke 22:15] we ponder two often misunderstood and misused words: sign and symbol. ‘Desiderio Desideravi’ dovetails so perfectly with my years-long series on the 2022-2025 National Eucharistic Revival that this is Part #36 of my reflections on the Eucharist. All previous articles may be found on our Parish website.
FULLY REVEALED. By ancient tradition, Christ’s Transfiguration is proclaimed on August 6, 40 days before the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14, and on the 2nd Sunday of Lent, about the same time before Good Friday. In both cases, it prepares us for the“scandal of the Cross” [Preface for the Transfiguration] and reveals Christ’s full identity as one of us, a human person AND as our God who fulfills the Law and the Prophets, represented, respectively, by Moses and Elijah. Three Apostles: Peter, James and
John saw what was there but was hidden beneath Christ’s human Body: they glimpsed His Divinity ‘veiled’ by His human Flesh.
Although those three Apostles had a glimpse of Christ’s Divinity ‘hidden’ within His Humanity, and witnessed the miracles that confirmed His Divinity, they struggled to accept how Jesus, whose Humanity was so evident when He was tired, hungry or overwhelmed, could also be God. Likewise, some struggle with – or even reject – how Christ can be ‘truly present’ in the Eucharistic Bread and Wine. So, as we celebrate the Transfiguration, we ask Jesus to help us accept what the Apostles eventually accepted: that He is truly God, truly the Risen Lord, who is also truly present in the Eucharist.
As Pope Francis points out in his Letter, this is not a mental exercise, although academic reflection and study is essential for those who wish to try to grasp this miraculous article of our Faith. It is a down-to-earth, humble acceptance of what God began by creating the world, through which He reveals His majesty and glory. While God’s self-revelation reached its pinnacle in the Incarnation, when God became Flesh and lived among us in Jesus, the Eucharist enables this Divine Presence to not only continue … but to do so in a way that enables God to literally enter us so that we can become like God! As Pope Saint Leo the Great said, “Our participation in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other end than to make us become that which we eat.”
The Transfiguration also shows how God used, and continues to use, ordinary earthly things to reveal and make present extraordinary, heavenly realities. That’s why Sacraments and Sacred Liturgies use tangible items: bread, wine, oil, water, fragrances, fire, ashes, rock, fabrics, colors, body, words, sounds, silences, gestures, space, movement, action, order, time, light, to convey spiritual graces. However, unless we appreciate the ‘sign’ or ‘symbol’ ‘beneath’ or ‘hidden in’ these outward signs, we can easily miss their point and purpose. Let me try to explain this idea by using two very familiar and very prominent ‘signs’ or ‘symbols:’
bread and wine.
To make bread, we need God’s gifts of the land, water, seeds and sun, to name a few; human labor is needed to sow, nurture, reap the harvest, mix, knead and bake the bread – which is formed from many individual grains of wheat blended together into one loaf. To make wine, we also need the same gifts from God and our human
labor; but to ferment, the juice of the grapes must be ‘buried’ in a dark, tomb-like cask. This imagery should bring to mind the Eucharistic mystery.
Like the grains of wheat that are gathered into one to form one load, each Christian, through Baptism, is joined to the Lord and to one another to form one Church. And as grapes are crushed and fermented into wine, we, like Christ, whose Body was broken and whose Blood was poured out on the Cross, are called to die to self, and accept any sufferings we might endure for the sake of the Gospel. Could it be that the reason so
many people see weekly Holy Communion as ‘optional’ is that they do not appreciate these ‘signs’ and ‘symbols’ beneath the Eucharistic Signs and Symbols?
With God’s love and my prayers,
Very Rev. Michael J. Kreder, VF, KCHS