THE ANGELIC FOOD
by Rev. Robert Lucas
Blessed Augustine once said that he was astonished at the thought of the institution of the Eucharist. There are so many beautiful fits in creation, but in the Eucharist the Love of Jesus for us reaches even to the heights of what some men might even call folly. In that long journey home, which we know as life, the Holy Eucharist is food and nourishment. There is a story of a woman who was lost for several days in a great forest. Unable to find her way, the child in her arms was dying from hunger. Finally she resolved on a heroic sacrifice. She took a sharp piece of wood, gashed her arm and pressed the child's mouth to the bleeding wound. Thus nourished, the child survived, while the mother's life ebbed slowly away. Touching as this story is, how much more moving is the fact that not only once, but DAILY, Jesus invites us to nourish ourselves with His Flesh and Blood!
A man without food cannot sustain himself for long. So Christ tells us: "My flesh is meat indeed and My Blood is drink indeed … Amen, Amen, I say unto you, unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you." (John 6:53-55). His Body and Blood are the strength we need to continue our journey to eternity. It takes strength to make sacrifices which must be made if we are to do the work that God wants to see accomplished. Consider the millions of martyrs who suffered and are still suffering the most unthinkable and inhuman tortures for their faith. Where did they, where do they get the strength and fortitude they need? From Holy Communion. Look at the millions of saints. How did they achieve sanctity? There is only one way and they followed it: the Holy Eucharist gave them the courage and perseverance to practice heroic virtue.
In the history of the Israelites, the name of the prophet Elias is very famous. When he was being persecuted by the evil queen Jezebel, who sent her soldiers after him with orders to put him to death, the Prophet fled through the darkness of the night to escape her wrath. After walking a great distance, he lay down for a while to sleep. He was tired and discouraged. An angel of God appeared suddenly and awoke him saying "Elias arise", adding "Take and eat of this bread and walk." Elias ate and felt a renewed energy and courage and walked on. Tiring again, he once more lay down to rest and the same thing reoccurred again. A third time it was repeated. Each time the angel offered him the heavenly bread which so fortified his spirit and body that he was able to endure the numerous pressures being exerted upon him and continue prodding until at long last he reached the Mount of God-Horeb and safety. This marvelous bread was but a type of the Blessed Eucharist with which Christ would later endow His Church.
SS. Perpetua and Felicitas, two heroic women martyrs of early Christianity faced death with serene courage for the sake of Jesus Christ, Whom they loved and Whose Body and Blood they received to strengthen them for martyrdom. When they were lead to the arena and exposed to the wild beasts, they did not falter, but encouraged one another joyfully. Tossed and torn by the wild beasts and finally beheaded by soldiers, these two young mothers gained strength from the Holy Eucharist to give up family and friends and life itself rather than deny God who had died for them.
As it did for the saints, so will the Holy Eucharist accomplish for us. It will extinguish the fires of our passions and give us strength to resist temptation. How many times, in the sorrows of this life, in the turmoil of evil, does our faith seem to weaken? How many times does the world and flesh try to snare us in the net of doubt and prevarication? And what shall we weak and sinful mortals do when confronted on all sides by such strong and varied dangers? There remains only one recourse: to keep Christ alive in our hearts by frequent Holy Communion. With His own infinite and invincible strength He will make us strong as well. If we wish to be victors, we must join His camp, we must be quick to receive Him worthily and then we can return to the battle, secure in the Strength that will never fail us. How can we remain impervious to such an assurance of His love?
From Word Magazine
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America