“Take, eat, this is My body, broken for you.”
“Take, all of you. This cup is My blood of the New Covenant, shed for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
“Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood will live because of Me, even as I live because of the living Father who sent Me, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
“Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.”
In the beginning was God the Word, the eternal Self-Revelation of the Father, His perfect Image, true God from true God. They made man and woman in Their image, after Their likeness. This, alone, is tremendous: think about it for a moment, until you stand over-awed by it: God Himself made a creature in His own likeness. It is overwhelming. But, this is only the beginning. This man and woman sin, choose lonely death over the Divine Life, by believing a lie over their Creator, the Truth. They choose to eat of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, of which their Creator had told them that if they eat of it they will surely die, instead of eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, which God had given to them along with all the other trees of the Garden. This sin and death becomes the curse of all their descendants, who follow in their steps, choosing self-knowledge (as opposed to the knowledge of God that is eternal life; to seek self-knowledge over God is, in fact, to lose all knowledge) and death over obedience and life.
One day, on the little Earth, God sends His angel to a young virgin named Mary, to ask her if she will become the mother of the Savior. That day, something happened that is so wonderful and so tremendous we can only bow our heads and accept it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Word, the eternal Self-Revelation and perfect Image of the Father, true God from true God, took to Himself a created human body and soul, a tiny embryo in the womb of a human woman. From that moment, God lived a perfect and fully human life. It is unspeakable. It seems impossible to say that God was born, yet He was – and this is our salvation! We can be born again, baptized into Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because God the Word was born a little boy baby in Bethlehem. Who could have thought? Who could have ever imagined? May these truths always inspire us to adore, bowing our heads before this humility of the King! Lord, forgive us for all the times we pass over Your wonderful humility, Your condescension, for how little we consider You, for how little we prize You, for how little and scant is our adoration.
About thirty years later, this Man sat at a table with His disciples, and blessed bread, telling them, “Take and eat. This is My body, which is to be broken for you,” and broke it, and gave it to them. Then, He took a cup, blessed it, and said, “This cup is the New Covenant in My blood, which is to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Drink from this, all of you.” After that last supper, till He drinks the fruit of the vine new with us in the Kingdom of His Father, He goes with His disciples into a garden, and He prays. There, He is betrayed with the kiss of friendship by His own disciple – Judas Iscariot. His own people condemn Him to death, and hand Him over to the Roman Governor – Pontius Pilate – slandering Him with lies. The God and King is sentenced to death for claiming to be God and King. His creatures and subjects beat and scourge Him, and then, to make a mockery of His Kingship, they robe Him in the purple of royalty and press a crown of thorns upon His head, then spit on Him and hit Him. His own people cry out for His death, screaming, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” When Pontius Pilate says to them, “Whom shall I release for you? Jesus, who is called the Christ, or Barabbas?” they scream, “Barabbas,” asking that a murderer be given to them rather than the King who gave them life.
So, Jesus goes out from the Judgment Pavement, carrying the cross made for Barabbas – my cross, and your cross, for we have all chosen death over life; we are each one Barabbas, who was released and lived because Jesus died; we are each one the crowd, His own people, who demanded that He be crucified. It is the cross of each one of us that He bears on the way to Calvary. On the Place of the Skull, He is stretched out and nailed to the cross. It is God the Word, Eternal Life, who hangs there on the cross – my cross, your cross – His body broken, pierced, bruised, His blood pouring out, dying in agony – my agony, your agony. Six hours later, He breathes His last, and is dead. God has died.
Who can believe this? How shall we be forgiven our callousness, our casual attitude in the presence of God the Word become Man and crucified – a casual attitude on which we should vomit and spit, a casual attitude truly deserving of crucifixion? (I am not overstating this, it is not an exaggeration: to consider the Incarnation and the Cross of God with casualty, without adoration, stilled hearts, silent minds, is an abomination so horrid it truly merits being nailed to a cross and left there to die in torment, indeed, crucifixion is not horrible enough to match the abomination of casually considering the crucifixion of the Word!)
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
It was our cross He bore, our death He died.
We can hope for forgiveness. We can be confident in His forgiveness.
But, to those who explicitly and definitely deny that the bread becomes His body and the wine becomes His blood, saying that they know that this is not so, why do they do such a thing?
That God makes bread into the Body of Jesus for us to eat and wine into the Blood of Jesus for us to drink, is not a different thing from the conception of the Word in the womb of the Virgin or the death of the Word on the cross.
If anyone says that the bread cannot be His body and the wine cannot be His blood, that we cannot really eat His body and really drink His blood, and the reason for this is that it would be too shocking or too unreasonable, is this not a denial of the Humanity and the Death of the Word? Is this not a denial that we really are justified by His Death, that we really are saved by His Resurrection? Or, if they say, that the bread cannot be His body and the wine His blood because the bread and wine do not look like His body and blood, do they not also deny that we are baptized into Him and made members of His Mystical Body, for they cannot see that, either, with their eyes? Do they not deny that it is through His Death – and through dying with Him on His cross – that we share His life and are raised with Him by His Resurrection? If they say that the bread is certainly not His body and the wine is certainly not His blood, are they not saying that they are not justified nor sanctified, that they do not share His life? (Though, some may deny that the bread is His body and the wine is His blood, yet truly confess these truths, yet inherently this denial that He makes bread and wine His body and blood is connected to the denial of these truths – either, it follows from these denials, or it leads to them.)
If we cannot properly adore before His Cross, but are tempted to disregard it, then let us hold His body in our hand, let us feel it in our mouths, and let us tremble! Then, let us drink His blood, and perhaps be struck by the greatness, the awe, the awfulness of the Gift He gives us. Let us cry out for forgiveness, begging, “I know that I eat and drink condemnation unto myself, yet, O Lord, by Your Body and Blood, purify me. Have mercy on my soul.” Let us wonder that we dare to eat His body and to drink His blood. Let us thank Him with reverence, knowing that we can neither thank nor adore half enough – not even through all eternity!
How can it be that I can literally eat His body and drink His blood? is not a question different from, How can it be that I can be saved, that I can live, because He died? How can it be that I can benefit by His merits and suffering?
To ask, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?” is to ask, “How can this Man be our life?” If He is not the Food and Drink of our souls, we shall eternally perish of starvation and thirst, and if He is the Food and Drink of our souls, it is not a greater thing, nor, indeed, a different thing, for Him to make bread His body and wine His blood for us to physically eat and drink.
Copyright 2019 Raina Nightingale