Wednesday, 18 February 2015

John 6: 41-72

Early third century depiction of eucharistic bread and fish,
Catacomb of San Callisto, Rome.

Today's section of St John's Gospel takes us to what must have seemed one of the darkest moments in Christ's ministry to the apostles, when his 'hard sayings' on the Eucharist led to most of his followers to reject his message and depart.

This part of the discourse - that insists that the Eucharist truly is the body and blood, the very flesh of Our Lord - is an important counter to all those who prefer a 'spiritual' interpretation of the Eucharist, and reject the doctrine of transubstantiation.

Lectio

The Greek, Latin and Knox translations of John 6 can be found over at New Advent.  And you can listen to it in Latin here (from 4.37).  The Greek can be found here (from 5.20).

The Latin:

"41 Murmurabant ergo Judæi de illo, quia dixisset: Ego sum panis vivus, qui de cælo descendi, 42 et dicebant: Nonne hic est Jesus filius Joseph, cujus nos novimus patrem et matrem? quomodo ergo dicit hic: Quia de cælo descendi? 43 Respondit ergo Jesus, et dixit eis: Nolite murmurare in invicem: 44 nemo potest venire ad me, nisi Pater, qui misit me, traxerit eum; et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die. 45 Est scriptum in prophetis: Et erunt omnes docibiles Dei. Omnis qui audivit a Patre, et didicit, venit ad me. 46 Non quia Patrem vidit quisquam, nisi is, qui est a Deo, hic vidit Patrem. 47 Amen, amen dico vobis: qui credit in me, habet vitam æternam. 48 Ego sum panis vitæ. 49 Patres vestri manducaverunt manna in deserto, et mortui sunt. 50 Hic est panis de cælo descendens: ut si quis ex ipso manducaverit, non moriatur. 51 Ego sum panis vivus, qui de cælo descendi. Si quis manducaverit ex hoc pane, vivet in æternum: et panis quem ego dabo, caro mea est pro mundi vita.53 Litigabant ergo Judæi ad invicem, dicentes: Quomodo potest hic nobis carnem suam dare ad manducandum? 54 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis: nisi manducaveritis carnem Filii hominis, et biberitis ejus sanguinem, non habebitis vitam in vobis. 55 Qui manducat meam carnem, et bibit meum sanguinem, habet vitam æternam: et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die. 56 Caro enim mea vere est cibus: et sanguis meus, vere est potus; 57 qui manducat meam carnem et bibit meum sanguinem, in me manet, et ego in illo. 58 Sicut misit me vivens Pater, et ego vivo propter Patrem: et qui manducat me, et ipse vivet propter me. 59 Hic est panis qui de cælo descendit. Non sicut manducaverunt patres vestri manna, et mortui sunt. Qui manducat hunc panem, vivet in æternum.60 Hæc dixit in synagoga docens, in Capharnaum. 61 Multi ergo audientes ex discipulis ejus, dixerunt: Durus est hic sermo, et quis potest eum audire? 62 Sciens autem Jesus apud semetipsum quia murmurarent de hoc discipuli ejus, dixit eis: Hoc vos scandalizat? 63 si ergo videritis Filium hominis ascendentem ubi erat prius? 64 Spiritus est qui vivificat: caro non prodest quidquam: verba quæ ego locutus sum vobis, spiritus et vita sunt. 65 Sed sunt quidam ex vobis qui non credunt. Sciebat enim ab initio Jesus qui essent non credentes, et quis traditurus esset eum. 66 Et dicebat: Propterea dixi vobis, quia nemo potest venire ad me, nisi fuerit ei datum a Patre meo. 67 Ex hoc multi discipulorum ejus abierunt retro: et jam non cum illo ambulabant. 68 Dixit ergo Jesus ad duodecim: Numquid et vos vultis abire? 69 Respondit ergo ei Simon Petrus: Domine, ad quem ibimus? verba vitæ æternæ habes: 70 et nos credidimus, et cognovimus quia tu es Christus Filius Dei. 71 Respondit eis Jesus: Nonne ego vos duodecim elegi: et ex vobis unus diabolus est? 72 Dicebat autem Judam Simonis Iscariotem: hic enim erat traditurus eum, cum esset unus ex duodecim."

And the English:

The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven. [42] And they said: Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven? [43] Jesus therefore answered, and said to them: Murmur not among yourselves. [44] No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. [45] It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me.[46] Not that any man hath seen the Father; but he who is of God, he hath seen the Father. [47] Amen, amen I say unto you: He that believeth in me, hath everlasting life. [48] I am the bread of life. [49] Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. [50] This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven. [52] If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. [53] The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? [54] Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. [55] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.[56] For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. [57] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. [58] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. [59] This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. [60] These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.[61] Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? [62] But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? [63] If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? [64] It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. [65] But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him. [66] And he said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father. [67] After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him. [68] Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? [69] And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. [70] And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. [71] Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil? [72] Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray him, whereas he was one of the twelve.

Study

It is useful first to consider the core of this message on the Eucharist:

AUG. Our Lord pronounces Himself to be bread, not only in respect of that Divinity, which feeds all things, but also in respect of that human nature, which was assumed by the Word of God: And the bread, He says, that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 

BEDE. This bread our Lord then gave, when He delivered to His disciple the mystery of His Body and Blood, and offered Himself to God the Father on the altar of the cross. For the life of the world, i.e. not for the elements, but for mankind, who are called the world. 


THEOPHYL. Which I shall give: this shows His power; for it shows that He was not crucified as a servant, in subjection to the Father, but of his own accord; for though He is said to have been given up by the Father, yet He delivered Himself up also. And observe, the bread which is taken by us in the mysteries, is not only the sign of Christ's flesh, but is itself the very flesh of Christ; for He does not say, The bread which I will give, is the sign of My flesh, but, is My flesh. The bread is by a mystical benediction conveyed in unutterable words, and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, transmuted into the flesh of Christ. But why see we not the flesh? Because, if the flesh were seen, it would revolt us to such a degree, that we should be unable to partake of it. And therefore in condescension to our infirmity, the mystical food is given to us under an appearance suitable to our minds. He gave His flesh for the life of the world, in that, by dying, He destroyed death. By the life of the world too, I understand the resurrection; our Lord's death having brought about the resurrection of the whole human race. It may mean too the sanctified, beatified, spiritual life; for though all have not attained to this life, yet our Lord gave Himself for the world, and, as far as lies in Him, the whole world is sanctified.


What are the consequences of this?

AUG. But when does flesh receive the bread which He calls His flesh? The faithful know and receive the Body of Christ, if they labor to be the body of Christ. And they become the body of Christ, if they study to live by the Spirit of Christ: for that which lives by the Spirit of Christ, is the body of Christ. This bread the Apostle sets forth, where he says, We being many are one body. O sacrament of mercy, O sign of unity, O bond of love! Whoso wishes to live, let him draw nigh, believe, be incorporated, that he may be quickened.

AUG. But are we, who eat the bread that comes down from heaven, relieved from death? From visible and carnal death, the death of the body, we are not: we shall die, even as they died. But from spiritual death which their fathers suffered, we are delivered. Moses and many, acceptable of God, eat the manna, and died not, because they understood that visible food in a spiritual sense, spiritually tasted it, and were spiritually filled with it. And we too at this day receive the visible food; but the Sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the Sacrament another. Many a one receives from the Altar, and perishes in receiving; eating and drinking his own damnation, as said the Apostle. To eat then the heavenly bread spiritually, is to bring to the Altar an innocent mind. Sins, though they be daily, are not deadly. Before you go to the Altar, attend to the prayer you repeat: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. If you forgive, you are forgiven: approach confidently; it is bread, not poison. None then that eat of this bread, shall die. But we speak of the virtue of the Sacrament, not the visible Sacrament itself; of the inward, not of the outward eater. 


 AUG. There are some who promise men deliverance from eternal punishment, if they are washed in Baptism and partake of Christ's Body, whatever lives they live. The Apostle however contradicts them, where he says, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkeness, revelings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Let us examine what is meant here. He who is in the unity of His body, (i.e. one of the Christian members,) the Sacrament of which body the faithful receive when they communicate at the Altar; he is truly said to eat the body, and drink the blood of Christ. And heretics and schismatics, who are cut off from the unity of the body, may receive the same Sacrament; but it does not profit them, may, rather is hurtful, as tending to make their judgment heavier, or their forgiveness later. Nor ought they to feel secure in their abandoned and damnable ways, who, by the iniquity of their lives, desert righteousness, i.e. Christ; either by fornication, or other sins of the like kind. Such are not to be said to eat the body of Christ; forasmuch as they are not to be counted among the members of Christ For, not to mention other things, men cannot be members of Christ, and at the same time members of an harlot.


AUG. As for those, as indeed there are many, who either eat that flesh and drink that blood hypocritically, or, who having eaten, become apostates, do they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them? Nay, but there is a certain mode of eating that flesh, and drinking that blood, in the which he that eats and drinks, dwells in Christ, and Christ in him.


Meditation

We should view this passage, I think, as a call to act: a call to 'resacralise' our churches and the Mass.  We must ensure that we receive in a state of grace, and through our prayers cultivate a proper fervour.  We should use means such as reception of the sacrament on the tongue and kneeling to emphasize our belief in what it is we are doing.

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