Gift of Heavenly Food

Gift of Heavenly Food March 3, 2022

When I was a kid, I remember asking my mother once at Mass right before communion, “does the priest ever run out of hosts?”  She gave me a quick and hushed response, “No, he never does.”  My mind registered her answer with utter amazement.  The priest never runs out of hosts!  God must miraculously keep putting hosts in there!  In my little mind, I imagined angels dropping hosts into the ciborium to make sure there were plenty of them.

Though this would be an amazing thing, and technically nothing could keep God from multiplying hosts if He so desired, even more amazing, is what ordinarily happens every time the Mass is celebrated.  The same God who has created everything that exists out of nothing, transforms ordinary bread and wine before our eyes, into the Body and Blood of Jesus his Son, and offers it to us as food for the journey.

Some years ago I had the opportunity to visit the Church of Saint Dominic in Orvieto, Italy.  This church contains a few “must see” items for the fans of Saint Thomas Aquinas, so in I went.  Saint Thomas lived and taught in Orvieto for about one year in the 13th century.  I saw the chair from which Saint Thomas taught university students, and I saw his breviary, the prayer book every priest has.  Unfortunately, I was unable to see the most prized item: the crucifix he used during prayer time.  It is said that while he prayed before this crucifix he heard Christ say, “you have written well of me, Thomas.”

I could not see this crucifix because the chapel was being renovated, and there was a huge white sheet covering everything.  I did pull and tug on the sheet to at least get a glimpse of the crucifix hanging on the wall.  So defeated and frustrated, I sat on a pew and stared at the white sheet.  I tried to pray, but I was so upset I could not focus, until the words of the Liturgy of Saint James came to mind, words beautifully paraphrased in the popular hymn, Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence:  “Lord of Lords in human vesture, in the body and the blood.  He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.”

Just as Jesus vests himself in humanity for us to come to know God the Father, just as Jesus vests himself in white bread to enter into our souls, the famous crucifix vested itself in a white sheet in front of me.  The crucifix was there, but veiled in white, just as Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, but veiled in white.  I could not see the crucifix, but it was there; likewise, in the Eucharist I cannot see Jesus, but he is there, veiled.  Veiled in human vesture and given to us for heavenly food.

Saint Athanasius, great saint of the early church, wrote, “God became man so that man could become God.”  At the banquet of the Eucharist we become what we eat. God comes to us so to lift us up to Him, and we share in His divinity as He has shared in our humanity in Christ.

I remember walking with my mother towards the priest and watching in awe at her receiving something I could not yet receive.  I stood beside her, admiring this mysterious food offered by the priest – a food that never runs out as God continuously manifests Himself in our midst.


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