Ancient Israel considered that God’s Wisdom had been entrusted to the people in the teachings of Moses and the prophets. Succeeding generations, meditating on this gift of God’s saving wisdom, personified Wisdom as God’s benevolent presence encamped at the heart of his people.
In the Book of Proverbs this Wisdom builds her dwelling among the people, preparing a rich banquet to which all are invited.
“Who is ignorant? Let him step this way. Come and eat my bread, drink the wine that I have prepared! Leave your folly and you will live, walk in the ways of perfection.”
The imagery of Wisdom as a rich banquet flows from the perception that mind and spirit, no less than physical bodies, must be fed and sustained. The Wisdom of God’s ways are a rich banquet, the only food that can satisfy the restless soul. Proverbs describes as ignorant and foolish those whose spirits feast on superficialities that cannot last.
In describing himself as the living bread that had come down from heaven, Jesus identified himself as the fulfilment of Wisdom’s banquet. He went further.
“I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
These words link the mystery of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist to his sacrificial death on the Cross. Here we encounter Christ not simply as the living Bread, sustaining the soul, but also as the one whose very flesh, life itself, is given for the life of the world. In the Eucharist we experience the generosity of the Father, who so loved the world that he gave his only Son on the cross, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost.
As the Father raised his Son from death on the Cross, so we, in communion with Christ, begin to share this Resurrection through our communion with him.
“Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus described this eternal life as a radically new relationship with the Father and the Son.
“Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him.”
Sinful humanity had experienced to the full the desolation of a life lived without God. When Jesus offered himself as food, given and sacrificed for the life of the world, that isolation was vanquished in the most wonderful way. By this communion we would come to share the love that has united Father and Son from all eternity.
“As I, who am sent by the living Father, myself draw life from the Father, so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”
This is a communion beyond our imagining, a banquet to which we are invited in each and every celebration of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist always invites us to consider our lives, and in prayer to discern all that has died within us. We bring to the Eucharist all that has died, and in that communion we are raised to new life.
“Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.”