CHRISTIAN NEWS MAGAZINE FOR KERALA MALAYALEE CHRISTIANS FROM INDIA AROUND THE WORLD
JUNE 2010 DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE
VOL:09 ISSUE:06

THE DIVINE BREAD FROM HEAVEN
By JOSEPH MAR BARNABAS EPISCOPA
[Diocesian Bishop of Delhi-Bombay Diocese - Marthoma Church]




RT. REV. JOSEPH
MAR
BARNABAS EPISCOPA

"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." [St. John 6:51]

Our contemporary age is of a greater prosperity. Thanks to the diminution or elimination of many restrictions on exchanges between the land regions, we get an enormous variety of goods and materials across our market places. Nowadays, the nature and impact of globalization has been the subject of profound debate. Critics of globalization frequently overlook that free trade has fostered prosperity in many areas of Goods and Services. One of the good parts of globalization consists of the distribution and consumption of food in the present day. The ways people all across eat today is undergoing a transformation resulting in a potential for greater availability of food as well as greater diversity of food choices, with markets becoming global.

The measures Government had taken for past years have helped to raise absolute poverty levels of our country to some extent. But the poor are always there with us. Fast-Food stores are very common in our place, at the present time. But Bible considers gluttony as one of the capital vices or cardinal sins. In Malayalam we use the word 'Akalkarusa' and pray always to save us from him. Many people synonym the word with Satan. This word means gluttony or over-indulgence in enjoying food. Jesus taught us that the life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. This is a matter of divine wisdom and understanding. St. Paul talks of the characters of the enemies of the cross of Christ as: 'whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.' [Philippi 3:19]

Biblical account of the fall of man is linked with food. God established the first family of Adam and Eve in the paradise of Eden, and made all prearrangements for their sustenance. But they were then deceived or tempted by the serpent to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which had been forbidden to them by God. By way of food man sought liberation from God, which only led him to slavery and dependence on food; man became a slave of the world. Food, the symbol and source of life, became the symbol of death. What ever is lost by food is to be redeemed by food only. And so, finally, salvation, recreation and forgiveness and resurrection itself, all are also linked in the Gospel with food. While the food has brought the death to man, the heavenly food given by Jesus lead the man for eternal life. This is the theme of our thought with respect to the above-cited Scripture verses.

Louis Pasteur invented the first vaccine for rabies and the origin of the vaccine was harvested from infected animals with the very same disease. Adam fell by disobedience to the desire of God. The disobedience of the one man is the mother sin. St. Paul says that Jesus Christ reached perfection with obedience. He is singled out as an exact antithesis to the disobedience of Adam and all its disastrous consequences. The supreme crises of mankind are centered on the disobedience of the first man and remedy of it by the obedience of the Second Man. The first disobedience put an impassable barrier between God and man and brought man to death, the obedience of Jesus removed every barrier and will bring every man up from death and sin to eternal life. The most conspicuous and costly act of obedience of Jesus Christ was His voluntary submission to an undeserved and unearned death on the cross.

Rescue mission of God for the man is through the cross. In the night of the eve of the commencement of public mission of Jesus, Nicodemus, a scholar of Jewish doctrine came to Jesus and enquired about His mission and plan. Christ taught him that man cannot attain anything by the change of the state, unless there be a change of the spirit, of the principles and dispositions, equivalent to a new birth. Very positively and vehemently Christ discoursed of the great design of His own coming into this world. Divine plan of the redemption of fallen mankind is the same as that Moses applied as the brazen serpent is raised in the wilderness so that any man mortally wounded looked to it and got saved. In the same manner the Son of God is to be raised in the midst of earth and heaven so that those who look at Him recover themselves to life. This is the very embodiment and quintessence of the whole gospel.

At the eve of His celebrated death, Jesus arranged a heavenly feast for His beloved disciples. Jesus Himself had made all arrangements for this illustrious Agape feast. His twelve disciples were with Him during and after the meal. Jesus made His long farewell discourse, which is historically been considered, as the source of Christian doctrine. According to what St. Paul recounted in his first epistle to Corinthians, Jesus had broken the bread and told it is His body, which is broken for them, and same way he took wine and told it is the blood shed for many for the remission of sins. This was the institution of the Holy Eucharist, which is celebrated for ages to remember the entire life of Christ.

Jesus had broken Himself so that all in the world should be unified exactly as the oneness that is between the Father and the Son. He prayed for the same in His high priestly prayer to His Father. (St. John 17) It was the great desire of Jesus that all should be incorporated in one body, all might be animated by one Spirit and all might be knit together in the bond of love and charity, all of one heart and one accord. But it is very painful to see that the churches are divided with the same Eucharist which Jesus established for the oneness. There is massive diversity in both the practice and the understanding of the Eucharist across the denominations. In this day and age, the faithful are bound within the fences laid by the various sects of the Christian Church.

Eucharist is a Royal Table. We know the first act done by King David after he became free from Saul was showing kindness to anybody in household of Jonathan for his sake. So the King ordered that Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, to eat from the Royal table of the king. I heard of a special tradition late Abraham Marthoma Metropolitan pursued to practice while he was celebrating Holy Qurbana. In every Eucharist he celebrated, after the third benediction, he used to step forward in the altar and make an inviting announcement: 'Now the Lord's Table is ready. All those faithful who are baptized in the name of Holy Trinity are welcome to the Table.'

Lord's table is the meat of Covenant. This supper bears all the characteristics of a covenant meal, which links it to the flow of redemptive history where God communed with His people as a covenant Lord. Food and drink precedes all celebrative functions. God has established fellowship and covenant through sacrifice and has confirmed that fellowship and covenant through eating a meal. Laban and Jacob swore an oath of their peaceful relationship, and a sacrifice was offered to enact the covenant, which was followed by a meal to celebrate and confirm it. On the mount, the leaders of Israel, in the presence of God, ate and drank. According to Luke 22, the new covenant meal was instituted by Jesus during the last Passover supper shared with His disciples. Luke directly links the old covenant Passover with the new covenant meal.

This is a meal of thanksgiving. Eucharist is a Greek word which means thankfulness or thanksgiving. It is integrated in successive prayers of thanksgiving, praise and intercession. According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, the meal Jesus and disciples were eating was the Passover meal. It was the celebration of God’s deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt. It was, and is, a time of thanksgiving. It’s a celebration, a time of thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. Eucharist is an act of worship, as a sign of commitment, and an expression of our gratitude to God.

The sacrament of Eucharist is a great mystery. This mystery does not mean something is hidden. But it denotes that human mind cannot explore the fullness of the treasure of God Almighty. The Church honors the Eucharist as one of her most exalted mysteries which causes the essential characteristic of Christianity. Receiving Eucharist, makes the Christian a Christ bearer and ‘one body and one blood’ with Him. Holy Communion is a pledge of heavenly glory and of our bodily resurrection from the dead. When our bodies partake of the Eucharist, they are no longer corruptible as they have the hope of eternal resurrection.

Holy Eucharist is manifestation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every Sunday when the holy Mass is consecrated it is a mini celebration of the Easter fiesta. This is a commemoration of attainment of freedom. As per the Acts of Apostles, the early Church had only one message to tell to the world, 'Christ is risen'. Consequently, through out the ages the Church also has only one Gospel and that is of the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As per the discourse given by Peter during election of Matthias, he reiterated the basic mission of Apostles as to witness the resurrection. This Gospel is proclaimed to entire world day-in and day-out through the Holy Eucharist. Eucharist is a celebration of life and not death. Jesus taught that He is the bread of life alluding to the tree of life in the midst of the Garden of Eden. The worldly bread only sustain and support life, do not preserve and perpetuate life; but the bread given by Christ gives eternal life.

There is neither any participant nor any celebrant in this world who is fatigued with celebration of Holy Qurbana over and over again. When Philipose Mar Eusabius Metropolitan was on his sick bed, I visited Thirumeni. We reminisced many of our past memories and in the midst he talked about Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II of whom we both had many common acquaintance and memories. Eusabius Thirumeni recollected an incident Bava was consecrating a new Church in Kerala along with two young Methrans. Bava was of 94 years that time. By the time Bava completed first part of the consecration on the previous day evening he was looking very tired and sickly. He called young Metrachens and told that he is very tired and he may not be able to come early next day and so the young Methran should accomplish the second part and follow the celebration of Qurbana. Next day around 8 O'clock the young Methran came prepared for the Qurbana. But when they reached the Church they found Bava with his entire vestments started the matins and further celebrated Holy Qurbana. After the celebration Bava told them, I am now 94 years and any day I will leave this world. So I did not want to loose this 'one more' chance to celebrate Holy Qurbana. This 'one more' to celebrate or participate Holy Qurbana is a mysterious quest of every person in this world.

The entire life of the world is linked with the life of God. Every Eucharist celebrated at any corner of the world is not only done for the participants alone but also for the entire life of the universe. It is not only with life of human but also with the life of entire cosmos. Apostle Paul says to the Colossians that entire creation wait on the second coming of Christ. Also the Eucharist is in the presence of the entire universe. Entire generation from the time of Adam participate in the Holy Eucharist.

The Holy communion is given for healing of the body and the soul. Holy Communion cures the spiritual diseases of the soul. In this pilgrimage or the journey to the Zion, the provisions for the traveler are received from the Altar during the holy Mass so that we do not get exhausted in our worldly journey. Wheat is the reward of the sweat of the man and the Wine is the fruit of the earth. So the outcome of the sweat of the man and the fruit of the earth are made as the endowment of the man who is a foreigner and sojourner of this world. Here we enjoy the sole presence of trinity. The celebrant declares during the Holy Eucharist, "With us is the One Holy Father, who by His Grace fashioned the world...With us is the Holy Son, who by the precious suffering of his body redeemed it...With us is the Holy and Living Spirit, who completes and perfects of all that is and all that to be!"

When we commune with Lord's Table, we become a part of the body of the God Almighty. St. Paul exhorted to us that God transforms the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. (Coll. 3:21) When we eat the heavenly bread of Jesus Christ, we too will become heavenly body. With the power of the resurrection of Christ, it will subdue all thing to Himself. It is a matter of great comfort to us that Lord can subjugate all things to Himself, and sooner or later will bring over all into His interest. He will raise the believer up at the last day. This is the key point, main secret and essence of the divine bread from heaven which is celebrated on the Lord's Table.

[Extract from Devotional Address delivered at Maramon Convention 2009
Original in Malayalam : Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew Philadelphia, USA]


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