BREAD AND WINE
We would seriously impoverish the content of the Eucharist if we would forget that in it we believers should encounter the nourishment that must feed our existence. It’s true that the Eucharist is a food shared by brothers and sisters who feel themselves united in one same faith. But, although this fraternal communion may be very important, it’s still insufficient if we forget the union with Christ, who gives himself as food.
Something similar must be said about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This sacramental presence of Christ in the bread and the wine has been emphasized, and for a good reason, but Christ isn’t there just to be there; he is present offering himself as food that sustains our lives.
If we want to rediscover the deep significance of the Eucharist, we must recover the basic symbolism of the bread and the wine. In order to subsist, the human being needs to eat and drink. And this simple fact, sometimes so forgotten in societies satisfied with well-being, reveals that the human being isn’t founded in self, but that one lives by receiving life mysteriously.
Today’s society is losing the capability of discovering the significance of the basic signs of humanity. However they are simple and original signs that return us to our true condition of being creatures that receive life as a gift of God.
Concretely, the bread is an eloquent symbol that expresses within itself all that food and nourishment mean for a person. That’s why the bread has been honored in many cultures in an almost sacred way. More than one can still remember how our mothers told us to kiss whatever piece fell to the floor by our carelessness.
But from the time it came from the earth to our table, the bread needs to be worked by those who sow, who fertilize the land, who harvest and gather the grains, who grind the wheat, who bake the flour. The wine supposes a process still more complex in its elaboration.
That’s why, when the bread and the wine are presented on the altar, it’s said that they are «fruit of the earth and the work of human hands», and signify what people make and build with our efforts of solidarity.
That bread and that wine will be changed for believers into «bread of life» and «chalice of salvation». There we Christians encounter that «true food» and «true drink» that Jesus speaks of. A food and a drink that nourishes our life here on earth, that invites us to work this earth and better it, and that sustains us while we walk toward eternal life.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf