This is the second of a series of posts reflecting line-by-line on the Anima Christi.
When I was assigned to write about this line of the Anima Christi I felt a sense of relief. After all, we all know that without Christ’s bloody sacrifice of His body we would not be able to have everlasting life. He traded His body and His life for our salvation. His passion is our salvation! But as I began to pray about what this particular line of the prayer meant, I knew God was telling me that I was just scratching the surface. And, that to do justice to this part of the prayer, I had to talk about the Eucharist and how it saves us daily. God is so wise… I’m glad He’s my partner when writing!
My 7 year old son is currently going through classes so that he can receive his First Holy Communion next month. He is so excited! He has been waiting years for this. Yes, he’s only 7 but he’s wanted and craved the Eucharist for years! Perhaps it is seeing all his older siblings (he’s number 7 in the line-up) receive and he wants what they have, but perhaps it is something more. When I asked him he said, “Mama, that is Jesus! I want Jesus to be in me!” You see he knows that while the Eucharist looks like bread and wine it truly is Jesus’ body and blood. Shouldn’t we all be craving Jesus each and every day the way my 7 year old son does?
The Liturgy of the Eucharist is not just a remembrance of Christ’s last meal with his disciples. No, it is a literal continuation of that meal. The priest isn’t just repeating words up on the altar helping us to think about that Last Supper so many years ago. No, the priest is there to allow Christ Himself to use his hands during the consecration so mere bread and wine will become the Body and Blood of our Savior and so we too can participate in that original first Mass that Jesus offered to His followers. Just as Jews today believe the Passover meal they celebrate is not just a remembrance but a literal continuation of the first Passover, we too know that when we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist we also are celebrating alongside of Jesus and His disciples as they shared Christ’s last meal- the Passover Meal.
But what makes this meal so special besides the fact that we believe it has continued for 2000 years? Christ Himself tells us in John 6: 47-51 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believes in me has everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
The Jews, in disbelief, began to question saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Then Jesus said unto them,” Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you have no life in you. He who eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eats my flesh, and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. As the living Father has sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eats me, even he shall live by me. This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eats of this bread shall live forever.”
Did you know that the word that is translated here for “eat” is literally “to gnaw”? When we read the passage in this manner we see how it stands to reason that shortly thereafter many of Christ’s followers left Him. The idea that they had to eat or gnaw on His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life seems so far-fetched that they just couldn’t stay. But Jesus didn’t run after them telling them He was just meaning it figuratively (as He often taught with parables), no, He said, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” He doesn’t tell them He is speaking with a parable, He tells them the words spoken are spirit and life. Later He asks the remaining twelve if they will leave Him too and they respond, ““Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”
Jesus taught many hard lessons to His followers both then and now. Lessons that often times we have a hard time accepting or living. Christ asks so much of us but most importantly He calls us to have faith in Him and in what He teaches. Many, despite reading His words, will look at the Eucharist as mere bread and wine… symbols of Christ’s body and blood and not His true flesh and blood. It is a difficult teaching to accept when their human senses tell them it is impossible for the bread and wine to become the body and blood of our Savior. However, we know that with Christ nothing is impossible.
Christ tells us at the Last Supper (and then again during every Mass), “Take eat, this is My body, given for you.” He says as well, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Christ gives us His literal body and blood through the Eucharist as instituted at the Last Supper. He told us He was the bread of life and now He shows us how we are to remember His sacrifice on the cross… through our meal of the Holy Eucharist where we, just as the disciples did, are able to partake in the Body and Blood of Christ. How can we not crave Christ in the Eucharist when we look at its true meaning?
My Lord, You are the Holy One of God. You have the words of eternal life. You are the bread of life, given to us to eat and to be saved. Lord, to whom shall we go? Your flesh is true food and Your blood is true drink, given to save us. Thank you, dear Savior, for your gift of salvation.