02 September 2007

Seek the Lord's Bread

The following is an excerpt from the sermon preached at Holy Incarnation Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church. Following the lectionary for Gregorian Use parishes in the Western Rite Vicariate, the sermon is based on the Gospel reading for Pentecost XIV.

St Cyprian instructs us that when we pray for daily bread, we are asking first and foremost for Christ, who is the bread of life and “the bread of those who are in union with His body.” And so with this petition we are asking Our Father to restore to us the daily reception of the Eucharist “that we who are in Christ [may] daily receive the Eucharist for the food of salvation; [and that we] may not, by the interposition of some heinous sin…be separated from Christ’s body.” For our life—all that we are and all that we have and all that we need—flows from and depends upon this altar bread, this bread of heaven, this bread which is our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. So by beseeching God to give us our daily bread, we are really stating that we have renounced all other breads—the bread of this world, the bread that men work to get—since these breads do not truly satisfy and are incapable of leading us in the way of salvation. So with this prayer, we are stating that we have renounced the world, with all its riches and enticements; and that we will live from only this one bread, one food—which is Christ Our Lord.

When that is our prayer—when we mean to say, “Give us each day Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist; feed us daily with the Bread of Life; grant that we may commune in heart and mind, in body and soul, with this true Manna; and let us always partake of the chalice”—when that is our prayer, then we shall begin to do as Our Lord prescribes in today’s Gospel. For what did you hear Him say? Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Is not this altar where the kingdom of God is for you at this time? Is not this place where the Lord’s kingdom comes and where it is set before you? And is it not the Lord’s will that all creatures, in heaven and earth, gather around His holy altar to offer themselves and the world in thanksgiving to God? To seek God’s kingdom, then, is to seek to be here, at this Mass, standing before the Lord’s altar, where you may, with a true heart, receive the living bread which comes down from heaven. For you know what your Lord has said. 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.

Let your soul long, then, and even faint for the courts of the Lord. Let your heart and your flesh cry out for the living God (Ps 83[84]). For even the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts. Perhaps this is why these fowls of the air sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. For your heavenly Father feedeth them. He gives them their daily bread; and their daily bread depends on and even is Christ, who is the life of all the living. Certainly, you are of more value than sparrows. For not one of them is forgotten before God; yet the very hairs of your head He has numbered. So do not be anxious. Do not fret. Do not be afraid. Do not worry. And take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. … [T]he life [is] more than meat, and the body than clothing.

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