09 June 2007

Chrysostom: "Behold, Thou Eatest Him!"

The following is copied from the lesson for the Second Nocturn for the Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi as posted at Breviary.net. It is a portion of a homily by St John Chrysostom designated as Homila 60 ad pĆ³pulum Antioch.

Since the Word saith: This is my Body: let us be persuaded of the truth of his words; and let us believe, and look upon him with the eyes of our understanding. For Christ hath not given us a reality cognizable by the senses, but rather tokens of that reality, which same are sensible things, altogether cognizable by the understanding. For example, consider Baptism: wherein by means of a sensible thing, (to wit, water,) a gift is bestowed, but the intelligible reality which is conferred is birth and renewal. For if thou wert bodiless, he would have given thee incorporeal gifts; but inasmuch as thy soul is united to a body, he giveth thee intelligible realities under visible things which pertain to the senses. How many are there now who say, Would that I could behold his form, his face, his garments, his sandals! Behold, thou dost see him; thou touchest him; thou eatest him. Thou wouldst fain see his mere garments, but he granteth thee not merely to see him, but to eat him, to touch him, to take him within thyself.

Let no one therefore come with disgust, no one carelessly, but all kindled, all fervent, and eager. For if the Jews ate the lamb hastily, standing having their sandals on their feet, and grasping their staves in their hands, it is far more needful that thou shouldst be on the alert. For they were about to make their journey to Palestine, and for that reason assumed the character of travellers; but thou art to make thy journey to heaven. Wherefore thou must needs be watchful in all aspects, for no light punishment is set before those who receive unworthily. Think how wrathful thou art against the traitor, and against them who crucified him. Ponder therefore, lest thou shouldst be guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ. They slew that most holy Body; thou, after so many acts of his goodness, often receivest him in a polluted soul. For it was not enough for him to be made Man, to be smitten with buffets, and to be crucified ; but he also maketh himself one with us ; so that not in faith alone, but in very deed, we become one with his Body.

Ought not one then to be very clean, if he is to partake of such a Sacrifice? Yea, more glorious than the sunbeam should be the hand which distributeth that Flesh ; yea, and likewise should be the mouth which is filled with that spiritual fire, and the tongue which is ruddy with that most awful Blood. Ponder what an honour it is with which thou art graced; what a Table it is thou dost enjoy. That which the Angels tremble to hold, and dare not look upon freely, because of the glory which shineth from it, with this we are fed, to this we are united, and become one body and one flesh with Christ. Who can express the noble acts of the Lord, or shew forth all his praise? What shepherd doth feed his sheep with his own blood? And why should I speak of a shepherd? For there are many mothers who, after the pains of childbearing, entrust their children to other nurses. This he did not endure to do, but himself doth feed us with his own Blood, and unite us to all things unto himself.

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