Dixit autem eis Jesus: Ego sum panis vitæ: qui venit ad me, non esuriet, et qui credit in me, non sitiet umquam.
Jesus said, I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.
We've reached that part of the scriptures that Jesus didn't mean literally. So let's all take a deep breath and realize he's speaking figuratively here, or maybe mystically. Perhaps he's only speaking symbolically. Or, likely, this is interpolated text from some liturgical meditation in the, oh, I don't know, 3rd century that they made up and read backwards into John. I'm sure the Jesus Seminar can save us here.
You'd best skip the rest of Chapter 6. Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree here. Body and Blood. Not symbol, not sign, not sorta, but actual. Real. Solid. Flesh. And blood.
I asked Catholic Celebrities on Twitter... (ok, sorry... I asked Catholics in my twittersphere anyway) if they had advice for a Catholic n00b such as myself. They all agreed on three points - the first one, ably expressed by @SteveMissionary is where I'll stop today:
go to mass all the dang time!
This is the secret, I think, of Catholic Piety. In a parish of 1800 like mine, give or take, it's the 30-50 people at Daily Mass that make or break it. They're there every day. They know you. They miss you when you're gone. And each mass has its own style or flavor of community: 6:30 followed by Morning Prayer, 8:00 with a Rosary, 5:30 with its healing prayers and veneration of the relic of St Jude. There's probably more than 50 at the 5:30 Mass. I don't know. But it's amazing that so many people will stop their day (or start it, as it were) with 30-45 mins or more at Church. At NYU, at the Catholic Center, there were 4 or 5 people who made the Noon Mass their own. St Agnes parish in NYC was the same way - although there they were the office workers on lunch. St Christopher's Chapel near Grand Central was my favorite. I was not Catholic, but something was there that just wasn't anywhere else.
Tolkien calls Caras Galadhon, the city at the center of Wood Elves' realm of Lothlorien, the "heart of Elvendom on earth". That's what daily mass is just now in my book: the Heart of Christendom on Earth.
Words fail me. This is God saving us.
I find myself daily praying these prayers from the Anglican Use and also the Byzantine Rite:
We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, committed in knowledge or in ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss; but like the thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord in Thy Kingdom.
May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be neither to my judgment, nor to my condemnation, O Lord, but to the healing of soul and body. Amen.
This is love: God giving himself for us, daily, before us and to us, freely, humbly, meekly. And in silence.
This is love: Body and blood, soul and divinity. Mercy and grace in the forms of bread and wine, the most simplest of foodstuffs. The most holy of foods.
Go all the dang time.
VIII - Eucharist
He wash'd their feet & now would make them free:
a mundane miracle will now combine.
The God-Man bids that man on God will dine
& daily service now makes unity.
These common building blocks of bread & wine
our Saviour takes into his holy hands
& those, around him sat, his love commands
in mystic rites to make all men divine.
The Apostolic preaching in all lands
will be enliven'd by this bread. God gives
to Church her dancing food. She moves & lives
By sacraments now altar'd by Christ's hands.
Salt, flour, water, grapes, & yeast we see
yet very flesh & blood of God they be.