August 7, 2022

Homily Two for the Eighth Sunday of Matthew - The Mystery of the Divine Eucharist (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

Homily for the Eighth Sunday of Matthew

The Mystery of the Divine Eucharist

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"And they all ate and were satisfied" (Matt. 14:20).

Beloved brethren,

The ancient ecclesiastical hermenutical tradition gave an ecclesiastical and eucharistic meaning to the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves, which we heard today in the Gospel reading. This miracle is a prototype of the mystery of the Divine Eucharist, according to which the spiritually dead person receives Christ and is revived. Therefore, we are given the opportunity to formulate some thoughts about this supernatural and great mystery which is the center of ecclesiastical and spiritual life.

There are many points that connect the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves with the great miracle of the Eucharist. The most basic fact is multiplication. There in the desert, the Lord fed all the people with five loaves of bread and two fish. This is also done with the mystery of the Eucharist. The "bread of life that comes down from heaven" is offered (John 5:51), and is never spent. The priest in the Divine Liturgy after pronouncing the "holy to the holy", apportions the bread, saying: "The Lamb of God is apportioned and distributed; apportioned, but not divided; ever eaten, yet never consumed; but sanctifying those who partake." All the saints were sanctified and will be sanctified by this heavenly food.

Another connection is the free participation. The people, with the miracle, are offered food without having to work hard to sow the wheat, harvest it and make bread. Just like the people of that time, so the people of God receive this food "without sweat and pain". That is, Divine Communion is offered as a gift of God to man. We are never worthy of this gift, but God's love and philanthropy always finds us worthy. Even if the greatest preparation is done on our part, Divine Communion is still God's gift to us.

Also, another element of similarity is the food. That is, the people ate the bread in the desert and satisfied the feeling of hunger, and avoided death from it. The same thing happens with Divine Communion, on another level of course. By partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ we experience life and avoid death. Thus, with Divine Communion, spiritual life develops within us. Therefore, the life of God is impossible without experiencing the mystery of the Divine Eucharist.

Observing this passage again, we see that it has a lot of eucharistic terminology in it. "And He took ... and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes" (Matth. 8:19). All these phrases remind us of the Secret Supper and the Eucharist, especially the prayer of the anaphora, which is the central part of the Eucharist.

Apart from these there is a basic difference between the two miracles. The Jewish people ate the material food, but later died, while whoever eats the Body of the Lord and drinks His Blood worthily, will never die. Also, "the Bread of Life", that is, Christ, is the only food that nourishes the human soul and through it Grace is channeled into the body as well.

The Eucharist is the center of all mysteries and the purpose of our spiritual life. We are baptized so that as members of the Church we can partake of the Body and Blood of Christ. We confess in order to cleanse our souls and receive Christ worthily. The mystery of the Priesthood exists to bring about those who will perform the great mystery. And Holy Chrismation usually precedes Divine Communion. The Divine Eucharist is also the center of the mystery of marriage, which is why in earlier times the two Mysteries were connected, and the newlyweds, after the end of the Divine Liturgy, were the first to partake of the Immaculate Mysteries.

However, we said before that the Divine Eucharist is also the purpose of spiritual life. Indeed, through this we are enlivened and become partakers of the life of Christ. Christ saves people through this divine Mystery, which is why it is the heart of our Church.

The Divine Eucharist and the Divine Communion satiate the hungry man, but at the same time it increases his hunger. That is, when one partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ and is in an appropriate spiritual state, he is divinized. The Body and Blood of Christ is not changed into our own blood and body, as is done with common food, but our own body and blood is received by Christ and deified, when the necessary preconditions exist. Thus, we get a taste of what eternal life, Paradise, communion with Christ, will be like. This, however, increases the search and the hunger. That is why we say that in the Divine Eucharist we experience the insatiable satisfaction of divine Mercy. After Holy Communion we want to pray a lot to the God we love. Increasing the desire and life of prayer, we want to be united with our eternal Bridegroom as soon as possible. Therefore, the spiritual life is closely connected with Divine Communion. The Eucharist is the end of a journey and the beginning of another, longer journey. That is why we say that when we live a real spiritual life we are always full and always hungry.

The Mystery of the Eucharist is not a simple service of prayers, which satisfies our religious and psychological needs, but it is the Mystery of our life. Baptism cleanses the image of God in man, Divine Communion brings about the likeness of God in man, that is, complete union with Christ. With Holy Baptism, God becomes our Father. With Divine Communion, He becomes our Bridegroom and our Mother who "nourishes us with intimate breasts, like a loving mother's tender babies", as Saint Gregory Palamas says. This is how we understand that receiving the Honorable Gifts is not an obligation, but a necessity for our lives. Through this "Satan's powers are destroyed" and we feel in our hearts the energies of Christ.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.