Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bread of Life

The petition—“give us this day our daily bread”—in the Our Father began to acquire a different meaning for me after many months of daily mass and praying the rosary daily with its recitation of the prayer before each decade; becoming more eucharistic that earthly and reading in Pope Benedict’s book, Jesus of Nazareth I discovered others had come to the same conclusion and beyond; then I understood that it was both.

The Holy Father writes:

“Today there are two principal interpretations. One maintains that the word [bread] means “what is necessary for existence.” On this reading, the petition would run as follows: Give us today the bread that we need in order to live. The other interpretation maintains that the correct translation is “bread for the future,” for the following day. But the petition to receive tomorrow’s bread today does not seem to make sense when looked at in the light of the disciple’s existence. The reference to the future would make more sense if the object of the petition were the bread that really does belong to the future: the true manna of God. In that case, it would be an eschatological petition, the petition for an anticipation of the world to come, asking the Lord to give already “today” the future bread, the bread of the new world—himself. On such a reading the petition would acquire an eschatological meaning. Some ancient translations hint in this direction. An example is Saint Jerome’s Vulgate, which translates the mysterious word epiousios as supersubstantialis (i.e., super-substantial), thereby pointing to the new, higher “substance” that the Lord gives us in the Holy Sacrament as the true bread of our life.

“The fact is that the Fathers of the Church were practically unanimous in understanding the fourth petition of the Our Father as a eucharistic petition; in this sense the Our Father figures in the Mass liturgy as a eucharistic table-prayer (i.e., “grace”) This does not remove the straightforward earthly sense of the disciple’s petition that we have just shown to be the text’s immediate meaning. The Fathers consider different dimensions of the saying that begins as a petition for today’s bread for the poor, but insofar as it directs our gaze to the Father in heaven who feeds us, it recalls the wandering People of God, who were fed by God himself. Read in the light of Jesus great discourse on the bread of life, the miracle of the manna naturally points beyond itself to the new world in which the Logos—the eternal Word of God—will be our bread, the food of the eternal wedding banquet." (pp. 154-155)