The Angelus – July 2012 – Fr. Sieg’s Article
Every time we celebrate Mass we give thanks to God for the wonderful gift of the Body and Blood of his Son, Jesus Christ. What we sometimes forget, is that at every Mass, before we give thanks for the gift of the Eucharist, we pause to thank God for his wonderful gift of ordinary bread, which is the most basic human food, and the wonderful gift of wine, which is an ordinary food of celebration.
In the gospels there are two events in which Jesus gave “ordinary” food to people. When a large hungry crowd was before him, Jesus took a few loaves of bread and a couple fish, and gave these ordinary foods to the people so that everyone had the food they desired. While the gospels tell us that the fish were distributed also, it is clear that it is the bread that is considered the most significant. The bread alone was collected so that none would be wasted and Jesus referred to the coming gift of himself as the “Bread of Life.”
The other occasion when Jesus gave the gift of “ordinary” food was at Cana. There he gave ordinary wine (of the best quality), showing his loving concern for the bride and groom, and foreshadowing the joy of the banquet in the Kingdom of God.
My point is that while we always recognize the Eucharist as a special gift of a loving God, we often forget that the bread and wine of our daily lives are also special gifts of a loving God. As the gifts at Mass are being prepared, the priest blesses God, proclaiming: “Through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you” and “Through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you.” Our gratitude is first expressed for the wonderful gifts of “ordinary” bread and wine. Only then do we thank God for the wonderful gift of the Body and Blood of Christ.
At Sunday Mass, the congregation sings as these prays are offered. However, I believe that it is good for people to know what the priest is saying on their behalf, as the song is sung. We are to prepare to give thanks for the extraordinary gift of Eucharistic Food by having hearts that recognize the goodness of God in the ordinary food, and all ordinary gifts, of our daily lives.
A few year ago, I had two pictures installed in our Church that are hung nears the doors to the Narthex. They are serigraph prints created by a contemporary artist named John August Swanson. Facing the Narthex, the picture on the right is a depiction of the gift of bread, given by Jesus to the thousands who had come to hear him. The picture on the left is a depiction of the gift of wine, given by Jesus to enable the people at Cana to continue a wedding celebration. These have been placed in the back of the church because it is from there that the wonderful gifts of bread and wine are brought to the altar where they will be changed into the even greater gift of the Eucharist.