Lacking the hunger of the inner person, and believing perfection was to be found in the keeping of the Law, the Jews did not, St Augustine tells us, know how to hunger for the bread of life. They saw, Chrysostom adds, through the eyes of the world; they thought with carnal minds, not spiritual ones. Jesus reveals to us the doctrine of Grace – no one can come except those whom the Father draws, and there is a deep mystery about this we cannot fathom; if you are not drawn, pray that you will be. We have come thus far, we Christians, by our faith, but we have not come to the end of the road, and we have not come because we willed it; we should beware of arrogating to ourselves the discovery of the way – that is God’s prerogative and not to be usurped by prideful man: be humble before God and be thankful for His great and tender mercise. We are drawn, Augustine reminds us, by God’s love, which evokes our love for him. We are drawn by delight in him, by desire for the bread of heaven. Some, like Arius, say they are drwn, but they are not, for they do not believe that the Father and the Son were co-eternal, others, like Simon Peter, are truly blessed with knowledge by God.
God teaches us, Chysostom says, through his son, since all things come from God and Jesus is our one mediator with the Father. It is through the Son and the Holy pirit that God speaks to us, Augustine says, and those who do not believe in the Trinity do not know God. If we receive and believe in Christ, we shall have life in him, for over him death has no dominion and ts sting was drawn by him.
St Athanasius comments that, by his living Word, God gives us all spiritual food. Sin has its own special food – the pleasures of the sins of the world. Such will not understand the heavenly bread and will despise it, seeing in it nothing but bread, just as the Jews saw nothing in Jesus save the son of Joseph. Those who eat this earthly bread die in their sins, which is why Jesus calls us to humger and thirst for the bread of heaven which, alone, can satisfy our hunger.
As the bread of life, Jesus kneads his body, mixing himself with us to form one loaf, Chysostom comments, adding that through this union corruption and death in us are destroyed. The living bread of the sacrament is much greater than the manna given to the Jews in the wilderness because, St Ambrose reminds us, it is the body of Christ and whoever eats of it worthily will have eternal life – it is, St Ambrose tells us truly, for the forgiveness of sins.
St Cyril of Alexandria comments that Christ gace his own body for the lives of all who should believe in him, and through the sacrament the life-giving Word of God dwells in us, and we partkae of his transformed flesh – and life is given to us, even life eternal. In his light we have light, in his life we have life, and we shall be one with him.