V. Rev. Fr. Barouyr Shernezian
When Adam and Eve failed to keep God’s commandment to stay away from the forbidden tree, God told Adam: “for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19) Their “punishment” following their choice to sin was particularly painful because of their humanity as human beings. As a consequence, Adam and Eve were forced to accept death as a part of life. As such, and as a result of this supreme act of disobedience, the destiny of earth’s first family was redirected to include death. From that day on, the human body became corrupt and destructible, despite God’s intention for humans to have perfect and everlasting lives.
While Adam and Eve lived in the presence of God, the first negative interaction between them and God revolved around “feeding.” Throughout the Bible, we learn how God led His children to their original nature, bettering their condition through salvific events. In fact, we find that “food” plays a significant role in our salvation. For instance, Moses was able to save the people of Israel by the sacrifice of a lamb during the tenth plague. While wandering in the desert, God sent the Israelites manna from heaven, which saved the entire nation from starvation. Various other Biblical accounts demonstrate how God redeemed His children through “food.”
Jesus’s ministry on earth mirrors this approach to achieve the same spiritual results. The Gospel of Luke, for example, pays attention to the concept of the “feast” or “banquet.” For example, in Luke 11:37-52, Luke 14:1-24 and Luke 19:1-10. The Parable of the Prodigal Son concludes with a feast—a father’s expression of joy for his son’s return (Luke 15). Moreover, Luke demonstrates that Jesus’s ministry aimed to gather all people from every social status, showing the unity and equality of the faithful gathered in Christ. As such Christ’s love is the only way to correct social injustice and prejudice, restoring the world in God’s glory. Further, the climax of Jesus’ earthly ministry begins with a well-known meal—the “Last Supper.” Over a meal which took place in the upper room, Jesus established the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and demonstrated the New Covenant between God and man. We should pay close attention to exactly how Jesus chose to demonstrate His love and acceptance to His apostles, despite the fact that he knew of their upcoming deception, betrayal, and renouncement.
To undo the original sin caused by seemingly simple act of “eating,” a new eating ritual was established. What was this new eating ritual meant to achieve? Why is it important? And how does it serve salvation? The new eating ritual, the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, serves two important purposes:
1. To focus on the life on earth: Our Lord Jesus Christ established a ritual that gathers all people around one table as equals. “All people” should be understood to mean everyone, regardless of ethnic, racial, social, or religious background.
Through this ritual, we understand that to survive on earth, we must come together around one table. Further, that table represents the love of Christ, wherein Christ Himself is the sacrifice. This Holy Table drives humanity (that is, those of flesh in the human body) to work towards unity and to view each other at the same level. This makes people serve one another as an act of love, and “eat” in God’s presence. We cannot truly be a part of Church life unless we come together in love and in the name of Christ in Communion of His life-giving body.
2. To focus is on eternal life: The Holy Eucharist is the body and the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It transforms our weak nature into the ontological nature which humans possessed before the Fall of Man. The Holy Eucharist transforms our weak natures into glorified bodies. Christ’s first meeting with His disciples after the resurrection illustrates this. He entered through a closed door and Thomas was able to touch His scars. (John 20:19-30)
The ritual of the Holy Eucharist brings us to the true feast in the Heavenly Kingdom. However, we learn from the parable of the wedding feast that in order participate in the feast, we must be dressed in our “wedding garments.” (Matthew 22:14) The Holy Eucharist restores us from our fallen natures into glorious beings, enabling us to participate in His glory. Receiving the Holy Eucharist does not suffice. We must also continuously engaging in the practices of the Kingdom by sharing the Holy Table with love and tolerance, putting the Lord at the center of our lives. Together, those acts prepare us to feast and celebrate God’s glory in God’s glory. This begins on earth and continues into the Heavenly Kingdom, for as Christ said: “I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me, will live forever…” Amen.