No Natural Food Served Here!Posted: July 20, 2015
Following shortly after Pascha, we have the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman. We know her as St. Photinia. She encounters Christ, and her life is changed. She becomes a new woman. She leaves her past life and its sinful ways. As a new woman, in Christ, she embarks on a new way of life.
There were many lifestyle changes brought about by her encounter with Jesus. Among the many changes there was also a dietary change. New menu items were added to her diet: supernatural foods.
St. Photinia meets Jesus at Jacob’s well. At this well, Jesus speaks of its water: “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again.” In contrast to the well’s natural water, Jesus informs her of a different water. It is a water that has not yet existed on earth, nor will it ever spring forth from that well drawn from by so many generations. “If ever someone might drink from the water which I shall give to him, he shall never thirst again. The water which I shall give to him shall be a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Here, Jesus speaks of the water of the Holy Spirit, the water of baptism, and even the life which he himself imparts to the world.
Elsewhere in the sixth chapter of St. John’s gospel, we find The Bread of Life discourse. The Bread of which he speaks has been given to the world in his own Body. This Body his hearers could see and touch. He also declares that there is a Bread to be given once for all for the life of the world. Yet, this Bread, his same Body, will continue to be given as a source of life to the faithful. This Bread, which is ever given, continues to be his Body. It is to be continually consumed by the Church. This Bread, which is his Body, leads to relational union with him, and in turn, to the eternal life of the resurrection.
As I am writing this brief essay on a hot July afternoon, I am sitting a few short feet from a young, tiny, lovely garden spider. She (I assume gender to be female – correct me if wrong) has spun her web. She has her catch. To sustain the natural life given to her, she must consume the food and water of nature. To live she must kill and take the life of her prey to sustain her life. Even though this food is the source of her brief life, she will die.
The food that sustains our human lives – our mortal lives – comes from the death of some thing, animal or plant, that itself possessed its own natural, mortal life. That life is taken. Now dead, it is consumed. Those consuming this food will, in turn, also die.
In the nave and altar of an Orthodox Church, nothing purely natural is consumed. There is blessed bread and holy water. More significantly, there is also the Body and Blood of Christ. Now Christ did die in the flesh, but he offered himself freely. He was not slaughtered in the way a sacrificial lamb was sacrificed. But Christ rose from the dead in new, glorified, and immortal life. He rose to an imperishable life – a God-made life.
By the Eucharist, divine and immortal life is imparted to us. The Food of our Lord’s Body and Blood gives a redeemed and recreated humanity its proper nutrition. This Food – unique from all other foods – is appropriate and proper for the new humanity destined for the imperishable, material life of the resurrection.
St. Photinia entered into the way of salvation. She walked and moved within a life-giving cycle. She walked in faith. Her faith led to living out, working out, her own salvation in Christ. She drank from the water of the Holy Spirit. St. Photinia ate and drank the life-giving Body and Blood of her Savior. This imperishable, holy Food, empowered her to remain in this cycle of life, and the life that lies beyond this existence.
The next time you enter into the church, look around. It is only within the four walls which contain the nave and altar where salvation is gathered around us. Only here are our lives nourished to sustain us, and prepare us, to be raised at the Last Day to imperishable lives in unending communion with our eternal God.