Life-Giving Grains

In the twelfth chapter of St. John’s gospel we read these words of Jesus:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless the Grain of wheat falling into the earth should die, it remains alone. But if it should die, it bears much fruit.” (John 12: 24)

grainsJesus says these words as he enters into the very last days of his earthly life in human flesh. His betrayal, trial, and crucifixion await him. The Grain of Wheat dies and is entombed. Three days later he rises from death in a glorified physical body. His death leads to the fruit, the new Grain, of eternal life for all who place their faith in Christ and follow him.

Our knowledge of the Eucharist should make us think of the eucharistic Bread when we read John 12: 24. Jesus is the Grain. In His resurrection all life is  contained in the fruit of his resurrection, and is held within even more Grain.

Wheat grain is harvested, milled, and made into bread. The bread that is offered for the Eucharist will bear in itself, upon the prayers of the Church and the work of the Holy Spirit in the epiclesis, the Body of Christ – his resurrected, immortal, and glorified Body. His life is imparted to us when we “eat his Flesh and drink his Blood” (see John 6: 54).

In the sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel we find the Bread of Life discourse. In this discourse Jesus repeatedly speaks of Bread:

“I am the Bread of Life. Your fathers ate Manna in the wilderness and died. This is the Bread which is continually [katabainon] coming down from heaven [Jesus is referring to his physical body of the Incarnation now present before them], if someone might eat of it he shall never die. I am the Living Bread which came [katabas, aorist participle] down from heaven [the very same physical Body, but pointing to the moment of the Incarnation itself]: if someone might eat of this Bread [his Body of the Incarnation] he shall live forever, and the Bread which I shall give is my Flesh [given] for the life of the world (John 6: 48 – 51).”

In the verses above, there is this phrase which our Lord first uses to refer to his physical body: “…is continually coming down from heaven.” I make this translation from St. John’s use of the present participle, katabainon. The present tense of any Greek verb , and here a participle denotes an ongoing quality of action. Thus, “continually coming down” properly translates the present participle. His Body is the Grain. The fruit of Jesus’ resurrection yields – without end – life giving Grains now continually coming down to us by the Bread of the Eucharist – his holy Body.

I return us to the twelfth chapter.  Jesus continues in John 12: 25, 26:

“The one who is loving his life shall lose it, and the one who is hating his life in this world guards it toward eternal life. If ever someone might serve me, let him follow me, and where I am there also shall be my servant. If ever someone might serve me the Father shall honor him.”

By eating we live, but in this life in Christ we are to be dying as well. We learn that we, too, are to be grains that fall into the earth. We are to die via our service to Christ. We are to follow Christ and die to ourselves. We are to give of ourselves for others as we serve our Lord in faith and love. This is how we become life giving grains. This is how we live the out Eucharist in Christ before this world.

In Christ,
Fr. Irenaeus

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