MAY 11, 2011 - HOLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY; JOHN 6:35-40


At this Eucharist as we commemorate the Holy Abbots of Cluny, we continue the liturgical tradition, in simpler form that they did so much to propagate in the course of centuries. Like them we come together day by day in the Liturgy and at this altar to participate in the same worship of the Blessed Trinity, by recalling the life and work of Jesus. As we honor them and ask for their intercession on our behalf on their feast day we are reminded that they celebrated with unremitting fidelity the great mystery suggested by the words of our Lord that we too focus on today. Jesus proclaimed to the Jews: “I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE. EVERY ONE WHO LOOKS UPON THE SON AND BELIEVES IN HIM SHALL HAVE ETERNAL LIFE.” When Pope Gregory the Great wrote the preface to his major work, the Commentary on the Book of Job, he observed that the Holy Scriptures are a river in which an elephant can swim and a lamb can wade. The passage from Saint John’s Gospel that we have just heard illustrates well the truth of this statement. There is an obvious simplicity in the image that Jesus uses in speaking of himself as the Bread of Life. In the Hebrew tongue that he was so familiar with Lechem Hayim , Bread of life, would have a familiar meaning that speaks to the simple Jews in his audience, the lambs, as it were, of his people, for they spoke of their meals, so essential to healthy life, as “the breaking of bread”. The claim made here, is clear enough for the simple; our Lord is a gift from heaven that is a necessary source of the true life. The bread he has just miraculously multiplied to feed the people gives credence to this claim, implying, as it does, his special relation to the God who sent him.


At the same time, the learned are reminded of the hidden, more profound meaning that, like deep waters invite even elephants to swim. For the nourishment suggested by the image of bread that Jesus employs of himself here invites a plunge into the depths of his meaning. Those who are familiar with the history of the chosen people are reminded by this bread that is life of the manna in the desert, given by the Providence of God as a preservative of life. Jesus himself is the very source of an unending life and makes himself accessible to faith.


That faith in Jesus is much more than an act of the mind and will is the message of our Gospel today. Faith is a new way of being in the world that gives meaning to the whole of our life’s activity and purpose. Faith establishes a communion with the persons who are the one God, for to believe in Jesus as the source of eternal life is to be united with the Father in the love given in the Holy Spirit.


Scripture here is indeed a life giving stream in which a lamb can wade, but in whose depths also an elephant can swim, for it carries us by the current of the Spirit into the depths of the living God. While we call to mind the Holy Abbots of Cluny today, from the heart, we give thanks to God for these truths in this Eucharist. We renew and deepen our union with these monastic saints in the mystical body as we communicate at this altar in the Bread of Life, offered to us and for us by the risen Lord Jesus that we might possess life eternal with him.       

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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