Bishop Eric Menees
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This collect begins with the acknowledgement that God is our "Gracious Father." He is the very essence of fatherhood - we only know a good father or a wanting father due to the fact that we have a good and gracious Father in heaven.
For many in other religions, this is a very offensive concept - that God could be referred to as our Father. Within Orthodox Judaism it is still considered near blasphemy to pronounce the name of God - God is known through His word and through His creation, but is not a personable being. Within Islam, God or Allah is impersonal and unknowable. Equally within eastern religions, God is a disembodied force that one seeks to align with but cannot be known nor know you.
For Christians the title of Father implies exactly what it means - that God desires both to be known and to know us as His adopted sons and daughters. How amazing it is to know that the God of the Universe - the God who spoke the stars and planets into existence - also chose to adopt us as His children! "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
As a human father desires the very best for his children, so too our Heavenly Father desires the very best for us, His adopted children. Jesus speaks directly to this when he taught the disciples: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:11-13)
Even beyond our Heavenly Father’s desire to provide for us, He desires to be so deeply known to us that we abide in Him and He in us. Listen to this collect: "Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which giveth life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him…." God sent his son to be the Bread of Life: “Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’” (John 6:35) These images of bread and water are powerful ones - they are the very stuff of life. Jesus taught us to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread…," (Luke 11:3) - give us Jesus daily, that we may live, for nothing can satisfy or delight as much as the Bread of Life.
How awesome it is for us, when we come to the altar on the Lord's day - or any day - and kneel down, make the sign of the cross, and place our hands out to receive the Bread of Life - the body of Christ. How thrilling it is to know, in the depth of our being, that Christ is present in some mystical way in that bread, and that when receiving Him we are being obedient to His command: "Take, eat, this is my body given for you…," (Matthew 26:26) and that His desire is to be with us.
As a priest and bishop, it remains my greatest honor to celebrate Holy Eucharist - to look into the eyes of a believer and, while placing the consecrated bread into their hands or upon their tongue, say, "The body of Christ, the bread of Heaven" or "The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life."
I pray that, as we approach the depth of Lent and the height of Easter, we will always desire: "Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him…." And to that I say... AMEN!
Note: These articles are written by Bishop Menees for the Diocese of San Joaquin. I have posted them on Soundings with his permission for a wider audience. This is also the case for his "Why I am an Anglican" series. Dale+