The Bread of Life

Christ declared, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst” (Jn 6:35). St. John Chrysostom comments in a homily: “He is speaking of His Divinity. The flesh is bread, by virtue of the Word; this bread is heavenly bread, on account of the Spirit which dwelleth in it.” Theophylact writes: “He does not say, I am the bread of nourishment, but of life, for, whereas all things brought death, Christ quickened us by Himself.” Chrysostom notes: “He calls Himself the bread of life, because He constitutes one life, both present, and to come.”

St. Augustine explains that, in this context, to “never hunger” and to “never thirst” have the same meaning: “both signifying that eternal society, where there is no want.” Theophylact adds that such a person “shall never be wearied of hearing the word of God, and shall never thirst as to the understanding.”

Christ declared: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever” (v. 51a). Theophylact comments on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: “The bread which is taken by us in the mysteries, is not only the sign of Christ’s flesh, but is itself the very flesh of Christ; for He does not say, ‘The bread which I will give, is the sign of My flesh,’ but, ‘is My flesh.’ . . . But why see we not the flesh? Because, if the flesh were seen, it would revolt us to such a degree, that we should be unable to partake of it. And therefore in condescension to our infirmity, the mystical food is given to us under an appearance suitable to our minds.”

Christ added, “And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (v. 51b). Theophylact writes: “He gave His flesh for the life of the world, in that, by dying, He destroyed death. By the life of the world too, I understand the resurrection; our Lord’s death having brought about the resurrection of the whole human race. . . . Though all have not attained to this life, yet our Lord gave Himself for the world, and, as far as lies in Him, the whole world is sanctified.” St. Augustine teaches: “The faithful know and receive the Body of Christ, if they labour to be the body of Christ. And they become the body of Christ, if they study to live by the Spirit of Christ: for that which lives by the Spirit of Christ, is the body of Christ. This bread the Apostle sets forth, where he says, ‘We being many are one body’ (1 Cor 12:12).”

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. IV, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).

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