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The Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Preparation of the Gifts (2)
“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, …”
When someone is considered blessed it is an acknowledgement that he or she has been favored in life, but in considering the blessedness of the Lord it goes way beyond. The Lord is not just an object of jealously for all he is and all he has: he the source of all blessings and favor. When we strive to live a beatific life, a life of the blessed, we strive to live a life like his, and we know that he is its source. It’s no coincidence that when a departed believer is beatified, he or she is referred to as Blessed. It hearkens back to the beatitudes: “blessed is he or she who.” A Blessed or Saint turns to the Lord as the source and ideal of beatitude and acknowledges it, just as the priest in this prayer over the bread does so.
We not only express his blessedness, but his dominion over everything we experience and have in life. As Creator he is the Lord of everything, because everything was created by him. Whatever our endeavors, artistic or spiritual, we are participating in his creativity, be it art or life: it would be impossible without him.
“…for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you…”
We would have nothing to offer to God if he had not created us to be able to offer him something and created something for us to offer. God’s blessedness and grandeur as Lord and Creator are both expressed in the fact that he always provides us with what we need. Those hosts about to become the Body of Christ were not created by us, and God in his Providence also arranged that we might have them in order to present him something.
His goodness is reflected in the fact that he provides for us and our needs with no strings attached. He’s not paying us with existence and bread to do something for him: he did both things gratuitously. We remember when the crowds were amazed that Jesus had filled their stomachs and “threatened” to make him king (see John 6). They wanted a vending machine, not the Bread of Life, and that would be the occasion for Our Lord to teach them what the truly sought beyond a full stomach: eternal life, untainted by market factors or an excessive self-interest. In part we show that we get that by offering up to the Lord the very bread that he has provided to us.
“…fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.”
For people not initiated into baking bread it’s important to realize how much work it involves: flour, water, eggs or other ingredients, mixing everything in the right proportion, baking it for the right amount of time. The smell of freshly baked bread makes our mouths water, but it’s one of the most typical foods we can imagine. It’s ubiquitous in our culinary life. The Lord gave us all the means to make bread, but some baker long forgotten in history had the initiative to invent it. The hosts didn’t just spontaneously appear on the shelf one day to be placed on the paten or in the ciborium for Mass. We work with God. He doesn’t just give us something that we immediately return unchanged; we make it into something or do something with it that we think he’d like, just as a child’s crayons along with some paper and creativity becomes a Mother’s Day Card or a portrait of Daddy.
The bread represents and reflects not only the goodness of God and of life, but our efforts to offer something worthwhile to him in acknowledgment of all he has done for us. The Lord is not to be outdone: in a few moments that bread, “fruit of the earth and work of human hands” will be transubstantiated into God Himself, not just as blessed, Creator, and Lord, but as life for us. That’s why we unite our prayer to the priest’s as he raises the paten and we say “Blessed be God forever.” It’s a moment to reflect on what God has given us and what we have given him in return.
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