The Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Preparation of the Gifts (4)

Author’s Note: Soon Finding the Plug will be considering the Eucharistic Prayer. Which Eucharistic Prayer would help you the most to Find the Plug? Vote here.

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer you …”

Bread and wine signify the goodness of creation (see the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 1333), which is why in preparing the gifts we’re reminded and acknowledge the goodness of God the Creator. In Old Testament times the bread and wine were among the first fruits offered in sacrifice as a sign of grateful acknowledgment to the Lord (see CCC 1334, 1148).

If the Lord gives us bread to sustain us, he gives us wine to gladden us. We don’t need bread or wine to live; like other animals we could subsist on water, plants, etc., but it would be eking out a miserable existence instead of enjoying a full one. Bread and water are considered basic punishing fare for a prisoner, but when wine comes into the equation it represents how full life can be.

If a good bread and a fine wine appeal to us, how much more so will the Bread of Life and the contents of the Chalice of Salvation. Everyone after this earthly life is going to live forever, but with their effort and God’s blessing they can live joyfully forever.

“fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.”

The joy in which we are invited to partake is not just a fleeting happiness, but something rich and mature. It’s easy to please a child with a little grape juice: just squeeze some grapes and add sugar as needed. That same child might not stand a glass of wine, because his palate is not refined enough to appreciate it; it’s meant for the mature. Brands and vintages of wine far outnumber those grape juice for a reason: each represents a region, a climate, a certain kind of grape, a certain method of cultivation, a preferred use. In short, each wine represents a tradition, the communication of an enriching experience with the potential for great enjoyment if it is assimilated and shared. However, that enjoyment requires a little help in order to be appreciated by a refined palate.

Bread involves mixing many ingredients to produce sustenance; wine focuses on the fruit of the vine in order to improve it substantially. The vine itself must be planted and cultivated to bear good fruit, just as every believer must plant God’s Word in good soil and nurture it in order to grow and bear fruit. The grapes must be harvested and pressed, but with the goal of transforming them into something richer: it’s a process of fermentation, not of destruction. When the spiritual life requires sacrifice or you feel under pressure cultivating it it’s important to see that process as maturation, not self-destruction.

If you were to taste a wine in progress at any point before it was ready it would taste off, even terrible. It is at the end that its full joy and richness is unlocked. Every step forward in the spiritual life is similar. It’s important not to consider the difficulty of the journey, but the destination that makes it all worth the effort. Just as grapes are cultivated into wine, so we should also offer in this moment of the liturgy a joyful life cultivated through virtue and holiness. If our life is currently water or vinegar, it’s time to take stock and return to the true Vine, Our Lord, because throughout out earthly life we have a chance to cultivate virtue and holiness again, no matter what vinegar we’ve experienced in the past.

In a few moments, when this wine is transubstantiated into the Precious Blood we’ll have a spiritual drink capable of infusing new and lasting joy into our lives.

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