There was a man who had not eaten in days. Passing out from hunger, he dreamed he was at a luxurious banquet, surrounded by food of every kind. He ate every delicious meat, cheese, and rich food one could imagine. But his hunger never abated. The more he ate, the more tortured he felt. But what choice did he have? He continued to gorge himself, never finding satisfaction.
This is a metaphor for the spiritual life. The spirit within each one of us craves satisfaction. The world offers us entertainment, comforts, fun, riches, power, esteem, adventures, and sentimentality. We gorge ourselves on these things, and perhaps even admire ourselves for them, saying we are living a passionate life. But these ambitions are like the food in the dream of the hungry man. In the light of eternity, they have no existence. There is only one Bread which can bring satiety of the spirit. That Bread is Christ.
Why do we find ourselves turning toward the food of this world, even though it never brings lasting happiness? We say we desire the heavenly kingdom, but the world quietly creeps into our hearts through our numerous little indulgences throughout each day.
At every Eucharistic banquet, we partake of the life-giving Bread. For those who have properly prepared themselves to receive Him, nourishment will be found. What is proper preparation? While pre-communion prayers and fasting are undoubtedly play a role, even more important is to partake of Christ spiritually throughout the entire week through prayer and obeying His commandments. We must orient all of our thoughts toward eternity.
The Elder Arsenie of Romania (1914-2011) taught,
The objective is to be able to conquer Eternity on a daily basis. This is the ideal. The idea of becoming somebody in life – a professor, etc. – is a human goal, not the ultimate goal… If you do not know how to serve God, Who is Eternal, you will get stuck. You have to be attentive [and say to yourself]: ‘Wait a minute! Since this doesn’t pertain to Eternity, I won’t do it!’
Preparing ourselves to receive the Bread of Life is similar to preparing the ground for seed. Last year, I had to dig a hole for a post. The ground was hard and impenetrable. I thought to myself: If I had to plant crops here, how much more difficult would it be? I would water the ground to soften it, pull out a tiller and work the earth, and remove all the rocks and weeds. There would be a great deal of sweating and groaning. And then would anything grow? Only by the Lord’s grace.
The world has made our own souls and hearts callous as well through our partaking of the illusionary foods it offers. There is much work to do and we must set about it without self-pity. Today is the day for salvation. Lord, help us all.
Photo credits: https://www.flickr.com/photos/18228804@N00/3069896373/ and http://roncea.ro/