Eucharistic Overtones

Receiving the Eucharist is an important sacrament in the Church, Throughout the Gospels, there are several passages with Eucharistic overtones. Those being, the Feeding of Five Thousand, the Last Supper (in Mark, Matthew, and Luke), and The Road to Emmaus passage in Luke. Although the Last Supper in the synoptic Gospels is the Passover meal, the food does not seem extravagant. It seems like an ordinary meal. While the Feeding of Five Thousand is a miracle, the food itself is ordinary, as is the meal in the Road to Emmaus. A key ritual in each meal is that Jesus says a blessing and breaks the bread. In the Last Supper, Jesus also blesses the wine. The breaking of the bread is specifically mentioned each time. When the disciples, or believers share in the bread that Jesus has broken, they are experiencing the wondrous body of Jesus. In the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Luke writes, “They all ate and were satisfied” (Luke 9:17). Jesus did not satisfy their hunger, but rather satisfied their souls by sharing the Eucharist with them. In the Road to Emmaus, Cleopas and the other disciple could not recognize Jesus initially. That night though, after Jesus broke the bread and gave it to them, the disciples were enlightened, and were able to recognize their risen savior. The theological emphasis is placed not placed upon the physical sustenance of the food, but rather its spiritual sustenance that Jesus’ body and blood provide for those who receive it.

Of God and Men

When the quote in the prompt is said, the head monk says that if they die, they are doing it out of love. Love for all people and love for God. When they decided to stay, it reminded me of Polycarp originally choosing no to flee his house. All of the monk’s ad reason to stay based on their personal experiences. Although some waivered early on, they eventually found solace with God and were enveloped in his affection. Luc, the doctor, was a focused on healing the people of the village, especially the children. Therefore, he wished to stay. Another monk, believed that fleeing would do no good. Christian, the head monk believed that “wildflowers do not move to catch the sun rays”, so they should not flee to be blessed with the grace of God. As the monk’s death rushes upon them, and they share their last meal together in the monastery, they are scared, and sad, as any human would be. They also find comfort in God’s presence, and, for the most part, face their death bravely. I do not know if I would have been able to make the same decision as the monks, staying in the monastery, and thus dying. I do think that it was the right decision for them to make however, being brothers of God committed to their missionary.  I believe that their staying did have a large affect. Their decision demonstrated to the people what it means to be brave and truly follow what you believe in. This was imperative, as the town leader mentioned earlier in the movie that the village grew up around the monastery.

Pro Arius. Strengths of His Argument

During the third and fourth centuries the Church was at debate over the exact relationship between the Father and the Son. One of the theological ideologies at the forefront of the debate was that of Arius, a priest in Alexandria. He used a richly buttressed philosophical approach to untangle the mystery of who Christ is. In short, Arius espoused that Jesus was not fully divine, but rather a creature created by God, as were all beings on Earth. One of the critical aspects of Arius’ argument distinguishing between God and Jesus is that God existed before all and created all. Arius argues how the Father, “exists unbegun” and that the Son “existed at the paternal will”. In this logical argument, Arius draws the reader’s attention to how God has existed eternally, since before the beginning. Jesus he argues however only came into existence as flesh millennia after the Father. The Father was the creator, and created the Son at his own will as an example of humans to live by. IN his response to Alexander, Arius emphasizes that there is, “one God, the only begotten, only eternal, only without beginning, only true, who only has immortality, only wise, only good, the only potentate”. Arius’ use of parallel syntax creates huge emphasis on the fact that God is the only divine, God is singular. Even better, Arius states that he, as a priest, has learned this through the Church that Alexander is in charge of, thus discrediting Alexander himself. Thirdly, Arius believed that Jesus could not be considered divine because Jesus, “moved in the realm of the changeable world”. In this world Jesus changed. On the very basic level, he grew up and matured from a young boy into a man. By definition, the divine was incapable of changing.
Arius is not saying that Jesus was not an important figure in Christianity. That is not his point at all. He just believes that God is the singular divinity and that Jesus was the perfect being created by God as a demonstration for all people to live by. Arius uses a superior skill of logical debate in his argument that cannot be disputed.

1. Matryrdom of Polycarp

In the Martyrdom of Polycarp there are numerous similarities between the Passion of Christ and Polycarp’s death. Polycarp was an elderly man and the bishop of Smyrna in Asia Minor. After the persecution and martyrdom of several Christians, the Romans began to hunt down Polycarp in order to kill him. Polycarp knew of his impending persecution, as does Jesus in each of the Gospels, but he was not afraid. He was in control of the whole issue, as is Jesus, specifically in the Gospel of John. Polycarp, “when he first heard the news, was not disturbed, in fact he wanted to stay in town…” (5:1). When the Romans finally caught up with him, he even had a chance to escape, like Jesus could have saved himself, but instead Polycarp said, “…’May God’s will be done’…” (7:1). Similarly, Jesus accepts what must happen to him I order to fulfill the scriptures. Polycarp has a vision in which he realizes that he must be burned alive. Being burnt, he is similar to a burnt offering to God, just as Jesus was portrayed as the paschal and sacrificial Lamb of God in John’s passion narrative. Polycarp is not afraid of upset about his death, but instead confronts his persecution with courage and almost enthusiasm as he can soon join other martyrs and other Christians in the Kingdom of Heaven with God, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Polycarp’s joy in death is a sign to all Christians that death is not bad. It is not the end, but merely the beginning of a better after life in Heaven. Knowing this should comfort all who are faced with death.
Going back to Polycarp’s death, it is said that he is burnt, “not like flesh burning, but like bread braking, or like gold and silver being refined in a furnace” (15:2). In death, Polycarp is transformed into something better than he originally was, like a phoenix rising from ashes. This action further strengthen the witness’s belief in the power of God, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Didache (1)

The leader ship of the Church of the late first century and the early second century had to confront the issues associated with an expanding organization. Similar to the problems of growing business. As it enlarges and spreads across the Greco-Roman world, the bishops and leaders of the Church, which is in itself a new term, have to try to control problems arising in all of the different communities. They do so by establishing leaders in each parish that try to enforce the rules and life style of Christianity. The communal followings stay in contact with the larger Church by exchange of letters too.

In the excerpt of the Didache that we read, it seems that one of the larger problems that the Church is facing is the attempts of people to take advantages of communities by imitating prophets. People come into the village, pretend to be inspired by God, do false preaching, and then ask for money or other goods in return. To conflict this problem, the Church sent out letter to its followers trying to give advice in order to tell a false prophet from true prophet, and how to treat each accordingly. One example was that if the prophet asks for money upon leaving, he probably was just a thief. The problem with this type of recognition was that you could only discern a phony from a real prophet after you opened up your house or village to them, and treated them well. They basically already got what they wanted. In order to confront this, I believe the Church may have needed to place more bishops or deacons in proportion to the growing number of followers in order to help maintain order as the Church grew and became more organized over the centuries. 

On the Road to Emmaus…

While traveling on the road to Emmaus, two disciples, one being named Clepoas, encounter the risen Jesus but cannot recognize him. After Jesus says the blessing and breaks the bread, there “eyes were opened” (Luke 24:31) and they recognize him. They also reflect on how, “…our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us…” (Luke 24:32). It is only after he says the blessing though that they recognize Jesus. They are still as clueless as they were about Jesus while traveling as they were before. He calls them fools and then goes through all the scriptures that prophesize what must happen in order for him to be the Messiah, and Jesus explains how he fulfilled all of these prophecies. They get a visceral response during an explanation, but they still need a very straight direct sign in order to truly understand how he is the Messiah vindicated by God. I believe that they realize that Jesus is the Messiah who must suffer by reflecting on their conversation they had while traveling. Jesus, while still unrecognizable to the disciples, questions them about who Jesus was. The disciples describe how he “was a prophet might in deed…how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him” (Luke 24:20). In these statements they recount how his own people betrayed him, did not accept him, and forced him to suffer. The brief summary of Jesus’ death helped them to become enlightened.
Early followers of Jesus might have focused on how Jesus is present but is not recognized until the disciples of aware of his being and resurrection. This quality is representative of how Rausch says that God’s love will always be presented to us, but we must be the ones to accept it.

Jesus’ Last Words

During each passion story, Jesus has a few “last words” on the cross. In Mark 15:34 Jesus exclaims, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me”. Right before his death, Jesus gives another loud cry of pain. These last exclamations of Jesus strengthen Mark’s theme that Jesus is the Messiah who came to suffer. Jesus was unjustly sentenced to death and must suffer the pain of crucifixion. In the end he questions why God has left him out to die. This is important to Mark because he wants to exemplify to his persecuted readers that like us, Jesus has suffered too. Although we may believe that God has abandoned us, we know that it is not true. For just as Jesus is resurrected, the ones who follow him will be brought into the Kingdom of God as well.
Mathew’s story of the death of Jesus is practically identical to Mark’s, in which Jesus has the same last words. In these last lines of Jesus’ human life, he is fulfilling the Hebrew Scriptures. The earth begins to quake and it says that tombs open and the spirits of saints were raised as the y entered the kingdom of heaven with Jesus.
John’s purpose in writing the Gospel was to portray Jesus as the Incarnate Word of God and glorious Savior of the World. In John’s Passion narrative, Jesus says “I thirst” (John 19:28) and “It is finished” (John 19:29) as he breaths his last breath. Although short, and much different from the other Gospels, these two curt statements do an excellent job in demonstrating that Jesus is incarnate, of flesh. He thirsts, just as all humans do. As well, when he says “it is finished”, he can be referring to his life. He cannot live forever, but must face death just as we all must someday. Jesus could also be referring to the fact that his deed of saving us from our sins is finished.
In Luke’s Gospel Jesus yells out, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus is entrusting God, commending God with, his spirit. Luke wants to demonstrate that if Jesus, the rejected prophet who has suffered and died because of us, can trust God with his spirit, that all people, Jews, Gentiles, outcasts, and sinners, should be able to trust God with their spirits. Everyone who hears the story of Jesus should follow his example and have faith in God.