From The Body and Reverence. Illustrated by Gary Undercuffler
When I was a teenager, I worked 70 hours a week during the summer at Continental Grain Company in Ft. Worth so that I was able to pay my way through Nolan Catholic High School. At Continental Grain, I became much more aware of the harvest season and the farmers who had to be totally dependent upon God’s providential weather.
Pope Emeritus Benedict comments on this phenomenon of dependence on (rather than self-reliance from) the fruit of the earth:
“In a meal [a human person] discovers that he is not the founder of his own being but lives his existence in receptivity. He experiences himself as someone who has been endowed, who lives on the unmerited gift of the fruitfulness that seems always to be waiting for him…”
(Theology of the Liturgy, 157) (emphasis mine). The posture of humanity is first and foremost vulnerability, receptivity, dependence.
It seems to me that we can learn a great deal from such dependence on the fruit of the earth in our lives. Just this morning, I was thanking God at Mass, thinking about the harvest and how we would not be able to have the Eucharist without farmers who harvest wheat and bakers who make bread and winemakers who grow grapes, etc.
Thus, we learn through the harvest the proper dependence upon God and others. But there’s more. We can also learn from the very symbols of wheat and grapes, pressed and ground. In order to become bread and wine, they must not only die but be crushed. Rich symbolism is inherent here on a natural level and on a Eucharistic, sacramental level. For those of us who love Jesus and long to be close to Him, we experience our own crosses which often seem to crush us….
Are you like me? Sometimes I’m not sure I can handle the hardships, and I wonder how long will the crushing blows go on?
Yet, I trust in and depend on the Father, knowing that His Son’s Resurrection power is always available to see me through. A mere grape and grain of wheat can shed light upon our “Incarnational” journey with Christ. God knew what He was doing when He gave us the visible to lead us to the invisible. We try to show this in our books, particularly Level 7, Book 1, Our Bodies Made Male and Female
From Our Bodies Made Male and Female. Graphic Design: Emily Gudde.
This sacramental view of reality permeates St. John Paul’s Theology of the Body which can guide our own lives—the natural helping us to see and encounter the supernatural.
So, the next time you eat bread and drink wine, let it be a reminder of your dependence on and trust in God the Father Who gives the greatest Gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Food unto eternal life.
Monica Ashour, President and Cofounder of Theology of the Body Evangelization Team.