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This is the Sunday of the Catechumens, meaning that we are exactly 2 weeks from the beginning of Great Lent, the period marked by a magnification of the spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The church has not laid down these disciplines meaninglessly, but has the salvation of our souls in mind. The disciplines are part of the overall process that leads us toward an inclination toward the holy life and the life in Christ. The church understands that this is not our natural inclination nor our will, but urges us through the mortification of the flesh to flee from our bondage of the worldly and cling to the spiritual, replacing natural desires with super essential ones. Jesus infers as much when He reminds His hearers that while the Jews ate the manna in the wilderness still died, those who eat the True Bread which comes down from Heaven, His True Body will live for eternal life, “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:33)
The catechumen are/were those who are novices in the faith, and are preparing for baptism. Historically, they were placed under a severe rule of discipline in order to become spiritually prepared for Baptism at Pascha or Easter. To this day, the church subjugates the faithful everywhere to the same austerity in order to subdue us and deprive us of our addiction to worldly appetites and distractions, in order to cleanse the soul and body in preparation of the illumination of Christ’s Resurrection.
A great example, and one of many from the church’s history, who achieved the life in Christ and holiness was an eminent father of the church, who was martyred for his faith.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, who himself was catechized at the feet of the Apostle John, wrote in his letter to the church of Rome, before his martyrdom, “I no longer take pleasure in perishable food nor in the delights of this world. I want only God’s bread, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, formed of the seed of David, and for drink I crave his blood, which is love that cannot perish.”
My question that I ask myself today and to you my dear faithful, is, Where does one find such faith and such complete dependence on Christ and on His precious Body today? Our Lord who came down from heaven and lives among us, invites us into a living communion with Him. Will I crave His Body over the bread of this world? Will I be quenched by His Blood instead of the worldly drink?
Fr. Shnork Souin