The Eucharistic Martyrs

Yesterday was my first Men’s Group with our new priest, Fr. Kelly, and I’ve got to say I’m pretty thrilled.  We were talking about the upcoming readings for this Sunday, and he drew a parallel which ties in perfectly to the last post on St. Ignatius. 

In this Sunday’s Second Reading, 2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18, St. Paul begins, “I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand,” a sentiment very similar to the one he expresses in Philippians 2:17.  Fr. Kelly noted that this is extremely Eucharistic: the libation is the wine which is poured as a sacrificial offering.  In Exodus 29:38-41, for example, the Israelites were to pour a quarter of a hin (about 2 liters, or a half-gallon) of wine onto the sacrifical lamb as part of the consecration of priests.  It’s no stretch to say that this prefigures the Eucharist.  This is best seen in the consecration Jesus performs in Mark 14:24 at the Last Supper, where He says, “This is My Blood of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many.”  He’s at the Last Supper, fulfilling in His very Person the Paschal Lamb, and then He shows that He’s also fulfilling the pouring of the wine through the shedding of His Blood.  He “poured out His life,” as God foretold He would in Isaiah 53:12.  So Paul’s viewing himself as on the verge of being poured out as a sacrificial offerring for Christ, like the wine of the Old Testament and the Blood of Christ.

Fr. Kelley then connected this with St. Ignatius of Antioch, who said in his letter to the Romans (which we were looking at yesterday), “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.” These are some of the most beautiful, and most Eucharistic, things I’ve ever heard.   Paul’s mere blood, like the wine of old, is of no real value of itself; likewise, Ignatius’ body, like the wheat of old, is of no real value of itself.  But in offering these things up to God, becoming a libation, or God’s wheat, you unite your sacrifice to Christ’s, and just as the mere wheat and wine at Communion become the Body and Blood of Christ, in offerring up their own bodies and blood in martyrdom, these two saints shared in the divine nature of Christ as well.

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