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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward an STL in sacred liturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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Why do we never sing “De Spiritu Sancto” (St. Athenogenes) in our churches? There are a dozen translations in English verse. Where could anyone find a better evening hymn than this, coming right down from the catacombs? Our hymnbooks know nothing of such a treasure as this, and give us pages of poor sentiment in doggerel lines by some tenth-rate modern versifier.
— Rev’d Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

Eating from Above
published 22 August 2012 by Fr. David Friel

I was talking to a group of high school students the other day, and I could tell how excited they were to go back to school . . . not at all! Some of them were talking about having biology this year, which reminded me of when I had biology class in freshman year.

I loved the class, partially because Mr. Franchella was an awesome teacher and partially because of the anticipation of the fourth quarter. My buddies and I spent the whole first three quarters anxiously awaiting the fourth quarter and the exciting opportunity to dissect a frog.

I guess I learned a thing or two in the first three quarters, too. One thing, in particular, that I remember is this fact: every organism needs to obtain energy in order to live.
• So grass, for instance, gets its energy through photosynthesis.
• Then, some animals, like grasshoppers, eat the grass.
• Then rats get their energy by eating grasshoppers.
• And then snakes eat the rats.
• And then, finally, hawks eat the snakes.
I think we called that a “food chain” when we were in bio class. Creatures higher on the food chain get their energy by consuming those lower on the chain.

We, as humans, are organisms, so we need to get our energy from somewhere. To some degree, we accomplish that through eating various minerals, plants, and animals. But, there is something unique about us as humans. Whereas eating meat and vegetables is sufficient for many other animals, that kind of eating is never really sufficient for mankind. If we humans only ever eat that which falls below us on the food chain, we may be physically fed, but we’ll still be malnourished.

Humans—and humans alone—are given the great privilege of consuming not only that which falls below us on the food chain, but also that which sits above us on the food chain. We are given, namely, the gift of the Eucharist. We can eat cows & pigs & chickens & turkeys & carrots & potatoes all we want. But we will never be satisfied if we do not eat “the Bread that came down from heaven.”

The Lord says so much, Himself: “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you do not have Life within you.” The Lord gives us the antidote to all our hunger, for “[His] Flesh is true food, and [His] Blood is true drink.” The Eucharist is not a symbol, nor is it a metaphor. It truly is the sacred Body and precious Blood of Jesus. Jesus says to us, “Just as . . . I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have Life because of Me.”

As I learned in biology class, every organism needs to get its energy from somewhere. If we are to be filled with true energy—with Life, Itself—we must eat not only from below, but from above. God lowers Himself to become our very Food. May we find our deepest nourishment and our highest energy in the unfathomable gift of the Eucharist!