this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, and being gathered
together became one, so may Thy Church be gathered together from the
ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom. Remember, O Lord, Thy Church, to
deliver it from all evil and to perfect it in Thy love; and gather it
together from the four winds."
These words, my beloved
spiritual children in Christ, are found in the Didache . . . the
so-called "Teaching of the Lord to the Twelve Apostles." This early
second century Christian document is, in reality, a manual for church
life and practice. It gives us a window through which we can observe
the concerns of our ancient spiritual forebears. Clearly, in this
prayer, which would have been said during the early Christian Liturgy,
the theme is unity.
And just as clearly, the prosforo, or the bread of offering, is the
symbol of the Church itself. We all know that symbols of loaves and
fishes were often used by the early Christians to recognize one
another, while preserving their anonymity in the pagan world. But why
was bread such a powerful symbol for the growing Church? If you think
about how a prosforo is made, you will find the answer.
Kernels of wheat are gathered from many different fields. In the hands
of a skillful miller and baker, they are ground together -- the many
now becoming one. From the multitude of the kernels of wheat, one
perfect loaf is produced.
And so it is with the Church. Our Greek Orthodox family is many, many
people with diverse backgrounds. We have unique personalities,
individual needs and desires, but like the prosforo, we can become one
-- one Church -- one Body in, and of Christ. It is this potential that
our Lord speaks of in this morning’s Gospel passage.
Confronted with the inspiring faith of a supposedly pagan centurion,
the Lord marveled: "Truly I say to you, many will come from east and
west and sit at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of
This morning, in this glorious Liturgy, that prophecy is being
fulfilled. We have come to Orlando, like kernels of wheat from all
across our Holy Archdiocese -- from the east and west, the north and
south. We have each come in the truth of our diversity, and as
individuals, we will never be able to realize our unity in Christ. It
is only when the kernels of wheat are ground down, when they are mixed
with water and kneaded together then, the prosforo becomes possible.
My friends, the same is true for us. As long as we cling to our own
egoistic desires, our selfish will, and our pride, we will not
experience our unity in Christ as something real, and the true
satisfaction of being a Christian will always elude us.
Remember, the kernel of wheat cannot stand alone. It must become
capable of being mingled with others. It needs a millstone.
And that great millstone of the Church, which can take all of our
hardness of heart, our stiff-necked will, and our secret pride, and
grind it into perfect peace is none other than the Prince of Peace, the
Stone Whom the builders rejected, the Cornerstone and Foundation of the
Church, our Lord, God, and Saviour Jesus Christ.
He wants us to become part of Himself, of His Body, the Church. But He
knows that we are not able on our own. Our individualistic pride will
always hold us back. But if we are humbled. If we will just receive the
new heart that the God has promised through the Prophet Ezekiel -- that
new heart of flesh, which is slow to anger, and receptive to others in
genuine love. If we will, as we say over and over in the Divine
Liturgy, "bow our heads unto the Lord." This bowing of our heads must
become more than a mere outward formality. We must learn to bow our
pride, our arrogance, our puffed-up sense of importance. And notice
that I did not say our sense of self-worth. Our worthiness comes from
God Himself. Even if you were the only sinner who had ever lived, He
would have gone to the Cross and died for your sins. God’s love is our
most precious possession. It is our most valuable treasure. It makes us
richer than any gold or silver.
But it is only as we are ground down and made receptive to others, that
we are capable of becoming the Bread of the Church. Each of us here,
especially those of us who have lived a few decades, know that life’s
experiences have a way of fulfilling this process of humbling oneself.
Each of us has learned, sometimes through great personal difficulty,
that we are not what we thought ourselves to be. But this is good and
spiritually healthy, for God loves us even when we make mistakes. He
loves us just as we are. And He accepts us into His Church, not to
demand anything from us, but to offer us to become like He is. We can
become part of this reality one way or another. we can humble
ourselves, or let life do it for us. One way or another, we will become
like the ground wheat that is ready to kneaded into the prosforo that
becomes the Bread of Heaven.
And we are mingled together, not by our own action, but like the flour
that requires water to be mixed, we need the Holy Spirit to ‘come and
abide in us, and cleanse us from every impurity of thought, intention
and disposition.’ In the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Church comes
together, so that we might be kneaded by the hand of Christ to become
This morning, in this glorious Liturgy, we are being made into that
Divine prosforo. And just as the most simple loaf of prosforo cannot be
separated again into its basic elements of wheat and water, neither can
the Body of Christ be separated into individualism and
This morning, we are gathered from the four winds. Let us pray to the
Lord that He may always deliver us from evil. And let us pray that He
may perfect us in His love, and gather us together in His Kingdom,
which is from the ages to all ages. Amen.