In John 1:14, the word “The Word was made flesh” almost always translates as: “and dwelt among us,” or some other reference to “dwelling.” Some Bible translations interpret the Greek directly as “and He tabernacled (or tented) among us;” and others translate the Latin “habitavit in nobis” as “He lived with us.” This article will outline how we receive Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist and house His living presence. Evidence from John’s Gospel and Sacred Tradition will be used to focus on the various aspects of this indwelling presence of God.
Greek “En” and Latin “In”
The original Greek and the Latin Vulgate translation of the Greek have the preposition “in” – which is translated as “among.” One must go pretty far down the listings for “in” (“en” in Greek; “in” in Latin) in the dictionaries to get to the uncommon translation of “among” for this preposition “in.” For both languages, the most common translation is our word “in.” It may be that when this preposition is used with a word such as “tabernacled” or “dwelt” that a good translation is “among. ” However, thinking in terms of the translation “in” provides interesting ideas and insights, especially in view of the Bread-of-Life discourse that is only in the Gospel of John, Jn 6:25-71.
The Mystery of Jesus In Us
Through the sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus is literally in us when we receive Him. He is alive in us – He is really present, living within our bodies. Each person receiving becomes one with Him, in a unique union. Trying to think about this gets one to the level of mystery quickly. Despite our mysterious union with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament God still graces us with the gifts of comfort and peace.
According to John 6:51, Jesus definitely told us that truly, and literally, He will be in us, and we will be in Him: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” The natural consequence of this fact is that with Jesus in us, we cannot die. Jesus told the crowd in John 6:53-58,
Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.
The Mystery of Jesus In Us All
If one considers everyone who also receives/received Holy Communion, the mystery deepens. The Church aptly calls this communal mystery the “Mystical Body of Christ”. We are – mysteriously – united not only with Jesus but with all in whom He lives. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1331 mentions, “By this sacrament, we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us shares in his Body and Blood to form a single body,” citing 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
Although we cannot fully understand the mystery, we still seek with faith as our guide the “evidence for things not seen.” As is always true, the insights of St. Augustine go a long way to helping us accept this most profound mystery: Jesus living in us, we living in Jesus. St. Augustine declared in Sermon 272, On The Nature Of The Sacrament Of The Eucharist,
For what you see is simply bread and a cup – this is the information your eyes report. But your faith demands far subtler insight: the bread is Christ’s body, the cup is Christ’s blood. Faith can grasp the fundamentals quickly, succinctly, yet it hungers for a fuller account of the matter. As the prophet says, “Unless you believe, you will not understand.” [Is. 7.9] So you can say to me, “You urged us to believe; now explain, so we can understand.” Inside each of you, thoughts like these are rising: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, we know the source of his flesh; he took it from the virgin Mary. Like any infant, he was nursed and nourished; he grew; became a youngster; suffered persecution from his own people. To the wood he was nailed; on the wood he died; from the wood, his body was taken down and buried. On the third day (as he willed) he rose; he ascended bodily into heaven whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. There he dwells even now, seated at God’s right. So how can bread be his body? And what about the cup? How can it (or what it contains) be his blood?” . . . listen to the Apostle Paul speaking to the faithful:
“You are the body of Christ, member for member.” [1 Cor. 12.27] If you, therefore, are Christ’s body and members, it is your own mystery that is placed on the Lord’s table! It is your own mystery that you are receiving! You are saying “Amen” to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear “The body of Christ”, you reply “Amen.” Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your “Amen” may ring true!
Each In Whom He Lives – Theotokos
Visiting the weight of Tradition, in the form of an ecumenical council, may deepen our understanding of our mystical union with Christ in the Eucharist. The third Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in 431 A.D. upheld the truth of Mary being the Mother of God. The title Theotokos, translated as God-bearer, was applied to describe Mary’s maternity to the divine Son of God. Heretics at the council, Nestorians, opposed to calling Mary Theotokos. Instead, they proposed that she should be called Christotokos which meant “Birth-giver to Christ.” Denying to Mary the role of Mother of God these heretics reduced her to being a mother to only “Christ’s humanity.” The council rejected this as an attempt to divide Jesus into two separate persons. Mary was and is the Mother of Jesus completely, in his totality as the God-man.
The Totality of His Gifting Us Living In Us
Part of the mystery of the Eucharist is that we receive Jesus totally, as Mary carried Him within her totally. Words like “body, blood, soul, divinity” are used in an attempt to convey this completeness. St. John Chrysostom used the analogy of two drops of wax coalescing together to teach about how Jesus lives in us and we live in Him. Others have used the analogy of one small cloud flowing into and becoming part of a larger cloud. Perhaps this analogy works better if the large cloud is a huge thunderhead emitting multiple lightning bolts while a booming voice says “I am God, and you are not, but you can freely choose to live in Me. Come on in.”
Ultimately, all analogies fail to fully convey the absolute gift Jesus gives us, the completeness of His generosity, and the totality of His being in us when we receive Holy Communion. If indeed Jesus is in us, living in us as He did in Mary, in a very real sense, we can each freely choose to become a Theotokos, a God-bearer; and like Mary, in our own living, we can bring Jesus to the whole world.