Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

4/9/2013 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

"Our Father," we pray, "give us this day our daily bread." Wrapped up in that ordinary, jejune, quotidian word--daily--is the mystery of word mysteries.  This is how things are sometimes: the greatest mystery is directly in front of us, in our day-to-day lives, in the humdrum and the routine, and we fail even to see it or somehow we have allowed the wonder to run all out of it.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

4/9/2013 (1 year ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: epiousios, supersubstantialis, daily bread, Lord's Prayer, manna, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Continuing our series on the three sacred languages, Tres Linguae Sacrae, we will take a look a remarkable word firmly ensconced--yet for most of us hidden--in the Lord's Prayer, the Our Father.

"Our Father," we pray, "give us this day our daily bread."

The words, of course, come from the Gospels.

This is how it is found translated in the New American Bible:

"Gives us this day our daily bread."  (Matt. 6:11 NAB)

But wrapped up in that ordinary, jejune, quotidian word--daily--is the mystery of word mysteries.  This is how things are sometimes: the greatest mystery is directly in front of us, in our day-to-day lives, in the humdrum and the routine, and we fail even to see it or somehow we have allowed the wonder to run all out of it.

Here, the word "daily" is like a sacrament, very like the Eucharist itself: a humble and plain daily thing--bread--which both hides and reveals a deeper reality, a reality of grace, of mystery, of a supernatural reality hid-but-tied-by-a-knot-only-God-can-tie to a natural reality. 

In the Eucharist, the confected bread looks like "daily" bread, but a Catholic knows--with the certainty of Faith--that the underlying substance has changed and the reality hid by the accidental veil of plain bread is Jesus, body and soul and divinity, the entire Jesus. 

By the Lord's design, the presence of bread veils the gracious reality of God himself.  Something not "daily," but something "supersubstantial" has taken place.

This is how the word "daily" in the Lord's prayer be thought.  It is both mundane and heavenly, earthly and ethereal, natural and supernatural.

In the Lord's Prayer, the word "daily" is an accurate enough translation of the common Latin form of the prayer, which is derived from the oldest Latin translation (the Vetus Latina) which predated St. Jerome's Vulgate:

Pater noster . . . . panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie.

Quotidianum means "daily."

But that's not the end of the story. 

If one goes beneath the Latin and looks at the original Greek text in Matthew 6:11 or Luke 11:3, one discovers something remarkable.  It is here--covered up under veil of translation--that we find this mysterious, marvelous, even sacred word.

Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον.

If you peer under the veil of the English word "daily," you will find this wondrous nugget of a word: ἐπιούσιον, or, transliterated, epiousion.

The word epiousion, an adjective modifying the word bread (ἄρτον = arton), is the accusative form of the adjective epiousios.  It is the only adjective in the entirety of the Lord's Prayer, suggesting a special or unique importance.

The mystery in the word epiousios is that it is a unique word, found only in Scriptures, and dubiously in one other text, a 5th century Egyptian papyrus (the Sayce transcription of the Hawara papyrus, an accounting entry, which has since been lost and which isn't particularly helpful). 

For all practical purposes, the word epiousios is therefore what we call a hapax legomenon, an invented word that fills a unique need.  Very alike another word-the word used for Mary, kecharitomene, which we addressed in another article in this series.

Origen (d. ca. 254), a Father of the Church whom Pope Benedict XVI called a "one of the great masters of the Greek language," mentions the unique word in his book On Prayer.  Origen says that the word is mentioned nowhere by any Greek writer, whether in common usage or in philosophy.  This word, he is convinced, was "formed by the evangelists" perhaps to translate the original Aramaic or perhaps Hebrew word Jesus used to teach his disciples and which has now been lost.

The great Tuscan medieval poet Dante apparently speculated that Jesus used the word "manna," the bread that came down from heaven by the mercy of God to assuage the hunger of his chosen people, since in his Purgatorio (Canto 11) he refers to this part of the Lord's Prayer as follows:

Dà oggi a noi la cotidiana manna.
Give us today, our daily manna.


In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI discusses this remarkable word epiousios.   He says that our efforts to understand the meaning of the word epiousios hhave to "depend on etymologies" of the Greek word, "and the study of the context," and the understanding of the Church's tradition.

But, as Benedict XVI himself acknowledges, the etymology is not clear.  The word might be formed by combining the two Greek words: epi (over, above, beyond, "super") and ousia (substance).  An alternative explanation is that it is formed by combining the two Greek words epi (near) and iousa (day).

According to Pope Benedict XVI, based upon etymological studies two principal interpretations of the word epiousios exist. 

The first is that the word means "necessary for existence."  Origen defines it as "needful," suggesting that we are praying for all or bodily and spiritual needs in this part of the Lord's Prayer.  "On this reading," Pope Benedict XVI says, "the petition would run as follows: Give us today the bread that we need in order to live."  Of course, if we see ourselves as creatures with body and soul, it means things needful for life here on earth and the future life in heaven.

The second interpretation suggests that what is meant is "bread for the future," that is bread "for the following day."  But as Pope Benedict XVI, this does not seem correct if applied to temporal things.  Jesus expressly told his apostles not to fear or be anxious about the future. (Luke 12:22-26; Matt. 6:25-34) 

If it does mean "bread for the future," Pope Benedict XVI suggests that it is pointing to the "bread that really does belong to the future: the true manna of God," "the eternal Word of God," who "will be our bread, the food of the eternal wedding banquet."  Under this vantage point, it is a "petition for an anticipation of the world to come, asking the Lord to give already 'today' the future bread, the bread of the new world-Himself." 

This is an indirect reference, then, to the Bread of the Future--Jesus, the "Bread of Life"--who is with us now under the veil of "daily bread," the Eucharist.  The Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict observes, "were practically unanimous" in understanding the word epiousios to stand "as a Eucharistic petition." 

"In this sense," Benedict XVI wrote, the Our Father in the context of the Mass is "a Eucharistic table-prayer."  It is a form of thanksgiving-"grace" before sharing in the sacred and sacrificial meal.  Therefore, though prayed daily by the faithful in their daily, private lives, it is also properly placed in the context of the liturgy, the public service of the people of God to God.

St. Jerome, who translated the Latin Vulgate from the Greek, seems to have despaired, and so he translated the epiousios of Luke 6:11 as quotidianum--daily, and the epiousios in Matthew 6:11 as supersubstantialem--supersubstantial.

The Douay Rheims translation--which slavishly and reliably followed the Latin Vulgate--therefore renders Matthew 6:11 as:  Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

Benedict XVI observes that St. Jerome's translation is legitimate, and thereby points "to the new, higher 'substance' that the Lord gives us in the Holy Sacrament as the true bread of life."

This word epiousios which we veil by translating it with the English word "daily" is "meaning-full," especially when conjoined to Biblical notion of manna, the bread that came down from heaven to feed the wandering Jews on the way to their Promised Land.  Or when related to Jesus' temptation where he observes that man does not live by "bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3).  Or when understood within Jesus' miracles involving the multiplication of loaves and calling himself the "bread of life" and promises the Eucharist.  Or when understood within the context of the Last Supper, or the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross to which the Last Supper is intimately tied.  Or if looked upon as the seal of our future life where we move from being hid in Christ in God and seeing God darkly, to seeing God face to face.

"Are we to suppose that Jesus excluded from the petition for bread everything that He tells us about bread and everything that He wants to give us as bread?" Benedict XVI asked.  "When we consider Jesus' message in its entirety, then it is impossible to expunge the Eucharistic dimension from the fourth petition of the Our Father."

"True," the now emeritus Pope continues, "the earthly nitty-gritty of the petition for daily bread for everyone is essential.  But this petition also helps us to transcend the purely material and to request already now what is to come "tomorrow", the new bread.  And when we pray for 'tomorrow's' bread today, we are reminded to live already today from tomorrow, from the love of God, which calls us all to be responsible for one another."

St. Augustine seems to have taken Benedict XVI's broad approach and adopted the normal Catholic synthetic formula: both/and.  In a Sermon to the newly baptized (infantes) (No. 227), he said: "You should realize that you have received what you will receive in the future, what you ought to receive daily."  Deftly, St. Augustine combined the physical, with the Eucharistic, with the eschatological or the future coming of Christ which we all await.

So what does this word epiousios then mean?  Does it have one meaning?  If it does, we despair to find it.

Or, because one meaning cannot be determined are we to despair that it even has any meaning?

Scott Hahn neatly resolves the issue in discussing this question.  "Tradition," he says, "leaves us with a solution," as to all the multiple meanings of the word.  "It's all true."

That's the approach of the Catholic Catechism (§ 2837), which brings all meanings together:

"'Daily' (epiousios) occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. Taken in a temporal sense, this word is a pedagogical repetition of 'this day,' to confirm us in trust 'without reservation.'  Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence. Taken literally (epi-ousios: 'super-essential'), it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the 'medicine of immortality,' without which we have no life within us.  Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: 'this day' is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come. For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day."

The many-but-yet-related meanings of the word epiousios are part of the riches, the patrimony, of the Church founded by the Lord Jesus, our "daily" and "supersubstantial" "Bread of Life."  And its all hidden in a veil, the word "daily" which hides that mystery of word mysteries, the word epiousios.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

5 Disney movies you never knew had hidden religious messages Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disney movies are a well-known and well-loved part of most people's childhood. These stories talk and teach us things, like believing in ourselves and follow our dreams. Recently, the stories inspire courage and kindness, as well as forms of "true love." But viewers ... continue reading


5 excellent tips on how to read the Bible Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Bible is one of the most popular published books ever written in the history of life, but also one of the hardest to read and understand. Unlike most books published today, the Bible contains a lot of statements that are full of dates, metaphors and written to ... continue reading


Unholy political positions in the Holy Land Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

As the minds and hearts of Christians throughout the world focus on the suffering, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus, we naturally think of the Holy Land. Throughout much of history, in the land where the world's savior taught human beings to love one another as ... continue reading


200 Christian teachers denied day off for Good Friday Watch

Image of The 2014-2015 school years are the first time in recent memory that officials scheduled classes during both Good Friday and the Jewish holidays.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Rhode Island school district is being sued over the claim that 200 Christian teachers were denied requests to take Good Friday off from work. The teacher's union claims that the decision denies educators the two religious days that they are afforded in their ... continue reading


For the first time in over 150 years -- Blood of St. Januarius liquefies during Francis' visit to Naples Watch

Image of According to legend, Januarius was allegedly born in Benevento to a rich patrician family that traced its descent to the Caudini tribe of the Samnites.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the first time in over 150 years, the blood of St. Januarius liquefied in the presence of a pope this past weekend. The phenomenon occurred when Pope Francis visited Naples this past weekend. It was the first time the blood liquefied in the presence of a ... continue reading


Church to Canonize Mom and Dad of St Therese, Show the Holiness of Christian Marriage Watch

Image of Pictured: Louis and Zelie Martin, the Mom and Dad of St Therese
For those called to live their Christian life in a consecrated Christian marriage, it is in the domestic church where progress in the spiritual life finds its raw material. The question we face every day becomes whether we live Christian marriage and family as a Christian vocation by responding to grace.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Louis and Zelie married in France in 1858. They had nine children. Five entered a consecrated or religious life in the Church. We have 218 letters which were written by Zelie.  They record the naturally supernatural pattern of a very real, human and devout ... continue reading


Drinking the Chalice of the Lord: Facing Suffering, Struggle and Failure Watch

Image of All of those who bear the name Christian are invited to follow the path of Jesus' struggle, to walk along with Him on the way of His rejection. We too are invited to climb the mountain of His great saving act of unmerited selfless Divine love. Golgotha beckons.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

James was the son of Zebedee and brother of John. From faithful stock, we see in this encounter that some forms of zeal may indeed be genetic. In fact, the zeal in both of these brothers caused the Lord to name them the Sons of Thunder.(Mk 3:14-17) However, human ... continue reading


7 endangering myths Christians believe about other Christians Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Disheartening isn't it? But it has been observed that Christians are divided among themselves. This is not what God wanted, as expressed by the writings in the Scriptures. However, there are some issues between the believers that makes them not united as they should ... continue reading


Josephs Way: Joseph, Husband of Mary, Model for Christian Men Watch

Image of The Dream of Joseph led to the response of a life given over to God

By Deacon Keith Fournier

In an age that has lost its way, because it has succumbed to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure, Joseph needs to be lifted up as a model for men who truly want to follow Jesus Christ. It is time for Christian men to follow his example, and become men again. ... continue reading


Pope tells Nigeria's bishops to form united front against terror group Boko Haram Watch

Image of In addition to addressing various issues, the Pope praised Nigeria, with a population of more than 170 million people, and has experienced strong economic growth.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As the emerging African economic powerhouse of Nigeria takes to the polls, Pope Francis, in a stirring message, has urged the country's bishops to build a united front against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Pope Francis' comments came in a letter to the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 42:1-7
1 Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14
1 [Of David] Yahweh is my light and my salvation, ... Read More

Gospel, John 12:1-11
1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus went to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for March 30th, 2015 Image

St. Peter Regulatus
March 30: Also Peter Regalado, Franciscan reformer. Peter was born at ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter