WE RECEIVE WHAT ISAIAH ONLY “SAW”
For much of the season of Advent, the first readings at both our Sunday Masses and daily Masses are taken from
the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The reason for this is that there is no other book in the Old Testament that speaks
as frequently or in as much detail about the coming of the Messiah as Isaiah. The following is a very typical example of the sorts of Messianic prophesies that the Church gives us to reflect upon during this Advent season.
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces… (Isaiah 25:68)
Several aspects of this passage leap out at me as I reflect upon it. The first item of note is that God here is not
merely feeding and giving drink sufficient for sustenance, but providing “juicy, rich food” and “pure, choice
wines.” There is a superabundance and extravagance to this feast. Secondly, such an incredibly rich and expensive feast would be one that we might presume was only for the very few; the very rich. But that is not the case. It
is a feast that God provides “for all peoples.”
When reflecting on the latter portion of the passage, we are given another promise: the Lord will destroy the web,
the veil, that hangs over all peoples; namely death. And in destroying death, He also destroys the sorrow and
tears we all know too well when we experience the deaths of those near to us in this lifetime.
So we have two major themes that emerge: a banquet of incredible superabundance intended for all, and the
promise that our sorrows, our tears, indeed even death itself, will be destroyed forever.
What Isaiah “saw” only in prophecy, we see with our own eyes today. For these two themes are united in reality
at every single celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For the Holy Eucharist we receive is indeed the
greatest banquet ever known to man, for we are fed not with earthly food (no matter how “juicy,” “rich,” or
“choice”) but on something far greater, the very Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus. And it is by the merits of the
sacrifice that lies at the origin of the Eucharist that Christ our Lord, once and for all, broke the chains of death
and opened the way for us to everlasting life. So the Eucharist truly is the “Bread of eternal life,” as Jesus Himself taught.
I am the living bread come down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread
which I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51).
And where does Isaiah say all of this takes place? On the mountain of the Lord of hosts. So when we link together this prophecy and its fulfillment, we come to see that the “mountain of the Lord of hosts” is not some rocky
peak in a far distant part of the world. Rather, it is the stone of the altar present in our church. This is the
“mountain” to which we are called, the “mountain” from which we are fed, and the “mountain” which holds out
to us the promise of eternal life. Christ took flesh in womb of the Virgin Mary, was born in Bethlehem, went
about His ministry, suffered through His Passion and Death, and rose triumphant on the third day all to make
possible this invitation, this “call” to us to come to this mountain.
As Advent begins to wind down and we draw ever closer to the great celebration of Christmas, there is no better
way we can prepare to encounter our Savior anew than to encounter Him as often, and as deeply, as possible in
the great gift of the sacred banquet He provides for us at every Mass.
Fr. John Paul