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.

Article 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'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for April 2014
Ecology and Justice:
That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick: That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.



Comments


More Living Faith

John's Paul II's Doctor: I don't know how he survived the shooting Watch

Image of Pope John Paul II miraculously recovered from assassination attempt. After his recovery, he forgave his would-be killer, visiting him in prison.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The doctor to Bl. Pope John Paul II has explained that he doesn't know how the assassin's bullet intended to kill him did not do so. He also talked about the Holy Father in his last days, as he worked amid failing health. "I don't know how he survived the shooting," ... continue reading


Pope Francis calls for your 'prayer and action' to end global hunger Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis helped launch a worldwide movement to end hunger through prayer and action. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Catholic Online with Your Catholic Voice Foundation is participating, along vwith Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and the ... continue reading


Coptic priest added as Pope Francis' second personal secretary Watch

Image of Some say that the appointment of a Coptic Catholic priest is a sign of  Pope Francis' commitment to dialogue with the Arab and Muslim world.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Coptic Catholic priest Yoannis Lahzi Gaid has been personally chosen by Pope Francis as his second personal secretary. Lahzi Gaid is currently working in the first section of the Vatican Secretariat of State and is also one of the "translators" who reads the ... continue reading


From an Ancient Easter Homily: Jesus Christ, the Source of Resurrection and Life Watch

Image of

By An Ancient Anonymous Preacher

Thus the passion of our Savior is the salvation of mankind. The reason why he desired to die for us was that he wanted us who believe in him to live for ever. In the fullness of time it was his will to become what we are, so that we might inherit the eternity he ... continue reading


TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: Pope Francis delivers powerful Easter message Watch

Image of Pope Francis enters with his candle symbolizing the light of Christ.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis urged Catholics to share their faith "to the ends of the Earth" during a baptism ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica. The solemn ceremony reminds us that we are called to serve amid the joy of the resurrection. The most enduring call of Christ is for us to ... continue reading


Rome already crushed with pilgrims for historic canonization of Pope John Paul II and John XXIII Watch

Image of Hundreds of thousands packed into Rome for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. This time, the numbers will be far greater.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Rome is well-packed with throngs of pilgrims who have begun a week's long vigil awaiting the most historic canonization in world history. Next Sunday, Popes John Paul II and John XXIII will be canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict and Pope Francis. ROME, ITALY (Catholic ... continue reading


BREAKING THE RULES or IS HE? Pope Francis washes women's feet and those of undetermined religion Watch

Image of This year, Francis arrived at a center for the disabled and elderly in Rome. Francis kneeled down, washed, dried and kissed the feet of a dozen people, some in wheelchairs, other with grossly swollen and disfigured feet.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has shown little regard for rules in regards to his papacy. The latest controversy now surrounds his washing the feet of 12 disabled and elderly people, some of who were women and non-Catholics. The pre-Easter ritual, Pope Francis is designed to show ... continue reading


'Priestly joy is a priceless treasure,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of The pope, presiding over the first of two Holy Thursday liturgies, blessed the oils that will be used in the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

If a priest wants to overcome moments of sadness, exhaustion and boredom, in addition to discovering his true identity, he must head for the exit sign, going outside himself to be with God and his people, Pope Francis said during the Chrism Mass at St. Peter's ... continue reading


Who's ready for the most historic canonization in modern history?

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Are you ready for the canonization of Pope John Paul II? Vatican officials are busy preparing for the historic canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. As they prepare, it's time for use to get ready as well. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - on April 27, a ... continue reading


Pope Francis encourages people to kiss crucifix and recite simple prayer Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is encouraging people this holy week to pick up a crucifix, kiss it and recite the simple prayer: "Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Lord." He wishes to remind others that Christ's passion "isn't the happy ending of a beautiful fairytale, it isn't 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, Acts 3:1-10
1 Once, when Peter and John were going up to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh, call on his name, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:13-35
13 Now that very same day, two of them were on their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 23rd, 2014 Image

St. George
April 23: Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to ... 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