The Artos Bread: an Experience of God’s Presence

Fr. Gabriel Bilas | 11 May 2021

Christ is Risen!  Can there be any doubt of that reality?!  How incredible of a feeling it was to celebrate the Resurrection once again with a vast majority of our parish family!  The paschal feeling, the special electricity in the air, the beautiful weather we were blessed with for just that one special day… It was all just PERFECT!

Pascha isn’t just another Holy day it is an experience.  It brings about in all of a special change, that can only be brought on when God rises from the dead!

We read in the post crucifixion accounts of the Gospels of what happens to people after they experienced and came into the presence of the Risen Lord.  Before Jesus made his appearance after His crucifixion St. Mary Magdalene was filled with grief and doubt that her master was dead.

Traveling on the road to Emmaus, two men were in complete despair as they were lamenting how the great deliverer had been arrested, tortured, and crucified.

In the Gospel for St. Thomas Sunday, we hear how the Disciples, our Lord’s most ardent followers, hid themselves in the upper room out of sadness and fear of the Jews.  They thought to themselves…if the Jews were capable of doing these things to the master, imagine what kind of horrors they would inflict to His servants!

Yet what do we see happen to all of these men and women after they come to experience the Risen Christ and His presence among them?  His presence transformed our weeping patroness St. Mary Magdalene into a disciple with unbounded joy, which eventually led her to shed all fear in life and proclaim the Risen Christ in the audience of Caesar Tiberias Himself!

Christ’s Risen presence transformed the hearts of the two travelers on the road to Emmaus.  After not recognizing that it was Jesus who had appeared and spoke to them, they asked themselves: “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the scripture to us?

Look what His presence did to the Disciples who were locked in and afraid to open the door!  They went from broken and disheartened, to strong, confident, and bold lions of faith!  Even after our Lord ascended into heaven, the disciples sang, rejoiced, healed, and taught the masses, and they did it not just for a few days after the resurrection, but for the rest of their lives!  All of them (except one) joyfully went to their martyrdom, proclaiming this reality!  Why?  Because the presence, the experience, and the power of the Risen Lord would live through them for eternity.

 Every year, we bless this large loaf of bread called the “Artos” towards the end of the Paschal Liturgy.  It remains in the Church itself until after Bright Week, when we take it, break it amongst ourselves, and are reminded of the sweetness of Pascha once again.  This tradition came about from the Apostles themselves, who after our Lord ascended into heaven would always leave a plate at the end of the table during their common meals.  On the plate would be a piece of bread, reminding them of Christ’s Presence among them!

The Fathers of the Church carried on this tradition, and on the feast of feasts of Pascha, the Church made it the custom to put out this sweet bread to remind us all that the Lord who suffered, was buried, and rose again.  We are reminded that Jesus is Himself the True Bread of Life and is always invisibly present with His Church, even to the end of the age! (as He promised!)

When we greet each other at the cross…what are we reminded of in those instances:  “Christ is in our midst” and we exclaim:  “He is and always will be!”   Letting that reality sink into our minds and our hearts, changes everything for us!

“The Lord is my light and my salvation…whom shall I fear?”  Nothing!  Because the God of all Loves Us, died For Us, rose on the third day for us…that same God continues to be with us throughout all eternity!

Christ is Risen!  Indeed He is Risen!

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