“Ma-daddy,” my daughter said. “Ma-daddy.” I was trying to teach my daughter the Lord’s Prayer, but we were stuck at “give us this day our daily bread.” Lucy, my daughter, kept tugging at my sleeve. “Dad-dy, why day-day?” After trying to ignore the interruption the first dozen or so times, I finally stopped to listen. “Day-day? What’s ‘day-day’?”
“Day-day bread,” Lucy answered. Her eyes and nostrils were flaring in exasperation. It took me some time to realize it, but it was God, through my child, that was truly asking the question.
There is something odd about the “Our Father.” We pray "give us this day our daily bread" in the Lord’s Prayer. Do you remember seventh grade English class and diagramming sentences? Something should stand out about that sentence. It's redundant. Why do we say both "day" and "daily"? As my daughter would say, why “day-day bread”?
It's actually not redundant at all. It's just a poor translation of Jesus' words - a poor translation that masks one of the greatest mysteries and miracles of human history: the Eucharist.
So, wait, does that mean that, every time a Christian prays the Lord’s Prayer, Catholic and Protestant alike, they are asking for the Eucharist? YES.
The word "daily" in "give us this day our daily bread" is the Greek word epiousios. In a certain sense, it's a difficult word to translate because it's a brand new word. Before Christ, nobody had used this word. This word is found no where else in Greek literature. Jesus actually coined this word. Perhaps he did so to give this petition special significance.
Apart from being a new word, epiousios is not that hard to translate. If we break it up into its components, we get epi and ousios. We see "epi" quite a lot as a prefix. Think of "epicenter", the point on the earth's surface above the focus of an earthquake, or "epithelium", the outermost layer of the skin. "Epi" means highest, above, or superior. As a prefix, this gives us "super-". Next we have the word "ousios," which means essence, substance, or nature.
So what words do these components make when put together? "Super-substance," "Super-nature," or "Super-essence", which gives us "supersubstantial," "superessential," or "supernatural."
"Give us this day our supernatural bread." That's what Jesus really said when he told us how to pray the "Our Father", the perfect prayer. Jesus wanted us to remember that He wasn't giving us ordinary bread or a mere symbol, but the Eucharist. This super-essential bread is nothing less than the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus -- Jesus' entire "essence" and "substance" and "nature".
You might be asking yourself, why didn't any of the translators of the Bible catch this? Why did they all translate epiousios as "daily"? They didn't. See, for example, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2837. This is how St. Jerome, whom the Church calls the greatest of all the Doctors of the Church, translated epiousios.
Working in the Fourth Century A.D., St. Jerome translated the Bible from Greek into Latin, creating the Vulgate Bible. St. Jerome translated epiousios as "supersubstantial." What's also interesting is where St. Jerome was working: Bethlehem, the birthplace of Christ. Do you know what "Bethlehem" means in Hebrew? "House of bread".
Isn't that amazing? St. Jerome was working in the "House of bread," the place where Jesus, the "bread of heaven," was born and placed in a "manger", which translates as "to eat"!
There is SO much more that could be said of this heavenly reality. "Supersubstantial" or "supernatural" bread is also a reference to the greatest miracle of Moses: the Manna. The manna fed the Israelites for forty years in the desert, cf. Exodus 16. It is the original bread from heaven which came to earth every morning, except on the Sabbath. It formed on the ground like dew. Does that sound familiar? The bread came down "like the dewfall". These words are uttered by the priest at the epiclesis, the consecration of the bread, when the work of the Holy Spirit makes the bread supernatural.
There's more, too. What comes after "give us this day our supernatural bread"? The second petition, right after that, is "forgive us our trespasses" or "forgive us our sins." Why? Might this "supernatural bread" have something to do with the forgiveness of sins? Yes, of course! This is the ultimate mercy of God that He would give us His own flesh to eat in the appearance of bread.
Please bring these rich insights with you before the Blessed Sacrament. Oh, and if your child keeps tugging your sleeve asking about that “day-day bread”, you’ll know why. God bless!