Sometimes the beauty and mystery of a biblical verse cannot be captured in translation. For example, scholars, saints, and doctors of the Church have been perplexed with how to translate the verse “Give us this day our daily bread.” The Greek word being translated as “daily” is epiousious. A word that appears only in this verse of the Gospel and nowhere else. Since the time of the early Church Fathers, agreement as to what the word epiousious means has not been reached.
Literally, epiousious is taken to mean “supersubstantial” or “super essential,” that which sustains all life – the Bread of Life – the “medicine of immortality.” Other acceptable translations are (in the temporal sense) “this day” or (in the qualitative sense) “what is necessary for life” (CCC 2837). Each is appropriate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church concludes “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 Eucharist liturgy to be celebrated each day.”
For me, the mystery of the word epiousious and the verse “Give us this day our daily bread” is expressed beautifully during the mass when the priest intones, after transforming ordinary bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, “The mystery of faith.” These words cause me to pause. What a truly beautiful mystery is our faith, and the Bread of Life that sustains us.