Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Heavenly Bread

One of my delights over several decades of biblical study has been discovering various themes which are developed throughout the Scriptures in a way that shows the unity of divine authorship and a progressively unfolding purpose (even though the Bible has numerous human authors spread over hundreds of years). Some of the most popular among Evangelicals are “lamb” or “blood” as well as “light” and “glory."

One that received some recognition is “bread.” I still remember a major class presentation by one of my grad schools profs on “the Bread of Life discourse” in John’s Gospel. Yet now, upon reflection, I am negatively impressed with what was not perceived in the unfolding biblical theme of “bread.”

This has been a dominant facet in my thoughts coming into this Christmas season because, for some reason, I’ve been moved by the ancient hymn cited in my previous post, especially the lines:

Lord of lords in human vesture in the body and the blood,

He will give to all the faithful His own self for heavenly food.

Also, I’ve recently been part of a small personal dialogue on the nature of Communion. This was a major catalyst in my decision to move beyond my previous ecclesial community into the fullness of the Church –– the Eucharist is so central in the life of the historical Church that I am compelled to give my personal honor and obedience.

Bread of Heaven is a worthy theme for an extended sermon. Certainly it would develop the implications of what God did for Israel in the desert with the manna. A significant part of this is the matter (physicality) and the miraculous (there’s a third point I’ll save for the intended sermon).

My point for now is that it seems quite obvious that what God did for Israel as such a significant expression of His presence and purpose would have an even greater fulfillment in the New Covenant. And isn’t that what we have in the Eucharist? There is still real “matter” with Christ taking bread and telling his disciples to “do this” (Christianity is incarnational through and through). And again, for years I wondered where the ongoing demonstration of the miraculous was in the Christian community (and yes, I do recognize the “miracle” of changed lives, but that is personal not cultic; for Christianity to be the fulfillment of the Old Covenant, there needs to be more than individualistic expression).

In every Catholic Church, whenever the priest effects the Epiclesis, a miracle happens: ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood –– the very physical Presence –– of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just as the Israelites received the food that would sustain them in the desert, our Lord gives Himself as heavenly bread to sustain us in this wilderness of sin until He brings us into the Promised Land of His Kingdom.

1 comment:

truthfinder said...

What you are describing is what led me to the Catholic Church. And yes, some of the theology in the best of the old hymns influenced me as well. Thank you for re-enabling comments!

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