Lamb of God, Bread of Life

I was struck in last Thursday’s post by the references in Exodus 16:8 and Ex. 16:12 tying the manna with the quail meat: “meat in the evening, bread in the morning.”  It struck me then, and still strikes me, as rather Eucharistic.  Then I started to think about the other places we see this.  Two stand out as obvious choices: Exodus 12:8, at the Passover, commanded the Jews to eat the lamb and the unleaven bread.  And in John 6:48-58, Jesus describes Himself as the Bread from Heaven, and then commands that His Flesh be eaten, calling it “true food”… only the food in this context isn’t bread, but meat.  There are other, perhaps less obvious, references as well.  1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed,” drawing the unleaven Bread and the Lamb together once more.  Mark 14:12 also notes the obvious parallels between the Passover Lamb and the Passover Feast of Unleaven Bread.  And strikingly, “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread” in Hebrew and “House of Meat” in Arabic, a pretty incredible clue as to the Eucharist subtly embedded into language. 

But on Sunday, I finally noticed one so obvious I’m a bit embarrassed it hadn’t struck me earlier: in the Mass itself, we proclaim this connection in the middle of the Eucharist: the Agnus Dei.  We pray, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world” three times, twice ending with “have mercy on us,” and the last time ending, “grant us peace.”  So we affirm that Jesus is Lamb precisely because it is as the Lamb of God that Jesus is Sacrificed; then we affirm Jesus as Bread of Life, because that’s what Communion acknowledges.  It’s two different roles of Christ, but interconnected: when the Christ is offered to God the Father in the Eucharist, it’s in rememberence of His role as Lamb, a role that continues eternally (Revelation 5:6), while the species of bread and wine are themselves recognition of the fact that Christ is the New Manna, the Bread of Life.

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