TUESDAY AFTER TRINITY SUNDAY
OF THE MANNA AND THE BREAD OF ELIAS
Consider first, that the manna with which God fed the children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness, from their going out of Egypt till their entering into the land of promise, was another prophetic emblem of the true bread of heaven which we receive in the blessed Eucharist. ‘He commanded the clouds from above and opened the doors of heaven,’ says the Psalmist, lxxviii. 23-25. ‘And he rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them the bread of heaven; man did eat the bread of angels.’ And yet this miraculous food, formed by angels and sent down from the clouds, and therefore called the bread of heaven and the bread of angels, was but a figure of that bread of life which we receive in the blessed sacrament – an illustrious figure indeed, but nothing in comparison with the truth. ‘Moses did not give you bread from heaven,’ says our Lord to the Jews, John vi. (for the manna only came down from the clouds,) ‘but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven – I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father, so he that eateth me the same also shall live by me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as fathers did eat manna and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live for ever,’ ver. 32, 51, 57, 58. O my soul, see thou embrace this living and life-giving bread.
Consider 2ndly, that the manna was the food upon which the people of God lived for forty years in the wilderness, but which ceased as soon as they came to eat of the fruits of the land of promise; to give us to understand that the bread of heaven which we here receive, veiled under the sacramental species, in the blessed Eucharist, is to be the food, nourishment, strength, and life of our souls during our mortal pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world till we come to the true land of promise, and there eat of the happy fruits of that blessed land of the living by the beatific vision and contemplation of the Divinity; and that then all the sacramental veils shall be removed, and we shall see and feed upon life and truth itself, face to face, for all eternity. Christians, if you hope to arrive one day at this happy land of promise, see you neglect nor to gather for your journey the manna of heaven by the frequent and worthy approaching the bread of life in the holy sacrament: without this support you will perish in the wilderness, and never reach your journey’s end. But if you would truly relish this heavenly manna you must take care not to let your palate be depraved, like the carnal Jews, by an affection to the onions and flesh-pots of Egypt.
Consider 3rdly, another figure of the heavenly food in that hearth cake of the prophet Elias, with which he was fed by an angel in the wilderness when he was flying from the persecution of Jezebel, 1 Kings xix, ‘In the strength of which food he walked forty days and forty nights unto the mount of God at Horeb,’ v. 8, where he was favoured with a vision of the Deity, as far as man is capable of seeing him in this life. ‘Arise, eat,’ said the angel to him, v. 7, ‘for thou hast yet a great way to go.’ All which expresses to us that retiring from the dangers and the contagion of a wicked world, as from the impious Jezebel, in order to make our journey to the mountain of God, the mountain of eternity, we must have recourse to this bread of heaven for our support on our way, for we have yet a great way to go, being far off from that perfection which is required before we can come to the vision of God; and this barren wilderness through which we are to travel affords us no proper food for our sustenance on the way but what we must have from heaven.
Conclude, my soul, if thou aspirest after this mountain of God and the happy vision of him, diligently to procure this bread of life, in the strength of which thou mayest walk during the forty days of thy pilgrimage to that blessed mountain. But remember that this bread was only given in the wilderness; that is, in retirement and solitude, and that the manna was not given until the people had left Egypt; and learn from thence that a spirit of recollection, and a purifying of the heart from the affections to the Egypt of this world, are the best dispositions for the bread of heaven.