Friday, April 20, 2007

The Foretaste is in the Bread

Yesterday, I referenced a lecture which I attended at Saint Vincent College at which Dr. Brant Pitre spoke on the relationship between the Lord’s Prayer and the Exodus. At one point in this lecture, he discussed the foretaste of the Promised Land as found in the Manna in the wilderness. In Exodus 16:31, the bread is described as tasting like honey, an indicator that it was a foretaste of the Promised Land which would flow with both milk and honey in abundance. When he discussed this, several thoughts popped into my head.

I was reading a book by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan called Sabbath: Day of Eternity in which the Rabbi explains that the rest of the Sabbath is not a practical matter of “setting aside a day for God” but is instead a day in which Creation participates in the very being of God, in his immutable eternal being. The exposition of the Sabbath was in the providing of the Manna in the Desert: “See the Lord hath given you the Sabbath, and for this reason on the sixth day he giveth you a double provision.” Rabbi Kaplan argues that it was from the first day when no Manna was provided that the community of Israel knew when the Sabbath was to be celebrated. Therefore, there is a double link here, for the Manna is, as stated above, the foretaste of the earthly Jerusalem but is also the means by which God opens the community up to the participation in His being.

Now, if we look at the Eucharist, in which Christ proclaims, “This is My Body … This is My Blood,” we see much of the same typology. This Bread from Heaven draws on the rich tradition of the Manna (a favorite Eucharistic theme) and has quite the basis to do so. It is here that that the Community, the Church, participates in God’s divine being in its fullness, by receiving His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It is not the taste of the bread that matters but instead the participation in the breads very essential change. More importantly, however, it points to the central eschatological argument of Christianity.

The Eucharist, like the Manna, is not merely tasty bread along the road but is instead a road-marker which is an anticipation of its eschatological end. The Manna in the desert was a honey-flavored foretaste that received its character as “foretaste” precisely in its relationship to the Holy Land. The eschatological end of the Manna of the Eucharist is the foretaste of God’s being. Therefore, the eschatological end of the Christianity is not a place or a political plan, but instead it is a Being, it is a loving, human face. In precise terms, it is the Being of Christ, the alpha and omega, the one who is the end point of all history (its last thing – eschaton). Therefore, the Eucharist is an eschatological participation in He who is creation’s eschaton, the Resurrected Jesus Christ.

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