One of the many channels that can be utilized to augment our faith, devotion, and love for the greatest of all Sacraments, the most Holy Eucharist, is by reading and meditating upon key Biblical passages, both in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament. The Old Testament presents symbols or what Bible scholars term Types, Biblical Typology of references or allusions to the Eucharist that become a reality in the New Testament. In other words, what is present in hidden, mysterious, and symbolic form in the Old Testament breaks out in transparent Truth in the New Testament.
This being said, we will start with Old Testament Biblical types of the Mass, Eucharist, and priesthood which will lead us up to the reality in the New Testament where the Eucharist—meaning Thanksgiving—was actually instituted by Jesus Himself at the Last Supper. Now let us dive deep into the infinite treasures, the infinite ocean of God present in His living and penetrating Word which we call the Bible!
OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCES TO THE EUCHARIST…
1. GENESIS 3. In this chapter we encounter Adam and Eve, our first parents, who were commanded not to eat from the tree of the forbidden fruit. They disobeyed by eating this fruit, first Eve, and then Adam. This we call ORIGINAL SIN. Death entered the world through the sin of disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit.
2. JOHN 6. THE BREAD OF LIFE DISCOURSE. Death came from eating and disobedience. To the contrary, eternal life will come about by eating and obedience. The eating this time must be from the fruit of the tree of Calvary, which is the Body and Blood of Jesus. The Son of God Himself asserted: “I am the Bread of life; whoever eats my Body and drinks my Blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” In a clear and unequivocal fashion Jesus states that our salvation, our eternal life. depends upon eating Himself.
3. GENESIS 14:18-20 / HEBREWS 4:14-15. BREAD AND WINE OFFERED BY MELCHIZEDEK. This mysterious figure of the past symbolizes Jesus the High Priest. Without the person of the priest, the Eucharist or Bread of Life cannot become a reality. The priesthood is essential for the whole reality of the Mass, Consecration, Eucharist, and Holy Communion.
4. THE MANNA IN THE DESERT (EX 16). The Israelites were famished by the long journey through the desert. God, through the instrumentality and leadership of Moses, rained down bread from heaven called manna—meaning What is this? Without eating, we are all destined to die on a human and natural plan. Likewise, if we do not nourish our souls with the Bread of Life we are destined to die and perish for all eternity. The Manna in the desert is a symbol or type of the Holy Eucharist. Actually, Jesus in the Bread of Life discourse, makes reference to Moses and the manna in the desert: “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.” (Jn 6:49-50)
5. EXODUS AGAIN… THE CROSSING OF THE RED SEA (EX 14). The clear symbolism in this passage is that the Jews passed from slavery to freedom, led by Moses their leader. They were freed from the oppression and slavery of the Egyptians. Their passage was through the RED SEA. In a parallel sense, sin is slavery in our lives. By shedding His RED BLOOD on the cross on Calvary that Good Friday, Jesus attained for us the true freedom of the sons and daughters of God. By receiving His Body and Blood, we are strengthened, purified, and made strong so as to cross from this life to eternal life in heaven.
6. KINGS 19. THE GREAT PROPHET ELIJAH. Fleeing for his life from the wicked Queen Jezebel and King Ahab, after one day’s journey, Elijah collapsed in a state of profound desolation. This was translated into falling into a deep slumber. God sent an angel to Elijah to awaken the man of God. The angel presented bread for Elijah to eat, once and then a second time. After eating from the bread, Elijah walked forty days and forty nights from the strength that came from the bread. This bread communicated to Elijah a super energy to help him walk all the way to the holy mountain where he encountered God in the gentle breeze. Our journey towards the eternal mountain that we call HEAVEN is a long, perilous, tiring, and dangerous one. We need energy and strength to persevere on the journey. That all-powerful energy comes from Jesus, who is truly the Bread of Life and nourishment for the journey to our heavenly homeland.
7. PSALM 23. THE PSALM OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD. Possibly to the surprise of many, there are indeed symbolic Eucharistic overtones definitely present in this Psalm. Yes! In what way? “You anoint my head with oil… my cup overflows… I believe I will dwell in the House of the Lord for years without end. These three separate phrases certainly have Eucharistic overtones and represent symbols or types. Anointing refers to the priesthood necessary to celebrate Mass; the cup refers to the Blood of Christ; House of the Lord refers to heaven—meaning, that if we nourish ourselves on the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation we will arrive at our eternal and permanent home: HEAVEN!!!
NEW TESTAMENT REFERENCES TO THE EUCHARIST…
Now we will move from the Old Testament to the New Testament and delve into the many inspiring sources that we are all called to read and meditate upon so that we will grow in our faith, love, and devotion for Jesus who is truly present in the Bread of Life.
1. JOHN 6. Once again we return to the all-important chapter of John 6. This long chapter of 71 verses offers three essential themes for our meditation. 1) Jesus multiplies the loaves. Here Jesus works a natural miracle for the multitude and for us, so as to dispose and prepare our minds, hearts, and souls for the miracle of the Eucharist. 2) Jesus walks on water. If we truly believe in the Lord, we can carry out miracles. “Lord, I believe, but strengthen my faith.” (Mk 9:24) 3) Finally, close to 2/3 of Chapter 6 of Saint John is the BREAD OF LIFE DISCOURSE. This magnificent preaching of Jesus teaches without stammer or stutter, with the greatest clarity, that if we want to live forever we must nourish ourselves on the Bread of Life. Of course, this refers to the Eucharist and Holy Communion!
2. Mt 26:26-28. THE INSTITUTION OF THE EUCHARIST. In the context of the Last Supper, Jesus celebrates the First Mass on that Holy Thursday night. In the same context Jesus institutes and ordains the first priests; these are the Apostles. In awe and thanksgiving let us lift our hearts in praise to the Lord for this most sublime gift. Let us beg for greater faith and love for the Eucharist, as well as implore the Lord for good and Holy priests.
3. REVELATION 3. JESUS STANDS AND KNOCKS. This short but challenging passage presents Jesus as a pilgrim-traveler knocking at the door. The owner can either choose to leave the door shut and ignore the traveler’s knock or he can open the door to the weary traveler and invite him to supper. The Eucharistic Lord is knocking at the door of your heart now! What will be your response???
4. I CORINTHIANS 11. THE EUCHARISTIC ABUSE. This passage in the Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians explodes! Unfortunately, in this early Christian Community there were members who were abusing the Eucharist. The more affluent were eating and drinking, even getting drunk, and neglecting the poor. Then after this scandal, they would be eating the Body and drinking the Blood of the Lord, and Saint Paul says to their own condemnation. This Biblical passage gives us the foundation for the importance of receiving the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, in the state of grace. Otherwise, we could be eating and drinking, not for our salvation, but for our own condemnation!
5. LUKE 24. THE DISCIPLES ON THE ROAD TO EMMAUS. A beautiful and heart-warming Easter passage, in a nutshell this passage offers us a summary of Holy Mass in miniature. Two disciples, walking away from Jerusalem after Christ’s crucifixion and death, were in the depths of desolation, until a stranger joined them. That “stranger” was the risen Jesus, unrecognized by them. The trek on the way to their little cottage, talking with Jesus and listening to Him, is the Liturgy of the Word. The Breaking of the Bread in the little cottage in Emmaus is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. One key interpretation: when we live and walk without Jesus, we live and walk in utter darkness, desolation, and sadness. However, once Jesus, the Son of God and the Light of the World, breaks through the clouds and shines on our path, the clouds of sadness dissipate and we experience an over-flowing and abundant joy! “Were not our hearts burning within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the word of God to us?”
6. THE OUR FATHER. In the Lord’s Prayer, that we commonly call THE OUR FATHER, there are seven petitions. One of these refers to the Eucharist and Holy Communion. “Give us this day our daily bread…” One way in which this can be interpreted is the challenge, inasmuch as it is possible according to our daily obligations, to attend Mass and to receive Holy Communion even on a daily basis. In other words, this daily bread could be interpreted as daily Mass and daily Holy Communion. Those who have formed the habit of daily Mass and daily Holy Communion find that they cannot live without this nourishment! Maybe it is your turn to step up to the plate and hit a Grand Slam! Try it out: daily Mass and daily Holy Communion!
7. MARY AND RECEIVING JESUS. (LUKE 1:36) When Our Lady gave her consent to God through the Archangel Gabriel with the words of her Fiat/Yes: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word”, then, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” ( Jn 1:14) Pope Saint John Paul II makes a parallel between Mary’s YES to God and our AMEN when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion. In this sense, Mary’s YES resulted in receiving Jesus into her heart, mind, body, and soul; so also our AMEN when we receive Jesus in Mass results in Jesus entering into the very center of our being. For that reason, it is important to beg Mary for the grace to receive Jesus with faith, devotion, and love in Holy Communion.
8. LUKE 1. MARY’S MAGNIFICAT. We conclude on a Marian note taken from the great Marian lover, Saint Louis de Montfort, who gave us True Devotion to Mary. Related to the Mass, Holy Communion, and the Eucharist, Saint Louis says that one of the best ways that we can render a proper thanksgiving to Jesus after receiving Him in Holy Communion is by praying the Mary’s MAGNIFICAT. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
Through the intercession of the most pure and Immaculate Heart of Mary may all of you grow in your faith, belief, devotion, and love for Jesus in frequent Masses and Holy Communions. Indeed, Jesus is the Bread of Life, and whoever eats His Body and drinks His Blood will have eternal life in joy, peace, and happiness forever in Heaven. “O Sacrament most holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment thine!”