Another of the many meanings of the mass is that it is to strengthen and gladden us, our meat and drink, as it were, while we are in this life, without the fulness of God’s presence. It is our ration — some scholars believe that the clause in the Lord’s prayer, ‘Give us today our daily bread,’ refers to the consecrated bread we eat at mass. More importantly, Christians have always seen parallels between the elements we consume at mass and the manna God gave to his people while they were spending forty years in the wilderness.
Jesus himself suggested this parallel when he compared himself — the true Bread of heaven — favourably with the manna. ‘The bread of heaven’ would have been understood by Jesus’ opponents as a metaphor meaning the word of God, supremely manifest (as far as they were concerned) in the Hebrew scriptures, which we Christians receive as the old testament. When he instituted the mass at the last supper, Jesus gave the term new meaning by telling his disciples that the bread he blessed for them was his body.
So one of the things we do when we celebrate the mass is to re-enact, as we do in the church’s season of Lent, the forty years in the wilderness, expressing in prayer and praise and worship our joyful dependence upon Jesus and our security in his ongoing provision for us: the bread we eat is like the manna in the wilderness, a gift from God, to be eaten as soon as we receive it and not saved up, because we know he will never fail to give us what we need when we turn to him. We are learning to be God’s people on our pilgrimage through this life. Will you join us?
Fr Mike Healey (priest-in-charge)