Prefiguring the Eucharist in the Old Testament
Catholic teaching of Biblical continuity
Listening and reading carefully, we can see the how the Old Testament prefigures the Eucharist and how it is revealed in the New Testament. Proverbs 9:1-6 really sticks in my mind as a great meditation on the power of the Eucharist. Proverbs 9:1-6 reads: “Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven columns; She has dressed her meat, mixed her wine, yes, she has spread her table. She has sent out her maidens; she calls from the heights out over the city: “Let whoever is simple turn in here; to him who lacks understanding, I say, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed! Forsake foolishness that you may live; advance in the way of understanding.” 1
Now here is an excerpt from the Navarre Bible commentary on this passage:
“This nourishment prefigures the true Bread of Life (cf. Jn 4:14; 6:35) that God will give mankind—the Body of the Incarnate Word, of Wisdom made man. An ancient Christian writer puts these words on Jesus’ lips: “To those who are lacking in the good works of faith as well as to those who desire to lead a more perfect life, he says: ‘Come, eat of my body, which is the bread that will nourish and strengthen you; drink my blood, which is the wine of heavenly teaching that brings you delight and makes you holy; I have mixed my blood with my divinity for your salvation.’ ” (Procopius of Gaza, In librum Proverbiorum)2
Jesus is Wisdom made man. He is the Bread of Life; He is The Eucharist. When we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus. Scripture invites those who are simple, who want to gain understanding, to eat this holy food. Notice that scripture does not tell us that understanding comes from having prestigious degrees or from people that hold places of honor. Nor do we necessarily find understanding and wisdom from only those who have lived long lives (“For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured in number of years, but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age.” Wisdom 4:8-9) We find this understanding, scripture tells us, by eating of the Bread of Life.
It is at mass when we take part of this great mystery of our faith, when Jesus is made present at the alter. The priest, standing “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ), says the words of consecration: “This is my Body….This is my Blood.” It is truly Jesus saying these words through the priest. Going along with the theme of understanding and the wisdom that the Eucharist gives to us, let us remember the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus after Jesus was crucified and resurrected. (Found in Luke 24: 13-35) They did not yet understand all that had happened:
“And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:15-16) Jesus asked what they were talking about and they explained all that had just happened in Jerusalem, and how some women in the group went to the tomb and the body was missing. Scripture then tells us that: “…beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them what referred to him in all the scriptures. As they approached the village…he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him…” (Luke 24: 27-31 bold and italics added). The Church teaches that “the breaking of the bread” refers to the mass and the Eucharist.3 Notice that the disciples’ “eyes were opened” and they then “recognized” him. They later said “were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24: 32) The Eucharist gave them understanding. Shouldn’t we all take part of this mystery at mass so that our eyes are opened?
Outside of mass we can seek this understanding through Eucharistic Adoration, either before the tabernacle, or preferably, exposed in a monstrance, so that we may talk to Him “face-to-face.” Let’s be as eager as the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who urged the Lord to “stay with them.” Let’s stay with Him for an hour so that “the sun of justice with its healing rays”4 may illumine our minds and shine into our hearts.
1 Scripture excerpt taken from The New American Bible
2 The Navarre Bible, Wisdom Books, p. 192.
3 See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1329.
4 Malachi 3:20.