By Alma Burnette.
This second article in the Messenger’s series on the Eucharist features Dr. Alma Burnette exploring some of the ways the Eucharist is prefigured in the Old Testament. It will be published in three parts in three consecutive issues.
“In beginning created Elohim (…) the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1”
In the center of this verse, in Hebrew, is an untranslatable word, which is two Hebrew letters — the “aleph” and the “tav” — the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In Greek the letters are the Alpha and the Omega. It serves the grammatical purpose of being the direct object pointer. These two letters form a concept rather than an actual word. They represent all the words of God by which all things were spoken into existence, including Eucharist. These two letters are peppered throughout the Old Testament, seasoning its meaning. The rabbis teach:
When Messiah comes he will explain the meaning of the aleph and the tav … AND HE DID! He said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev. 22:12) The same concept is in John 1:1.
When God made man, he made him out of the earth’s pre-created dust and breathed life into the lifeless form, bringing man into being by his previously spoken words, “Let us make man in our image.”
During the Mass the priest says, “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life. … Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.”
The priest is exercising his ordained authority to bring life to the lifeless bread and wine, previously made by human hands, fulfilling Christ’s previous words, “This is my body. … This is my blood.”
Just as the lifeless form of the first Adam, became a living soul so the lifeless form of the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of the last Adam, Christ.
In Genesis 2 God causes a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and from his side comes forth Eve. Adam exclaims, “This is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” God allowed Christ to die, a deep sleep for his body, and his side, too, was opened (pierced) for the Church to come forth. St. Paul writes, “Because we are members of his body we are of his flesh and of his bone.” (Eph 5:30) How so? By the Eucharist being consumed at the Mass, the marriage supper of the Lamb.
In Genesis 2 and 3 the two trees planted in the middle of the garden foreshadow the Eucharist. During a heated debate with an Orthodox Jew, I was asked, “Do you know what the fruit on the two trees in the garden were?” Taken aback, I replied, “No one knows for sure.”
“AHA!!!” He shouts in victory, “It was manna. The tree of life had unleavened manna and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had leavened manna, both heavenly bread.” I was shocked and demanded, “Your words are not sufficient, present your evidence.” And he did. Genesis 3:19: “In the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread … ”
He continued, the word “fruit” means more than apples, oranges or figs. It means “the product of,” like “fruit of the womb.” Adam and Eve never prepared food before disobeying God. The couple only ate from the trees, not from anything that grew from the ground, such as grain. Now, after the disobedience, Adam would work to obtain bread, and since, it did not require work before, it had to be a product of a tree — the tree of life.
I suddenly recalled, in the Middle Ages, during the feast of Adam and Eve, the churches held Paradise plays and decorated the tree of life with wafers symbolizing the Eucharistic host.
Now John 6:5 became even more real and Romans 5 more clear on how death came into the world by the first Adam eating outside of the will of God, from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (the Law) and how life comes into the world by eating according to the will of God, Christ’s flesh and blood — the Eucharist, the fruit of the tree of life we call the Cross. Both are heavenly bread. The Jews refer to the wooden rollers the scrolls are attached to as “atzei chaim,” trees of life (the scrolls are the Word of God, written on kosher animal skin sewed together by the thread of its veins).
My debater continued, “When Messiah comes he will elevate the meaning of the manna. Now we meditate on it and celebrate it by eating it during the eight days of the Passover season.”
I responded, “The Messiah has come and did elevate it as being his body. We too celebrate by eating at a meal called the Mass. We too meditate; we call it ‘Adoration.’”
He was stunned and said, “You are a teacher.” I responded, “Without you and your people I would have nothing to teach, Jesus, after all, is a Jew.”
Now, the rest of Genesis: the blood of Able “cries out” … fulfilled in Hebrews 12:24 where Jesus’s blood speaks; Noah planting a vineyard and grain after the flood and being permitted to eat clean animals … animals originally only for sacrifice now allowed by eating to become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; Abraham receiving from Melchizedek bread and wine; Jacob clothes himself in Esau’s clothes (Incarnation) and receiving the inheritance which included grain for bread and plenty of wine, that Esau, the first son (Adam) sold; Joseph depending on Pharaoh’s bread maker and cupbearer for deliverance. One died, one lived — death and resurrection in the Eucharist. Later Joseph reveals himself to his brothers after placing a cup into the grain. This led to their confession, reconciliation and the salvation of the world through grain for bread distribution.
Next comes Exodus.
Dr. Alma Burnette is a parishioner at St. Paul Parish, Florence. She has a master’s degree in theology and a Ph.D. in Biblical studies. She is a writer, speaker, teacher and graphic designer. She is currently the president of Word Truths Ministries and a media assistant at Holmes High School.