Several biblical images related to the bread of heaven are beautifully illustrated by Peter Koenig in a painting titled, For the Year of the Eucharist.
On the left arm of the cross Koenig depicts Elijah asleep, while Queen Jezebel plots his death. After lying down to sleep an angel awakens him with a gift of bread, providing sustenance for his journey. Restored, he then goes on to holy Mt. Sinai, a place associated with seeing God, and the gift of the Covenant.
At the center of the cross we see Jesus, who is the bread come down from heaven, sharing the bread of life with his friends.
On the right arm we see Jesus as the true vine, and his Father as the vinedresser.
And below we see how we are the ‘ark’ of the Church, and that we are fed with the bread of life. These few references, chosen by Koenig from among so many in the Bible, remind us of the significance of bread as a gift from God, for the life of the world.
These insights help us appreciate how, as we learn from 1st Samuel, God replaces Saul with David as the King of Israel. The Lord tells the prophet Samuel to go to Bethlehem, where Samuel anoints David as God’s chosen king. The name Bethlehem means ‘the house of bread.’ Of course, this same ‘house of bread’ later becomes the birthplace of Jesus.
Jesus says, “I am the bread of life… I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” We know that mortals ate the bread of angels in ancient times. Yet, Jesus says that they “ate manna in the wilderness, and … died.” Unlike our spiritual ancestors, when we eat the bread of life today we shall live forever. We eat the bread of life when we gather to give thanks, in the Eucharist. And we partake of the true Vine. In every Eucharist, we join our Lord by offering ourselves, our souls and bodies, to his and our Father, for the life of the world.
This post is based on my homily for Sunday, August 12, 2018, which can be accessed by clicking here. The painting above, by Peter Koenig, is titled, For The Year of the Eucharist, and is reproduced here with the artist’s permission. Please visit the website for the Church of St. Edmund’s, Kettering, England, where this painting and others by him are displayed and available for viewing. Please click here for a link to it, and for further information concerning his fine paintings.