Monday, May 30, 2011

Bread From Heaven

Most good books of faith that I have read are books that stir my heart. If I rate them as good, or recommend them to you, most often it is because they stir up the emotions of faith. Sometimes books I would recommend are books of witness, and often these are written by saints – whether declared or not. These writers are saints, because of the love and inspiration God has blessed them with, and they in turn bless us with their witness. I gain much from their books of Love. The Church has declared public revelation ended with Jesus Christ, but many of these writers bring me their private gifts, and I partake of them as if I was at their side.

Sometimes the books I enjoy stir my faith because of the unique slant they give to old knowledge. Things I know and believe about God and His Church are reinforced when something I knew is shown to me in a different light. Sometimes things are written in the form of new or modern parables, and suddenly some old faith gets renewed. I relish these books because sometimes my faith grows weak, and books like these are like sweet nourishment for my journey.

I do not read many books of faith like this one by Brant Pitre. In his book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, he brings to me new knowledge on a subject on which I thought I had exhausted all the scholarly insights, knowing what there is to know. Mr. Pitre brings together scholarship which may be old (and it may be “old news” to many Catholic teachers), but it was exciting “new news” to me.

Relying on Jewish sources, Mr. Pitre looks at the Last Supper, the Passover, and the Eucharist through Jewish eyes. He shows why so many Jews abandoned their faith for this “New Way”. And in reading his book, you find that, for Jews, it was not “new” at all, but just what they expected of the Messiah.

Early on, we are shown how the Jews believed that with the Messiah, God would bring a new Exodus. Four key points of this new Exodus are documented from Jewish sources: 1)There would be a new Moses; 2)There would be a new covenant; 3)There would be a new Temple; and 4)There would be a journey to a new promised land, which “would be like a Garden of Eden,” and a new heaven. They didn’t understand how these things would come about, but Jesus explained it to them, and their eyes were opened.

The Jews annually celebrated the Passover as a remembrance and a participation in the original Exodus. And so they believed that with the Messiah and the new Exodus, there would be a new Passover celebration. Mr. Pitre takes the reader through the five points that Jews understood about the Passover, and how Jesus fulfilled their expectations. For the Passover celebration: 1)An unblemished lamb was chosen; 2)The lamb was sacrificed (and the Jews saw this each year at the Temple, as their lamb was killed and spread open on a cross-like rack); 3)The blood of the lamb was spread; 4)Everyone ate of the flesh of the lamb; and finally 5)Everyone kept the Passover as a day of remembrance.

When all is explained, through Jewish eyes, and Jewish scholarship, one reading this book is led to believe that the Eucharist proclaimed by Jesus Christ not only fit the Jewish expectations of a new Exodus, but it also was something for the Jews that COULD NOT be a symbol. If you believed Jesus was the Messiah and God, you had to believe the Eucharist was truly His body and blood that, like the flesh of the lamb, you MUST eat to enter heaven. This was a hard thing to believe, yet Jews saw how this must be, as He said, and trusted in this Man, miracle worker, self-proclaimed Son of God.

While the truths shown in this book may be “old news” for some scholars, I think for many Catholics --- and Protestants --- this book presents very compelling proofs why the Eucharist cannot be symbolic, as so many believe. And if this is truly the flesh of the New Lamb which we must eat to go on this Exodus to heaven, how could we not? And how could we not come and worship and sit in the presence of this heavenly bread, even as the Jews of old came to be in the presence of the heavenly bread (manna) in the Ark of the Covenant?

Brant Pitre’s book provided new learning to me, and this helped strengthen my faith. And it is on a most critical subject. If your faith needs strengthening with facts, this book is for you. For me, it was a rare find.


  1. Hi, I continue to enjoy reading your blog. I hope you don't mind but I tagged you to post your favorite three Bible verses. Here is link to the rules:

  2. Just re-read this post. That is good ammo to have in apologetic arsenal. I remember friend poking fun at wafer, and receiving it w/o faith that it was more than a symbol. Truly understanding how explicit God was with the directions to Moses and how they continue to be carried out ... well it makes it easier to explain, even as it is still up to their cooperation and free will to accept the teaching and come to belief.

  3. Much of what I write here is my understandings of Church teachings, ways in which I've come to understand things. Sometimes the hard teachings hit home with me by way of an analogy, but sometimes hard facts I never knew cement my knowledge. This book is full of hard facts about the Eucharist, and WHY the apostles and other Jews believed, even this "hard thing".

  4. In First Things magazine's August issue, it pans this book in its review:

    "Pitre's book is not a work that makes a compelling argument but one that uses some words from the N.T. and ... Jewish sources to re-present Catholic teaching for 'non-scholarly' Catholics. His teaching becomes more about 'reducing spiritual anxiety' in the face of criticism than about elucidating the interconnections of Christian life through time."

    "Reducing spiritual anxiety" for this "non-scholarly Catholic." Yes, I renew my recommendation of this book. That is what I need in a book like this, and no more.