Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Eat the Bread of Heaven with a Thankful Heart

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"Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young" (Isaiah 40:10-11).

These are beautiful words that describe our awesome God and bring much meaning to our life with Him. The people have cried to the Lord and He has answered, for He can not stand to see the suffering of His children and do nothing about it.

In the book of Exodus we hear the cries of the children of Israel (God's people), and we see God assign Aaron and Moses to bring the children of Israel out from the land of Egypt to deliver them from their bondage. We see God perform many miracles and victories over the Egyptians and lead His people out of Egypt from the life of slavery to salvation.

Though the children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness from Egypt to the Promised Land for 40 years with no food nor water in hand, the hand of the Lord was on them and let them lack nothing. He provided their needs with His own power to teach them that only by the grace of God can we earn salvation, not by the works of man.

One of the great things that we can meditate on in the wilderness is the manna -- the gift from God that is given freely to all and gives nourishment to whomever is willing to accept it and eat it with joy and thankfulness.

"Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Mathew 6:31-33).

After all the miracles and the signs of wonder that were evidence of God's power and existence among His people, they were faced with everyday challenges. There is no food! There is no water! Instead of trusting that God is among them and will provide, they started to:

  • Murmur against Moses and Aaron
  • Complain about God
  • Long to go back to Egypt
  • Question God's plan
  • Demand meat

How many times have we been faced with any kind of trouble and, instead of waiting for God to lead us, react with panic, worry, murmuring, demands of a certain way, and questionings of God's plan?

God only offered them the bread from heaven as means of testing their faith, but because they were still weak and young in their faith they murmured. The Israelites were not satisfied with the heavenly gift that was given to them freely by God; they wanted earthly gift (meat). So He provided them with what they wanted.

For when God cleanses His children, He does not take all their sins away at once; He changes them at the rate they can handle and that requires a lifetime battle between the flesh and the spirit.

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call on me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

The more we read about the bread of heaven (manna) the more we see the many connections between God's love for His children (the Israelites) and the act of communion in our worship today as a necessary act to preserve our life and as daily nourishment to our spiritual faith.

What are these connections?

  • In the morning the dew was all around the camp: This represents the Holy spirit that is around us at all times, helping us understand what we gather is for our benefit and reminding us of God's generosity toward us (John 14:26).
  • The manna came down freely from Heaven: This symbolizes the word of God that satisfies our spiritual need; everyone will gather according to his daily need to fill, nourish, and satisfy his hunger (Luke 4:4).
  • The manna was small in size: The word of God is like a manna – it is small in size and is eaten in little bites to help us to grow spiritually (Isaiah 28:13).
  • The manna was round: This reminds us that God is eternal and has no beginning and no end (John 1:1).
  • The manna was white: It was as pure as the word of God (Proverbs 30:5).
  • In order to gather the manna, the Israelites had to kneel: You must humble yourself and become a servant (I Peter 5:5).
  • The manna was gathered daily: It is like the grace of God that is free to everyone, even the people who hated it, and a blessing to everyone who consumes it with a thankful heart. What is left will melt away (James 4:10).
  • Double portions were gathered on the sixth day: The Holy Sabbath is to be to the Lord as He commanded to remember and give thanks for what He has done for us (Exodus 16:23).
  • It tasted like wafers with honey: It is sweet and desirable to whomever ate it as is with a thankful heart. Those who tried to change the flavor to be "better" ruined the taste (Psalm 34:8).
  • It was sufficient: It sustained the rich and the poor for 40 years (Romans 10:13).

"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven-not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever" (John 6:56-58).

As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is our bread of heaven (the word of God) that came down from Heaven to taste suffering, death, and resurrection on our behalf in order to give us salvation. It is the free gift of grace that only comes from God and the Holy Spirit that is given to dwell in us to guide us and teach us God's way.

The act of communion in our life reminds us that just as the Israelites ate manna in the desert every single day for 40 years we must eat the Body and drink the Blood of Jesus Christ regularly in order to renew our heart and nourish our spirit that we may have life with Him in Heaven.

Holy Communion

A place where people love to gather around,
Where bread is broken for many,
Where hearts can freely share their praises,
When sweet wine can be drunk to celebrate the bridegroom,
When the whole atmosphere fills the heart with warmth,
When the aromas of the incense are accepted by God,
When all the guests are invited to the banquet with the hope of being Blessed by Him,
And all the worshipers long for a thanksgiving life in heaven.

Written by
Nagwa Abdou

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