Manna from Heaven,
Illuminated illustration in The Crusader Bible, France, Paris, 1240
ink, illumination on vellum,
MS M.638, fol. 9v
© The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

Manna from Heaven,
Illuminated illustration in The Crusader Bible, France, Paris, 1240
ink, illumination on vellum,
MS M.638, fol. 9v
© The Morgan Library & Museum, New York

Gospel of 16 April 2024

He gave them bread from heaven to eat

John 6:30-35

The people said to Jesus, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’

Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’

Jesus answered: ‘I am the bread of life.

He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’

Reflection on the Illuminated Miniature Page

Jesus invites us into this intimate relationship with himself. He offers himself to us as the Bread of Life and calls on us to come to him, to believe in him, so that our deepest hunger will be satisfied and our deepest thirst quenched. We spend our lives responding to this invitation.

The illustration I am sharing with you today is a detail from a manuscript made in France in the 1240s. It is considered to be one of the most magnificent medieval manuscripts, called the 'Crusader Bible'. The miniatures (the small paintings in the Bible) represent some of the greatest visualisations of the Old Testament events ever made. The stories with which we are all very familiar, such as the scene in today's Gospel reading of the manna falling from heaven (Exodus 16:11-15), jump out immediately when we see the scene depicted.But other scenes are far less familiar. The illustrations are then a real means and tool to delve into the Old Testament and make it joyfully accessible. The incredibly violent battle scenes which are in this manuscript, together with the scenes from everyday life, are all set in 13th-century France and have a poignantly realistic character.

As you can see, the scene relevant to today's reading is in the top right panel of a set of four miniatures illustrated on that page. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that the bread given by Moses was not yet the true bread from heaven. It came from heaven? Yes. But it was not the full bread of God, because it did not guarantee life to anyone. The true bread of heaven, the true bread of God, is the one which conquers death and gives life. It is the one which descends from Heaven and gives life to everyone… It is Jesus Himself...

The other scenes which are depicted are:

Top left:
Moses, following the Lord's command, casts a piece of wood into the bitter waters. The Israelites gather around with drinking cups and vessels to collect the sweetened waters. In the foreground, a group of sheep quenches its thirst (Exodus 15:24–25).

Bottom left:
Once more the Israelites complain to Moses of thirst and again the Lord provides. Moses, in obedience to God, strikes the rock at Horeb with his staff, and a spring bursts forth to quench the thirst of the people and their flocks (Exodus 17:3–6).

Bottom right:
Amalek and his army threaten the Israelites with war. Moses commands Joshua, son of Nun, to assemble an army. The opponents, in this illustration arrayed in thirteenth-century battle dress, face each other across a field at Rephidim. Joshua wears a brown tunic and carries a tri-point shield emblazoned with a lion. He and his cavalry all wear great helms. The enemy horsemen, including the crowned Amalek, wear an older style of pointed helmet with a nasal guard. In the foreground, trumpeters and drummers sound the call to battle (Exodus 17:8–13).

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Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

There was a wonderful programme on BBC television last night about the most recent excavations i Pompeii. There were hundreds of bakeries in the town, they even found a blackened loaf, round and divided into eight pieces. I’ve made similar. The Roman world ran on bread, wine and olive oil, and that world was the one Jesus was born into. So He knew that any mention of bread would resonate with His listeners.
Also discovered were earthenware dishes, about ramekin size, with the solid colours still intact, ready for the interior decoration going on as the result of a big earthquake about 16 years previously. All immensely moving and, after all, not so different from us.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Yes, brilliant wasn’t it Noelle? So many aspects were both wondrous and poignant at the same time. Couldn’t you just feel the respect of the archeologists?
Also, a good little workout for my Italian.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

Yes, Patricia, it was an all-out delight, and I too revelled in what little I could understand, mostly the long words which have come to us through French and Spanish. Did you live there once? Hope you prayers went well. 🌺

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Yes, in Rome… I still get ‘homesick’for it!
Thank you. They are a wonderful group of ladies – nobody tries to impress – they are very faith filled, which is why they’re there 😊

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Wonderful!

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