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Nine Ways the Eucharist Is Hidden in the Old Testament

John Henry Newman once compared Scripture to an inexhaustibly rich wilderness—never failing to reward the faithful explorer with thrilling new discoveries yet always beyond his ability to master it completely:

It cannot, as it were, be mapped, or its contents cataloged; but after all our diligence, to the end of our lives and to the end of the Church, it must be an unexplored and unsubdued land, with heights and valleys, forests and streams, on the right and left of our path and close about us, full of concealed wonders and choice treasures. (An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 71).

Cardinal Newman, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, 71

The Eucharist is among those ‘concealed wonders and choice treasures’ in the Old Testament. At first, with the obvious exception of the manna heaven that rained down on the Israelites, it seems that there is little in the Old Testament that foreshadows the extraordinary new reality that is the Eucharist. But Newman invites us to venture deep into the hidden valleys and the secret gardens of the Old Testament. When we do, it turns out the Eucharist is everywhere—from the Pentateuch to the prophets.

1. The Forbidden Fruit

The forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden seems like the last place one would see a foreshadowing of the Eucharist. But medieval commentators saw the Eucharist as the “antidote to the poisonous effects of the apple,” according to Ann Astell, in Eating Beauty. Just as eating of the forbidden fruit was a sin of pride, avarice, gluttony, or disobedience, so the Eucharist was seen as inculcating the corresponding opposite virtues: humility, poverty, abstinence, and obedience, according to Astell.

The parallel goes even deeper: in eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve brought death into the world while those who partake in the Eucharist are promised eternal life.

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