Carlos Caso-Rosendi

The practice of offering bread and wine after a great act of liberation by God appears again when the descendants of Abraham through Jacob leave Egypt after the Egyptian Pharaoh decided to exterminate the Israelites by killing their offspring. (See Exodus 1) Before liberating the Israelites from the Egyptian yoke, God institutes the Feast of the Unleavened Bread that will later become the Jewish Passover. (See Exodus 12: 14-20) That is the todah sacrifice. 

todah sacrifice would be offered by someone whose life had been delivered from great peril, such as disease or the sword. The redeemed person would show his gratitude to God by gathering his closest friends and family for a todah sacrificial meal. The lamb would be sacrificed in the Temple and the bread for the meal would be consecrated the moment the lamb was sacrificed. The bread and meat, along with wine, would constitute the elements of the sacred todah meal, which would be accompanied by prayers and songs of thanksgiving, such as Psalm 116. (Tim Gray, From Jewish Passover to Christian Eucharist: The Story of the Todah)

Bread appears again when Jesus recalls how David ate the Bread of the Presence when running away from murderous King Saul.

One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the Bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:23-28)

Liberation is always associated with the sacrifice of unleavened bread. I believe God is building something through history to lead us to the Eucharist. In fact Todah and Eucharistia mean exactly the same thing: thanksgiving.

Etymology of the English word “lord”

In Anglo-Saxon times, the lord was known as the hläford, from the Viking hläfweard, meaning a bread-keeper or ‘bread ward’. The lord was responsible for providing bread for his household; therefore he was head of the house. (Oxford Dictionary quoted online by Susan Pierotti for Editors VIC.)

So, a lord is a keeper of the loaves of bread. Interesting coincidence!

By now you know that the “bread of the presence” of the Hebrew liturgy is a shadow or type of the Christian Eucharist, which the Catholic Church professes to be the presence of Christ among us: his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity offered to effect our liberation from sin and death.

Todah and Eucharist point at Christ

The type we are contemplating in the Old Testament is a complex type. It presents us not only with God’s great liberating acts through history but with his constant work to liberate mankind even at the personal level. Todah-Eucharist is a constant feature meant to point at Christ, first as the expected Jewish Messiah and later as the Great Liberator of mankind.

“In the coming Messianic age all sacrifices will cease, but the thanksgiving oblation [todah] will never cease.”  Hartmut Gese, Essays On Biblical Theology (Minneapolis; Augsburg Publishing House, 1981), p. 133.

This traditional Jewish commentary (the Pesikta) cannot be confused with being pro-Christian but nevertheless, its intuition proves to be perfectly coherent with the Catholic view of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a continuation of the Todah, even after all other forms of sacrifice required by God in the Old Testament are eliminated, the Todah subsists in the Christian Eucharist and the Jewish Passover celebration.

Before Christ, we have the Todah. After the Last Supper, we have the Eucharist which is Christ’s body, the ultimate oblation.

See it as a string of bread and wine sacrifices that starts with Melchizedek at the edge of the Bronze Age and continues until Christ’s death in Calvary.

Then imagine the Cross, right at the center of history and the Eucharist being celebrated to this day. Christ is in the center, with both kinds of thanksgiving oblation pointing at Him on the Cross and the resulting liberation of mankind.

And when he is sitting on the mount of the Olives, the disciples came near to him by himself, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these be? and what is the sign of thy presence, and of the full end of the age?’ (Matthew 24:3 Young’s Literal Translation)

“The sign of thy presence” is a sign that will alert the Church to the End Times. In Greek:  σημεῖον σῆς παρουσίας, pron. sēmeion sēs parousías.  In Daniel 12, the prophet seems to be pointing at an interruption of the constant oblation. Such interruption is important because it triggers the very end of the end times.  

I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, how shall it be that these things will come to pass?’  He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are to remain secret and sealed until the time of the end. Many shall be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked shall continue to act wickedly. None of the wicked shall understand, but those who are perspicacious shall understand.  From the time that the constant oblation is taken away and the desolating abomination is set up, there shall be 1290 days.  Happy are those who persevere and attain the 1335 days.  But you, go your way, and rest; you shall rise for your reward at the end of the days.’ (Daniel 12:8-13. The author’s translation)