Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Prefiguring Salvation -- Manna in the Desert and the Bread From Heaven, Part II


The Master of Edward IV, The Last Supper and Isrealites Collecting Manna
From Speculum humanae salvationis
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1485
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 6275, fol. 17v


This is the second of a series of three articles regarding the interpretation of the miracle of the manna and its relationship to Jesus' statements about his flesh as the bread from heaven.  Please be sure to read all three.  A link to the first essay is provided in the first paragraph of text below the quotation from Saint John.  A link to the third essay is found at the end of this essay.








“The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said,
"I am the bread that came down from heaven, "
and they said,
"Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph?
Do we not know his father and mother?
Then how can he say,
'I have come down from heaven'?"
Jesus answered and said to them,
"Stop murmuring among yourselves.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him,
and I will raise him on the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They shall all be taught by God.
Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.
Not that anyone has seen the Father
except the one who is from God;
he has seen the Father.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes has eternal life.
I am the bread of life.
Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;
this is the bread that comes down from heaven
so that one may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven;
whoever eats this bread will live forever;
and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

John 6:41-51 (Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, August 12, 2018)


In the prior essay, Prefiguring Salvation – Manna in the Desert and the Bread from Heaven, Part I, we looked at the first images in Christian art that combined the image of the Israelites receiving the gift of manna from heaven and the miracles in which Jesus is said to have prefigured, or hinted at, his power over matter and pointed forward to the greatest miracle of all, his gift of himself in the Eucharist.  We also examined instances in which the scene of God's salvation through the provision of manna and quail in the desert was often combined with other Old Testament scenes that also carried, for Christians, an additional meaning, referring to Christ's sacrificial self-offering.

The church spreads the words of John the Evangelist over the Gospels read on four successive Sundays during this month of August in Year B (or Liturgical Year 2018).1  We continue in our second essay to look at those images that combine the incident of the manna with New Testament scenes that reveal its deeper meaning.  

The Miracle of the Manna Paired with New Testament Scenes

By far the largest number of pairing with images of the fall and gathering of the manna are made with New Testament images that underline Jesus as the living Bread of Life, given for all at his death and still available to his living disciples today.

In Books

These images were frequently used in liturgical books and in prayer books and, during the middle ages and early Renaissance periods, in works that were popular with a largely still illiterate or minimally literate public, where instruction was given through the use of images. These were popular works like the Speculum humanae salvationis and the Biblia Pauperum, which survive in huge quantities that testify to their immense popularity.
Last Supper and Gathering of Manna
From Speculum humanae salvationis
Italian (Bologna), c. 1350-1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 593 [ff. 1-42], fol. 18
Master of the Hours of Margaret of Cleves,Abraham and Melchizedek, The Last Supper, The Fall of Manna
From Biblia pauperum
Dutch, c. 1405_
London, British Library
MS King's 5, fol. 10
The Rambures Master, Abraham and Melchisedec, the Last Supper, The Gathering of Manna
From Biblia pauperum
French (Amiens), c.1470
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS RMMW 10 A 15, fol. 28v

The Isrealites Collecting Manna and the Eucharist in a Monstrance
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Tournai), 1535
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 74 G 9, fol. 88v-89r

Here the equation of the manna with the Eucharist, as experienced by the Christian believer, is made pointedly manifest.  The scene of the collection of the miraculous manna is paired, not with the scene of the Last Supper, but with the consecrated Host displayed for adoration in a monstrance.  It is interesting that the date of this Book of Hours is 1535, almost 20 years after the date of Luther's famous 95 Theses, and therefore well within the opening rounds in the debate over the nature of the Eucharist between Catholics and Protestants.  By replacing the traditional scene of the Last Supper with the consecrated Host, in the monstrance, the painter and his or her patron were taking a stand for the Catholic belief.

In Large Scale Paintings

Even more importantly, the pairings with New Testament scenes often formed part of the surroundings for a another, often central image (for an altarpiece, for example).  The images surrounding the main image, of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion or the Supper at Emmaus, for instance, would frequently include both the Old Testament “foreshadowing” and the related and the New Testament scenes.   The surrounding images could be found in the other panels of an altarpiece with foldable arms or in the predella (area below the main image) in those that are stationary. 


Dieric Bouts the Elder, Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament
Dutch, c. 1464-1467
Leuven, Sint-Pieterskerk
Surrounding the central image of the Last Supper are scenes that prefigure aspects of the Eucharistic mystery:  the meeting between Abraham and Melchisedek and the Passover Meal on the left side; the gathering of the Manna and the angel urging Elijah not not give up hope in his desert wanderings.  The Eucharist is our offering of thanksgiving to God, it is the sign of our salvation, it is our spiritual food that gives us hope for the future.
Ercole de' Roberti, Last Supper
Door from a Tabernacle
Italian, c. 1490s
London, National Gallery
Ercole de' Roberti, Isarealites Gathering Manna
Italian, c. 1490s
London, National Gallery
This painting, of Israelites gathering manna, forms the predella just below the tabernacle door of the Last Supper shown above.  
Antwerp Mannerist Painter, Altarpiece with Last Supper Scene set between the Meeting of Abraham and Melchisedek
and the Miracle of the Manna
Flemish, c. 1515-1520
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Follower of Pieter Coecke van Aelst,  The Pagny Altarpiece in the open position
Flemish, c. 1532-1535
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
(The Pagny Altarpiece (above) whose wings were come from the workshop of Pieter Coecke van Aelst, one of the leading Flemish Mannerist painters, depicts events from the life of Christ and his mother, the Virgin Mary.  The narratives run from left to right, with those from the life of Mary on the lower of the two levels.  It begins at the far lower left wing with the Annunciation and runs across the entire span of the altarpiece with the Visitation, the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Presentation in the Temple, the Adoration of the Magi, The Massacre of the Innocents and the Rest on the Flight into Egypt.  The upper level includes scenes from the Passion, beginning at the upper left with the Betrayal of Christ, Christ Before Pilate, the Way of the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Deposition, the Entombment and the Resurrection.  When closed the wings depict events from the life of Christ, such as the Baptism and Miracles.  The predella, at the bottom, which remains the same whether the wings are open or shut, is our concern.  Its central motif is the Last Supper, with the Meeting of Abraham and Melchisedek on the left and the Israelites collecting manna on the right.) 
Or depictions of the gift of manna and its Old and New Testament parallels may be found as images on the walls of churches or chapels, near the altar.  


Tintoretto, The Miracle of the Manna
Italian, c. 1577
Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco







































Tintoretto, The Last Supper
Italian, c. 1579-1581
Venice, Scuola Grande di San Rocco
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Isrealites Gathering Manna
Italian, c. 1740-1742
Verolanuova, Parochial Church
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Sacrifice of Melchizedek
Italian, c. 1740-1742
Verolanuova, Parochial Chruch

























They might also be found as images on tapestries and even on the vestments of the priests celebrating the Mass.  


After Heironymus Wierix, Chasuble with Gathering of Manna
Dutch, 1570
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Tapestry After Design by Alessandro Allori, Gathering of Manna
Italian, c. 1595-1596
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
The New Testament reference is underlined by the Eucharistic symbol of the Host and Chalice at the center of the top border.
Peter Paul Rubens, Gathering of Manna
Flemish, c. 1625
Sarasota (FL), The Ringling Museum

Pedagogical Uses of the Parallels with Old and New Testament Scenes

In a certain sense, all of the combinations of the episode of the miraculous feeding of the Jews in the desert, which we have described above, can be considered have an educational purpose in a society which was largely illiterate or semi-literate.  As literacy grew, the teaching can be seen to have left the walls (though never completely) and transferred itself into books.  Printed books could more easily reach far more people than a single manuscript could ever hope to do, and at far less cost.  Printed works, both luxurious and commonplace, continued to carry these ideas. 

So, for instance, we have an exquisite 17th-century work, such as the emblem book titled La vérité à la place des ombres, prepared for the Duchesse de Montpensier, cousin of Louis XIV, in which printing and hand illumination work well together.  In the book, an entire section, pages 96 through 138 are devoted to La manne, figure de la sacreé Eucharistie

La Manne figure de la sacre Eucharistie
From La vérité à la place des ombres
French, 1679
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M21, fol. 92r
Manna Falling in the Camp
From La vérité à la place des ombres
French, 1679
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M21, fol. 106r




























Israelites Gathering Manna
From La vérité à la place des ombres
French, 1679
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M21, fol. 114r
Israelites Taste the Manna
From La vérité à la place des ombres
French, 1679
New York, Pierpont
MS M21, fol. 122r



























Israelites Eating the Manna
From La vérité à la place des ombres
French, 1679
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M21, fol. 138r
Manna Gathered for the Altar
From La vérité à la place des ombres
French, 1679
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M21, fol. 130r
























Later Examples

Nor did the combination of Eucharistic references to Old Testament pre-figuration in churches for purposes of education and meditation end with the Baroque period.

From approximately 200 years after printing of the book above, we have a certificate of the Sacraments of Initiation for a young person named Leblanc (the first name is difficult to read), who was baptized in February 1880, received First Holy Communion on April 24, 1892 and was Confirmed a couple of weeks later, on May 4, 1892.2

Souvenir of First Holy Communion
French, 1892
Nuits-Saint-Georges, Musée municipal

This particular certificate is a virtual Catechism lesson in Eucharistic iconography.  The Paschal Lamb is the topmost item.  At the center is the Last Supper.  Surrounding this image are:  at the top, the Passover (left), the Manna in the desert (right).  Immediately below the image of the Last Supper is that of the Pelican in its piety, a powerful symbol of Christ’s Passion and of His Charity.  It was believed that, when food was scarce, pelicans used their beaks to pierce their own breasts so that their chicks could drink their blood for nourishment.  To either side of the Pelican are two levels of images.  Those on the upper layer are drawn from the New Testament miracles of Jesus.  On the left is the miracle of Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine.  On the right is the miracle of the loaves and fishes, where Jesus fed 5,000 with a few fish and loaves of bread.  Those on the lower layer depict the sacraments to which the certificate pertains.  On the left is Baptism, where a baby, in the arms of his or her godmother is being baptized.  On the right, is Confirmation, where a bishop anoints the head of a young man, as his sponsor upholds him. Such certificates were produced in thousands and continue to be.  A small amount of research on the internet revealed prices running from $25 to $50 for a pack of 100.  Today, you can even buy (or create) one of your own and print it!


When members of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament were planning the decoration of their first church building in the United States, back in 1910 in New York, they turned to the didactic themes that had served so well throughout the history of Christian art in the West.  As their primary focus for mission is the Eucharist, they chose to present the moments in the life of Christ that either forecast the gift of himself in the Eucharist or its pre-figuration in both the Old and New Testaments.

The principal decoration for their church of Saint Jean Baptiste in New York is its main altar and its windows.  The windows were commissioned from the atelier of Charles Lorin in Chartres, France and executed between 1910 and 1914.  Trapped in Europe during the First World War, where they were kept underground to protect them from shelling and early aerial bombardment, they were not placed in the windows until 1920.  
Charles Lorin Atelier, Marriage Feast at Cana
French, c. 1912-1914
New York, Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste
Lower level nave
Charles Lorin Atelier, Sacrifice of Melchisedech
French, c. 1912-1914
New York, Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste
Upper level nave



























In the church, the New Testament activities are shown in the widows of the nave, chapels and apse, the spaces inhabited by the congregation and clergy.  The corresponding Old Testament scenes appear above them.  For more on this, please see “The Charles Lorin Stained Glass Windows at St. Jean Baptiste Church, New York”, where they are described in greater detail with multiple pictures.

Charles Lorin Atelier, Last Supper
French, c. 1912-1914
New York, Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste
Lower level apsidal chapel

Charles Lorin Atelier, First Passover
French, c. 1912-1914
New York, Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste
Upper level apsidal chapel
Charles Lorin Atelier, Gathering of Manna
French, c. 1912-1914
New York, Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste
Upper level apsidal chapel




























Continued further with Prefiguring Salvation -- Manna in the Desert and the Bread From Heaven, Part III.  Please read all parts of this study to understand all the aspects of this iconography.

Link to Part I: Prefiguring Salvation – Manna in the Desert and the Bread from Heaven, Part I,
___________________________________________________________________

1.  These readings are: 
  • Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – John 6:24-35  
  • Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – John 6:41-51
  • Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – John 6:51-58                                                                  
  • Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – John 6: 60-69
2.  The late age for the reception of First Communion seem strange to us, after 100 or so years of reception occurring around the age of 7-9.  However, 12 was pretty much the norm for the period in which this certificate was issued.  The reforms of Pope Pius X were still approximately 20 years in the future.


© M. Duffy, 2018

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.







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