The Eucharist: Our Burning Bush

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“And the angel of the Lord appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” (Exodus 3:2)

“In this [fire] it prefigured this sacrament [the Eucharist], in which the fire of kindness and of divine goodness is received in the verdure of the burning bush, that is, in his humanity, vigorous in every virtue, for the communion with Christ, God and man.” (St. Albert the Great, On the Body of the Lord)

While reading the treatise On the Body of the Lord by St. Albert the Great, I ran across this peculiar passage. In this passage, Albert compares the burning bush, which appeared to Moses, with the Eucharist and ultimately with the Incarnation. At first this might seem strange, but by unpacking this connection we can find some nuggets of truth.

As Catholics, we believe that the Eucharist is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Therefore, when we receive the Eucharist, we receive God himself. However, we receive God through receiving the body of Christ. During the Mass, the priest does not say “this is my divinity,” but he says, “this is my body” and “this is my blood.”

It is here that we find the connection between the burning bush and the Eucharist. Just as a flame is only given by something that is burning, so too is Christ’s divinity only given to us in the Eucharist through his humanity.

Also, in Exodus, the bush is not consumed by the fire, but it is, as Albert describes it, “verdure,” which means fresh or green. So too when God became human, his humanity was not consumed by the fire of his divinity, but it was made fully alive. In our lives, therefore, God’s action and love does not consume us, but it makes us fully alive. The source of this life is found in Christ himself who is given to us in the Eucharist. By our reception of this sacrament, our humanity shines with God’s divinity in a way which is modeled after Christ himself, which is prefigured by the burning bush.

Especially in these times which seem all too often dark, let us flock to our burning bush for light and warmth, the Eucharist. Let us adore Christ in this sacrament, and receive him so that we too might be aflame with his love.

Br. Nathaniel Maria Mayne, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE