More than the Bread of Angels

Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. (Psalm 78:25)

The hymn, Panis Angelicus, written by Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, comes close to describing the ineffable mixture of unspeakable joy and perfect peace that we experience in the sacrament of holy communion. Yet when we partake of the body and blood of Jesus Christ by faith, we are feasting on more than the bread of angels, this manna that rained down for forty years upon the Israelites in the wilderness that the psalmist describes. Instead, by faith we receive Christ Himself, the Son of God incarnate, in a gift of atonement and communion that even the angels cannot know but that by grace we possess through the Holy Spirit leading us into fellowship with the Trinitarian God, a fellowship inscribed within the eternal, steadfast love of the Father.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)

Panis Angelicus, with doxology

Panis angelicus
fit panis hominum;
Dat panis cœlicus
figuris terminum:
O res mirabilis!
Manducat Dominum
Pauper, servus et humilis.

Te trina Deitas
unaque poscimus:
Sic nos tu visita,
sicut te colimus;
Per tuas semitas
duc nos quo tendimus,
Ad lucem quam inhabitas.
Amen.

May the Bread of Angels
Become bread for mankind;
May the Bread of Heaven put
To all foreshadowings the end;
Oh, thing miraculous!
This body of God will nourish
the poor, the servile, and the humble.

Thee God, Three
And One, we beseech;
Do us Thou visit,
As Thee we worship.
By Thy ways,
lead us where we are heading,
to the light Thou inhabitest.
Amen.

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