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Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament
Preached in the Oratory of S. Margaret's, East Grinstead

by John Mason Neale, D.D.

London: H. R. Allenson, n.d.


"And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna; for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat."--Exod. xvi. 15.


OF this most wonderful type of a nobler food than itself, we were speaking last night. But now, in the quietness and stillness of our own little Oratory, let us see again how God the HOLY GHOST has taught the Saints and Doctors of His Church to understand this shadow of good things to come: blessed in itself, in that it supported a fainting and weary multitude of six hundred thousand footmen, besides women and children, during their forty years' journey in the desert; much more blessed in that it shadowed out that wonderful food of which if a man eateth he shall never die: that food which, till the lips that spake as never man spake had first revealed, could not even have been conceived by the human intellect: that food of which it is so truly and admirably written, What nation is there so great, who hath GOD so nigh unto them, as the LORD our GOD is to us?

Dearest Sisters, none can be more interested in these Old Testament types of our daily bread than you ought to be. There are no words, when we remember this feast of fat things made for you every day--there are no words which can express what ought to be the holiness, and purity, and devotion of your lives. None can be more trusted than you are, each of you, to say when they are conscious to themselves of anything which ought to keep them away from that Body and that Blood. In your self-examination at night I know you would not willingly fail. But, remember, every morning you ought to put to yourselves, however shortly, at least most strictly, that great question, Is there any one thing since I last received the Blessed Sacrament which ought to hinder my receiving it now?

But, assuming this--trusting in GOD, as I do, that you do so try to examine yourselves--then, my dearest Sisters, it is a delight and a privilege indeed to me to give you the Food of Immortality day by day; to think that your hands are, as it were, sanctified to works of mercy, by holding that which suffered for you on Calvary, by touching that Body as truly as Mary Magdalene touched it when she annointed it with her ointment and wiped the feet with the hairs of her head, or as Thomas, when he touched the precious wounds of the Hands and of the Side. Those hands of yours, dear Sisters, ought indeed to be specially hallowed to every work of love; whatever they find to do ought indeed to be done with all your might, for the sake of Him Who was so mighty, as well as so loving, to save you.

And now, what shall I first tell you of the manna? First, I think, this: We are apt to look upon it, not only as a most astonishing miracle, but as a miracle which was perfectly new, of a kind never heard of before, of a perfectly distinct species from anything that had elsewhere happened. But it is not so. You know that, to this day, in that desert manna falls--in very small quantities, just here and there, not in sufficient abundance to support even one man's life; but yet it does fall. GOD, therefore, did not altogether create a new wonder; He took, as it were, a natural provision, and so increased and multiplied it that it became a miracle of miracles. See now how this is His way. It might have pleased Him that nothing should have been placed on the Altar, and that, at the words of Consecration, the Body and Blood of His dear SON should have appeared of themselves. This would have been in reality no greater miracle than that which we behold; nay, holy men have not feared to say that it would not have been so great a marvel. But He bids us do our part. We give the bread and wine: He transmutes them into our LORD'S Body and Blood. So He did when He was about to feed the five thousand, and again the seven thousand, in the wilderness. He might, by one word, have created all that food. Not so: He multiplied it from the provision that there already was. At Cana of Galilee He might have filled the empty waterpots with wine by one word, or without one word. By no means: He commands them first to be filled with water. Or again, when His disciples said, "LORD, teach us to pray," He might have made for them a prayer absolutely new, of which not one word had been used in prayer before. You know that He did no such thing. Every single clause in the LORD'S Prayer is to be found in the Temple service of the Jews. He merely chose from that; He vouchsafed, so to speak, thence to extract the material, but to form and shape it Himself into the perfect model of all prayer. And, dear Sisters, there is a lesson for you in all this. What is it? Surely this: GOD, in accepting your self-dedication to Him, undoubtedly will give you grace that shall direct every action to His glory. But also, undoubtedly, it is by the powers or talents that each of you have by nature that His grace will principally work, that you must expect it to work, that you must look for being made the instruments of especial good. That it is which so blesses and transfigures knowledge of any kind, influence of any kind, accomplishments of any kind, nay, and such things as a pleasing manner and general tact. Dear Sisters, of these also it may be said, The LORD hath need of them.

Next notice about the manna, that it was like the hoar-frost. Think for one moment of this, and you will see how exquisite a type it is of our True Manna. We know how gloriously beautiful is the hoar-frost when the sun shines on it, when it glitters with such purity and freshness, when it glows with the colours of the rainbow, when it arrays the hedges with a loveliness that Solomon, in all his glory, never attained. But at the very moment of its highest perfection, what does it do? It melts and ceases to exist. Now, my dear Sisters, you who feed on the manna, are you not bound to reflect all the rays of the Sun of Righteousness in holy and beautiful lives--in lives that give out to sight, as it were, the sevenfold graces of the sevenfold SPIRIT--in lives that shall have attained the very perfection of this beauty at the very moment of their end? And again, see how the hoar-frost turns the meanest things into loveliness, sheds softness over the sharpest, veils over deformity, hides impurity. So this heavenly manna again with you. It, too, must elevate every work you have to do; it, too, must beautify every thorn you have to feel; it, too, in an impure and naughty world, must keep you pure and faithful. And yet one thing more. Every crystal of frost, if you look at it through a miscroscope, presents the figure of a Cross--each crystal its own figure--some more, some less lovely, but all the Cross. Dear Sisters, I need not interpret that parable to you.

But what came with the manna? for that too nearly concerns us. In the morning the dew lay round about the host. And this has two meanings for us. We all know that, as each Person of the ever-blessed TRINITY has His own proper office in the work of man's redemption, so it is the part of the HOLY GHOST to effect the change in the elements now, as He once effected the Incarnation of the Word made Flesh. And He is indeed the Dew, so pure, so soft, coming so silently, giving life and refreshment and beauty everywhere, coming in a way that none can understand, coming invisibly, coming in the night of affliction. The dew and the manna still, then, come together, and GOD grant that they may remain together; that His work may still go on with you and by you, when you have received that Heavenly Food; that His peace may dwell in your hearts, His strength give you vigour, His love kindle your whole soul to love Him Who first loved you!

Then notice, that the Jews here asked a question which was not answered. When they thus saw it lie on the face of the earth, they naturally said, "Manna?"--that is, What is it? Now, when Moses gave his first message from GOD to the Twelve Tribes, he had expressly inquired by what name GOD would make Himself known to them; and he received as answer, I am that I am. Here the people inquired, but they had none other than the general reply, This is the bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. And thus see that for this Blessed Sacrament there is no one such distinctive name as to swallow up the rest, there is no one especial type which stands prominently forward above all others. See how here it is the manna of the Jewish desert; see how, in the history of Samson, it is the honey in the lion's body, as the antitype was that heavenly sweetness instituted for us at the death of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; see how, under the old law, it was the shrew-bread, set forth as an acceptable offering in the Holy Place; how, in Jotham's parable, it is the wine that cheereth GOD and man; how, in Elijah's story, it is the cake of bread and the cruse of water, in the strength whereof he went forty days and forty nights unto Horeb, the Mount of GOD; how, among Elisha's miracles, it is the meal which, cast into the poisonous pottage, made it wholesome; how, in Solomon's teaching, it is the banquet and the wine which Wisdom makes in the house of her seven pillars; how, in the words of Solomon's mother, it is the wine to be given to those that are ready to perish; in those of Isaiah, the wine and the milk without money and without price; in those of Zechariah, the bread of the valiant, and the wine that blossoms into virgins.

Still we may ask the same question, What is it? And still we find it so adapting itself to all our needs, so our safeguard against all dangers, that to us, as of old time, no one reply can be made to the question. It is, during our pilgrimage, the nearest approach to the Beatific Vision; it is, so far as anything can be in a land of exile, our all in all.

And then, notice its falling early. Were there no other reason, dear Sisters, this very type should make us rejoice that our manna falls early in the morning there also. I think there could be no better habit for all of you than, with reference to this, to say, while dressing, those two Psalms, taken together, which we do say at Lauds every night--the 63rd and the 67th. For see how they speak of it: O GOD, Thou art my GOD; that is, even so, even under the form of Bread and Wine, even thus vouchsafing to come among us again, as once in Thine own form, when Thou didst walk upon earth. Thou art my GOD: others may question, others may deride, others may blaspheme, but we know and are persuaded that Thou art the CHRIST, the Saviour of the world. It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our GOD; we have waited for Him, and He will save us.

Early will I seek Thee: and the earliness of the day, dearest Sisters, should but be the type of your obeying in everything at the first call, pressing forward at the very soonest opportunity. I need not go through the Psalm for you: you can do it for yourselves. Every one of you, dearest Sisters, will receive the Bread and Wine of Immortality to-morrow. Do now as I have told you, and try to throw yourself into the true spirit of those Psalms: to realise, Thus have I looked for Thee in holiness: to endeavour to say, As long as I live will I magnify Thee on this manner--vowed specially to Thee, and separated from all things else: to think of your daily banquet, and to say, My soul shall be satisfied, even as it were with marrow and fatness; to say, as I hope you will be able to say, Have I not remembered Thee in my bed, and thought upon Thee when I was waking? to promise that, so far as you are concerned, the King, your King, your Beloved, shall rejoice in GOD, because in you He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied: and then, in the next Psalm, to unite yourselves with the Communion of the Saints, fed with the same Bread, united in the same Body, while you say, Let the people praise Thee, O GOD; yea, let ALL the people praise Thee.

And yet again. If the manna, which fell in the morning, was the type of this our Christian food, the quails, which came up in the evening, were equally the type of Jewish ordinances. Notice, therefore, that the quails only covered the camp, because in Jewry only was GOD known: His Name was great only in Israel. But the manna fell round about the camp, because the Church that our LORD came to found was to have dominion from the one sea to the other, and from the flood unto the world's end; because then and thenceforth the earth was to be the LORD'S and the fulness thereof. But there is something beyond this. The quails, through the Books of Moses, were the type of worldly desires; they were the answer sent in anger to a wrong petition: they were a fatal gift; and the end of them was Kibroth Hattaavah, the Graves of Lust. Notice, then: these quails came into the camp; they were to be taken without any trouble; they were in the midst of the bustle and confusion of everyday life: the manna, on the other hand, lay in the stillness and solitude of the desert, and it had to be gone out of the camp after. Yes, dear Sisters, and so it is still. Worldly pleasures, such as they are, you may have without labouring for--you may have in the turmoil of the world: this heavenly food you must seek with care: you must come out, as GOD says, from among others, and be separate: you must, as S. Paul speaks, go forth with your LORD out of the camp, bearing His reproach.

And much more I might show you of the way in which that Israelitish manna is a type of the Bread of GOD, which cometh down from Heaven. But after all, my dear Sisters, the chief thing (for let me end as I began), rests with yourselves. As our numbers increase, this ought to be more and more our earnest prayer for each, that here, where of all places we most desire to honour that Blessed Sacrament,--here, where in an unbelieving and unloving world, we desire to be faithful and loving,--here we should not dishonour it more than others, because, with such professions, a little fault among you is so far worse than the avowed and open carelessness of the world.

And now I can only say to you, as Moses to the Israelites, This is the Bread which the LORD hath given you to eat. Oh! what miracles of grace may I not look for from all of you, if you only come to such a banquet as those who by their very profession should come, who are the LORD'S alone. Nothing, I know it well,--nothing but the wonderful grace of GOD, and not your own strength, would enable you so to work as your very life will often require, for all its self-denial, for all its difficulties, its few encouragements, its many sorrows. Sufficient grace for that you have: and, but by your own fault, He that hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of JESUS CHRIST.

Oh, dear Sisters, that it may be so! That this Bread of all strength may give you ever-increasing might till your final victory: that this manna of all sweetness may, as of old, continually lie about your tents here, till that blessed day when, the Jordan having been passed, you shall eat new corn in the true Land of Canaan!

And now, etc.

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