Here at St. John’s, on the wall behind me, there is painted an angel holding a banner which says, “Ecce Panis Angelorum.” This is a Latin phrase. “Ecce” means “behold,” “panis” means “the bread,” and “angelorum” translates to “of the angels.” And thus the phrase goes, “Ecce Panis Angelorum; Behold the bread of angels.” This idea comes from Psalm 78, the psalm we heard today, which says of the Manna and the Israelites in the desert, “Man ate the bread of angels, food he sent them in abundance.”
Why was the Manna in the desert was called the bread of angels? Extra-Biblical Jewish tradition suggested that the Manna bread actually nourished the angels. The Manna also came down from Heaven for the benefit of men and came through the mediation of angels. Of course, the Manna prefigures the Eucharist, which nourishes us through the deserts of this life toward the Promised Land. The Eucharist is really Jesus Christ who came down from Heaven for mankind. The angels are indeed nourished by this bread, Jesus Christ, for their lives are sustained thorough Him. We also receive the New Testament Manna with the help of the angels. As we say in Eucharistic Prayer I: “Almighty God, we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven. Then, as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing.” It has been said that if angels could envy us, it would be for our reception of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The angels do more for us than we realize. We should remember to thank them; for getting us out of bed to come to Mass this morning, for assisting us here in our prayers, and for assisting us in our daily lives. Lovingly invite them, give them the permission, to do more in your lives. (They’re probably just waiting for you to ask.) Let us ask their intercession and at this Mass, together with the angels who surround us, let us delight in the bread of angels.