“The Israelites witnessed marvels; you also will witness
marvels, greater and more splendid than those which accompanied them on
their departure from Egypt.” –St. John Chrysostom
Words point to realities. And some realities, states the Catechism, point to other realities.
words of the Old Testament point us to events in the history of Israel.
But key events in the history of Israel also point us to their
fulfillment in the life of Jesus. And, finally, those events in the life
of Jesus point us to a pattern for our own lives.
The Exodus is a perfect example of these connections.
were the events of the Exodus? The oppression of the Israelites in
Egypt, the birth and call of Moses, the 10 plagues, the Passover and
departure from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, the giving of the 10
Commandments, and so on. You can read about them in the first half of
the Book of Exodus.
One of the fascinating things about the
Gospels is that they show how Christ sums up the history of Israel with
His life. As Israel was called out of Egypt, so Christ was called out of
Egypt (Matthew 1:15). As Israel crossed the Red Sea, so Christ was
baptized in the Jordan (Mark 1:9-11). As Israel spent 40 years in the
desert, so Christ fasted and prayed for 40 days in the desert (Luke 4).
As Israel received manna from heaven, so Christ offered His body as the
true bread from heaven (John 6:32-35). St. Irenaeus called this the
mystery of “recapitulation” — Christ summing up and fulfilling the
history of Israel.
What’s equally fascinating, though, is how the
experience of Christ and Israel form a pattern for our own lives! As
Israel experienced slavery in Egypt, so each of us has experienced
slavery to sin. As Israel was saved from its physical enemies (the
pursuing army of Egypt) by crossing the Red Sea, so each of us is saved
from our spiritual enemies (sin and the devil) by the waters of baptism.
As Israel received bread from heaven in the manna during its time in
the desert, so we receive bread from heaven in the Eucharist during our
time on earth.
All of salvation history is centered on Christ. He
recapitulated, in His body, all the mysteries of Israel’s life. He wants
to live those mysteries again in us, as members of His body.
means the truths and events of salvation history — like the Exodus —
are in our bones. We’re meant to live them in Christ. Where have you
already been freed from slavery to sin? That’s where Christ is living
His mysteries in you. Where do you most want or need to be freed from
slavery? That’s where Christ wants to bring about the Exodus of His
For it’s the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in His mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in His whole Church. This is His plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.