Wisdom and the Perfect Bread

Give us, O God, our morning bread, 
The soul by body nourished;
Give us, O God, the perfect bread, 
Sufficiently at evening fed

Give us, O God, milk-honey yield,
The strength and cream of fragrant field;
God, give us rest, our eyelids sealed,
They Rock of covenant our shield.

Give us this night the living fare,
This night the saving drink be there;
This night, for heaven to prepare,
Give us the cup of Mary fair

Be with us ever night and day,
In light and darkness, be our stay,
With us, abed or up, alway
In talk, in walk and when we pray

I found these stanzas in a book of Celtic poetry and prayers in the SUPC library. It is a plain, unassuming little book, but this prayer spoke to me, especially in light with the recent gospel readings. This is a prayer for life, for life sustaining gifts, and a prayer for wisdom, understanding, or clarity. It also fits very well as an answer to Sunday's Proverbs passage: Wisdom prepares a feast.

In the prayer:

  • Our morning bread is the most important meal of the day. Not only is it life-sustaining, but it is the first food eaten after a long period without (even if that "long period" is only 10-12 hours overnight). When awake, the average time between meals is 3-5 hours, so that overnight period really is a fast, albeit a short one.

  • Our perfect bread can be many things - the perfect amount of bread to see us sufficiently fed throughout the course of the day. It could be a metaphor for being nourished by Jesus, the perfect living bread. 

  • Milk-honey yield immediately brings to mind the description of the promised land: a land flowing with milk and honey. Combine that with the rest mentioned and the verse implies shelter after a long struggle. 

  • The living fare - could be meat, bread, or drink - but again, the setting is relaxed, safe. 

  • The last stanza is the prayer for guidance and understanding, and the final tie between the Proverbs passage and the Gospel Passage for Sunday. 

When we listen to Proverbs 9:1-6 on Sunday, we will hear about the sensible house Wisdom built, as well as the scrumptious feast she spread for people to partake. Her call is an interesting one, she calls "you who are simple, turn in here!" It took me a few reads and a little word-study, but eventually I was able to satisfactorily conclude that when Wisdom talks about people being "simple," she means "you who do not have understanding about the world, turn in here, bring your questions, and I will nourish your hearts, souls, and minds." There is the sense that Wisdom's bread is life-giving and life-affirming and life-sustaining - the bread of life.

This is the connection to the Gospel of John, chapter six, the Bread of Life discourse. This wonderful gift of spiritual nourishment and spiritual life is something that God has been trying, in different ways, to gift us all for a long time. Different cultures have seen this Bread manifested differently, and I can only conclude that it is in the hope that something in the analogy will stick with some measure of understanding. The gift of the Bread of Life is community, fellowship, understanding. It is the ability to have civil discourse, even when disagreeing with another person. The gift is the ability to listen to the heart of another, and through the listening, help find healing and wholeness. 

SUPC Pastor