Elijah was sent to a widow in the Sidonian village of Zarephath to give her food and save her from starving.

Let us consider how perfectly this woman prefigures the Church.

Before Elijah came to her, she and her children were suffering from hunger.

Undoubt­edly she suffered also from the worst kind of hunger, because Christ the bread of life had not yet descended from heaven; the Word of God had not yet taken a body from the Virgin.

Listen to the Prophet’s saying: I shall send famine on the land; not hunger for bread or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord.

Any who suffer hunger for lack of the divine word do indeed risk dying of starvation.

There is a great difference between being deprived of earthly bread and being deprived of the divine word.

Lack of earthly bread can kill only the body, but lack of the divine word ruins the soul as well as killing the body.

Unsatisfied hunger for earthly bread removes us from this present life; but unsatisfied hunger for the divine word excludes us from eternal life.

Such was the peril faced by the Church before she received Christ, but when she received him she escaped the danger of everlasting death.

Before the coming of Christ, this woman did indeed have a little flour and oil, that is, the teaching of the Law and the Prophets, but that could not have saved her if the grace of Christ had not fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

Hence the Lord’s saying in the Gospel: I have come not to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfil them.

The Law and the Prophets were powerless to save us from death, except through the Passion of Christ.

So it was that when the Church received Christ, flour, oil, and wood began to abound; flour signifying the bread of the word; oil the gift of divine mercy; and wood the mystery of the venerable Cross through which the ­heavenly rain is given to us.

For this is what Elijah says to the woman: You shall not lack flour or oil until the Lord brings rain upon the land.

Our Lord and Saviour brought us rain from heaven, that is, the teaching of the Gospel, and by it he refreshed human hear­ts, dry as a thirsty land, with the waters of eternal life.

Chromatius of Aquileia (d. 406/7): Sermon 25, 5-6 (SC 164:84-88); 3) from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I