Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bread and the Body

The three essays covered in our High Calling discussion this week on The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting Toward God each, directly or indirectly, deal with communion. Or the common elements, as Mary Kenagy Mitchell calls them. The Eucharist, says Alexander Schmemann. Soul food, says the poet Luci Shaw.

Coincidentally (if one believes in coincidences), I’ve been reading Luci Shaw’s What the Light Was Like:Poems. Included in the collection is this:


I’m not asking for quails for dinner
and, if they flew in my window, at mealtime,
in a torrent of wind, I would think
aggravation, not miracle.

Time is so multiple and fluid. If I lose a day
flying the Pacific and gain it back
returning, perhaps the prayer I offered
this morning at first light
was known and answered last week.

You never know what a simple request
will get you. So, no plea for birds
from heaven. Rather, I will commit myself
to this quotidian wilderness, watching for what
the wind may bring me next –
perhaps a minor wafer tasting like honey
that I can pick up with my fingers
and lay on my tongue to ease, for this day,
my hunger to know.

Manna. Bread. Something everyday common, says Mitchell. The Eucharist, a theological name for something simple. Food for the body and food for the soul.

It’s not by accident that Jesus used bread and wine as the elements he wanted his disciples to remember him by every time they ate. And they were to remember him not just occasionally but every time – as often as they ate the bread and drank the wine.

Do I think of Jesus every month when I take communion at church? Absolutely. Do I think of him every time I eat bread or drink wine? No.

But perhaps I’m missing something important. The body of Jesus – the church – is there together at communion. But is it also there when I eat my roll or sliced bread at dinner? Is his blood also there whenever I drink a glass a wine? Perhaps his message was less about “remember” and a lot more about “whenever,” that it is in the mundane, the everyday, the common elements of our lives where we are most apt to discover Jesus. Our lives are filled far more with the common and everyday and a lot less with the spectacular and mountaintop, and Jesus wants to be remembered and lived right where we are.

Many years ago, I was the family breadmaker. I made all kinds of bread -- white, whole wheat, rye, cornmeal, cheese and beer, cinnamon raisin, rolls, English muffins. And then other things came along, other demands on my time, and all that was left was the annual cranberry wreath bread I make at Christmas.

Until Saturday. I dug out a recipe for whole wheat bread, and got the ingredients together.

Mixed together, the results didn't look too promising.

                  But after a few minutes of kneading, things started looking better.

               While the whole wheat dough was rising, I got real ambitious and made brown soda bread.

The whole wheat dough rose like it was supposed to, became three loaves, allowed to rise again, and came out the oven.

                It cooled for a few minutes, and then I couldn't stand it. Time to taste.

It was a simple thing to do. Each step had its own story -- selecting the recipe, making sure all the ingredients were in the kitchen, mixing, kneading (I'd forgotten that whole wheat requires more strenuous kneading than white), rising, rolling out, shaping loaves for the pan, rising again, baking, the smell that permeates the house, the cooling, the slicing and the tasting (yes, it was good; heavy but good).

On Sunday, we had communion at church.

Like Luci Shaw, I committed myself to this "quotidian wilderness, watching what the wind may bring me next." The result was simple and plain -- three loaves of bread. Simple, daily bread. And somehow, I knew that here, too, was my Lord, working me like daily bread.

To see this week's discussion and links to other posts on the three essays in The Spirit of Food, please visit The High Calling.


Louise Gallagher said...

Ah Glynn, some of my favourite memories of my father centre around making bread together. He taught me those simple steps and more than that, he taught me to stand in awe of the wonder and magic of a little bit of flour mixed with some water and yeast and how it can rise up into something so nourishing.

What a beautiful post. Thanks!

Laura said...

Glynn! You are a man of many talents. This bread looks delicious. The process you describe, I think, is a holy one. I believe when we enter into that mindfulness--a deliberate awareness of life--we awaken the Divine inside of us.

And I'm going to have to invest in some of Luci Shaw's poetry!

Jennifer @ said...

I like the idea of emphasizing the "whenever." I appreciate the way you've awakened my senses to Christ's words.

S. Etole said...

This is food for the body and spirit ... your words feed well.

Maureen said...

Kneading is not
like needing.

The one fills,
the other takes.

Anonymous said...

in all
what we feed ourselves
what we eat and drink
He is there
in everything
as everyday as eating
as bread to our body
it is He that is in us
and becomes part of us
giving life through
all that see HIm
take HIm
in the bread
in the wine
in the everyday
as food we eat

wonderful post, glynn.

Anonymous said...

Glynn -- This is it! This is what I am trying to capture with the Eucharist, to bring the remembrance and the expectation and the holiness to the every day. What a great idea to stop and make bread. I can think of no better way to interact with these essays or the Lord than that.

lynnmosher said...

Oh, Glynn, I love reading about bread...for the nourishment of our bodies and souls. I love studying the ancient traditions and what bread meant in the lives of the Hebrews/Jews. Wonderful post!

Cheryl said...

Glynn, my heart skipped a beat when I read this today. I'm making bread too! Bread is one of my words for the year. In fact, my last two posts have been about bread (though not the next one).

I don't believe in coincidences. I think we should talk. :)

Blessings friend!

H. Gillham said...

How do you do that? How do you come up with all of these wonderful blog ideas that always have meaning?

Thanks. I am thankful that I was led to this blog. Yep. Led.

Wonderful metaphor -- it can never be overused.