Monday, July 11, 2011

Unleavened

My mother reports that they had twenty minutes of rain yesterday afternoon. That is good to hear. Crestone, CO has a fifty percent chance of rain in the forecast today too. Come on moisture. Here in northeastern Kansas we are under a heat advisory, highs around 100 and high humidity which equals awful. But as a neighbor observed, this is the weather that gives us tomatoes. You can practically see the corn and sunflowers growing.

Yesterday I took communion to the nursing home resident we visit. She is a small retired librarian with glasses that give her an owlish look. She is English and good company and I'm quite fond of her. I feel a little guilty because it's all so pleasant: she is in good health and is mostly all-there mentally and our visits aren't taxing at all. I receive a kit as part of the church service with a few wafers and a little wine in a flask. We have a mini service in Thelma's room and then I clean up the pieces and return the kit to the church during the week. Any uneaten wafers are allowed to hang out in their little silver box. But the rule is that the consecrated wine needs to be drunk or poured out onto the earth to dispose of it. Episcopalian holy wine is sweet but not too awful. Our kids don't mind it, they both take communion by dipping the wafer into the wine. The nuts and bolts of ritual.

I know that episcopalian churches can choose to use baked bread instead of wafers for their communion services. But they haven't had bread at Trinity in Lawrence as long as I've attended. I haven't had real bread for communion since attending the United Church in Los Alamos, NM. I see the storage and longevity advantages of the little dry discs. But why do we use these tasteless wafers? Today I stumbled across the explanation in a discussion of five great books about the history of food. (I want to read them all.) "...I wish that the Roman Catholic Church had followed the Greek Orthodox Church, which (and this was one of the reasons for the Great Schism) denied the continuities between the Jewish Passover and the Last Supper – and so even today, in communions, uses a fermented bread, the sort of wheat loaf that you can get in any really good bakery. The Roman Catholics, on the other hand, argued that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, and therefore that the bread was unfermented and thus akin to matzo. Because of this, the host as it’s offered today in Catholic churches is a bread that’s manufactured mechanically and industrially of wheat but without any fermentation – and it’s obviously much less attractive, much less interesting to incorporate into one’s body, than a real piece of bread." Aha! All this makes me want to do is go home and bake some bread. Maybe in September, the current high temps make baking contraindicated. I am all for acknowledging the Jewish roots of Christian ritual. But I'm also all for bread!

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