by Charles LaFond
In the middle and late middle ages, bread took up 1/3 of the family income and was how people survived. We refer to “square meals” because sailors used to eat meals made up of stuff poured onto square tranches of bread as plates. Jesus used the reference to daily bread in his model prayer. Bread crumbs formed the argument for Jesus to lighten up about who he thought was worthy of salvation. Bread multiplied when a crowd was hungry, and Jesus showed off a bit. Bread is an essential part of most of the world’s food reference. What is better than hot bread with butter and jam? Or cheese. Or chocolate. Or a quick trip to the cathedral roof … honey from the cathedral bee hives which I sneak sometimes when nobody is looking. The cathedral bees seem not to mind. One quick butter knife into one section of comb. Hexagonal collapse…golden ooze…a smear on bread and the lid goes back down, and I make off into the cathedral hallways with thick, warm bread and sun-warmed, hot honey…some dripping conspiratorially onto my cassock. Dry cleaning.
I will never understand our use of wafers, and a blog like this is no place for a tirade so I will simply note how wonderful it was, in a recent wedding, to hold up a loaf of bread as big as a water melon and tear it in two. And how wonderful it was to see people biting down on their huge hunk of bread and sucking red wine into their mouths to soak their break while it was still in there being chewed. Bread with wine is wonderful in the mouth.
Some theologians, with whom I agree, posit that Jesus’s crucifixion was about God allowing humanity to sucker-punch God in the gut for all the evil in the world and the church. It makes sense:
“…here. I know you are angry about a life in which there is so much suffering. Here is my Son. My only, beloved Son. He is my flesh. Take him, church. Take him state. Do what you want to him. Get it out of your system if you think it will feel good. It won’t. Not for long. But go ahead. Break Him. Whip Him. Remove his skin with whips. Nail him to a cross. Accuse Him in His innocence. Church, conspire with state. State, conspire with church. Do your worst and then delicately drape it all with lace and silks in your liturgies as if to clean up your mess. But when I raise Him from the dead, try to resist the use of cruelty as a way to feel better; because it never works. Better to just feel the pain and sit with me in it.” Says God.
Actually, in my experience revenge and punching something does feel good. But only for about 17 seconds. And then it all feels even worse. and lace and silk have never much helped me but I know it helps some.
We humans love to complain. Church-goers love to complain. And many church-goers even punch their clergy and their spouses and their children and their underlings and their dogs in their desperate attempts to, well, punch something, anything. And it helps for about 17 seconds. But the punch hurts for longer. The bruises linger. So their effects remain negative.
I remain convinced that if humans could, would, just sit for five minutes and wander around in their own feelings like one would wander a garden; then there would be peace on earth.
If people could simply sit still, silently, and feel their feelings – as hard as that can be – notice them – deeply feel loss when there is loss, pain when there is pain, betrayal when there is betrayal. If we could feel even the refusal to choose revenge when choosing revenge seems like it would be tasty – if we could feel our feelings rather than anesthetizing our feelings with busy-ness, food, porn, shopping, un-boundaried relationships, manic exercise, noise and the many other things we use. If we could just sit still long enough to say “I feel loss. I feel anger. I feel…” then I believe that biting down on bread and gulping wine into the bread in our mouths would make sense – would satisfy.
I wonder if the bread and wine we drink and eat weekly has any meaning if we are not feeling anything in between. In which case, a white, tasteless, leaven-less, yeast-less disk cardboard-like plastic-bread will generally do.