On Baking Bread, Communion, the Holy and Profane

Bread making this morning.

In the deep past, I did this once or twice a month at home, and really enjoyed it. This time, it is for Communion Bread for a special event, which fills me with thoughts. Apparently, I would rather THINK about my work than actually do it.

Decades ago, I spent some time as part of a team that made the communion bread we used for services at my church. My time at Redeemer started in 1977. This was a recipe developed by someone at the church. It made a good communion bread in that it was one loaf shared by all, but when broken, torn it did not crumble unless it was stale. It also had a very nice flavor.

I have heard some objections that it is not an unleavened loaf (we sometimes used a different recipe during lent; I would like to find that if anyone has it!) I also noted the discrepancy with a song we sang as part of the mass, which included these words:
“… not with the old leaven, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”

But it seems that the nature of the bread to be used for communion has moved back and forth over the centuries in the Anglican (Episcopalian) world. Now, the idea of unleavened bread, specially produced, is in ascendency, but it has not always been so.

The 1604 canons for the Church of England specify “a plain white loaf” with the idea seemingly that this was not to be something “special, for church use only,” but our ordinary “Sunday best” – the best bread we would commonly have available.

The idea would be that we don’t use a special and holy recipe, set aside for God alone, but that God instead sanctifies and makes holy that which we present to Him – EVERYTHING we present to Him!
We don’t make a “Holy Thing” and then give it to God: We take what we have, what we are -and GOD makes it holy, and gives it back to us so that we may receive Him in it and through it.
This fits very much in line with what the Church was struggling with in that day, of bringing the faith out from the realm of the “set apart” into the life of the common people. That the things of God were not just for a special class of people – those in “religious” life as priests, monks or nuns, not just in churches and monasteries, but in farmers and shopkeepers; in stores, and bakeries, ships and wherever people gather.

But sometimes I find this uncomfortable when I use it at table, when I use this “communion bread” to make a sandwich. After all, I never hear of anyone using the little white communion wafers for chips and dip at a party!

Sometimes I have the same reaction to foods used at a Jewish Passover meal, when I am encouraged to use them at a “regular” dinner. But that confrontation between the Holy and the secular (we use to say “Holy” and “Profane” – but that meaning of profane is largely lost to us now!) is the reason I value it. The confrontation is good for me.

I love making this bread, and using it at regular table, because it IS uncomfortable to me.

It is uncomfortable because it is obviously (at least to me) Holy and set apart.
But then, so are my other brothers and sisters at table.

They – and you – are Holy, the Set Apart, the Vessels of the Holy Spirit;
transformed to give me the Real Presence of Jesus
Just as much as is the Host, the bread on the Altar.

Well back to work. May God make that, too, holy

Here is the recipe I use, I lost my original copy, but this is the closest version I found, including my notes.

Redeemer Communion Bread
List of Ingredients
o 1 C all-bran cereal
o 3/4 C sugar
o 3/4 C shortening
o 1 T salt
o 2 C boiling water
o 2 pckgs. Dry Yeast – not fast acting
o 1/2 C warm water
o 2 eggs
o 6-9 C flour
• Pour boiling water over cereal, sugar, shortening and salt to dissolve.
Cool to lukewarm.
• While it is cooling, dissolve yeast in warm water.
• When cereal mixture is cool, add yeast, eggs and flour.
• Stir together, no kneading is necessary
(Eric remembers “Knead in bowl – dough will be very sticky”).
• Let bread rise until double (about 60-90 minutes).
• Shape into loaves or rolls, let rise again (about 30 minutes)
• Mark with cross – very sharp knife, or razor blade,
• Bake at 350 until done
(perhaps 30 minutes – will depend on the size loaves made).


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Filed under ALL, Christianity, Church, Theology

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