Thursday, October 25, 2007

Bread and Circuses

I've been baking bread -- sturdy peasant bread, delicate egg bread. Crash (who adores his carbs) has discovered the joy of bread fresh from the oven, with butter melting into it. Tonight he got a piece that had cooled for all of 10 minutes and lamented that it was "not the same as fresh bread." Beyond Wonder Bread indeed.

The act of kneading the bread, paying attention not to the timer or the recipe (knead for 8 minutes), but to the sense of when the dough yields under my hands. There is a moment when suddenly all the stretching and turning has done its work, and the dough relaxes under my hands. It was a good contemplative exercise - definitely requiring a certain attentiveness. It's also a seed for meditating about my teaching (stretching and turning my students, paying attention to the subtle signs that they are ready for the rising), as well as my life overall (how is God stretching and turning my life around, can I relax under Her hands?).

I suspect we've lost a lot of the richness of scripture since we don't bake our own bread, grind our own wheat, or even see these things being done.

And it's a circus here, between doing administrative tasks today, I was taking up Halloween costumes and comforting distressed middle schoolers.


  1. Thank you for the reflection on the spirituality of bread baking. I used to do it a lot and hardly ever do now.

    Do you know Alla Bozarth's poem, Bakerwoman God?

  2. I don't know the poem...but just looked it up. What imagery! It reminds me both of Ignatius' Anima Christi and of an ancient Greek Eucharistic hymn that I recall from my seminary days. The images in the last were of God as mother, the Son nursing at her Breast, the milk the Spirit. I'll have to find it and post it...

  3. The hymn might have been by St. Ephrem the Syrian, too, Michelle. He was called the Harp of the Spirit and has several striking hymns with that imagery. Since Syriac is a Semitic language, the Holy Spirit is female (as in Hebrew) in their Bible, the Peshitta, and is often described as a Mother in their early writings.

  4. For whatever reason, my brain flashed to Moby Dick and squeezing the sperm. While the symbolism is quite different, the sensuality and the activity-as-meditation resonate.