Saturday, 19 January 2008

On the Breadline

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

(Matthew 4:4)
Fruit of the Earth

Here in the West it is hard to imagine life without bread. It is the fruit of the earth, the staple by which we measure physical sustenance, and the cornerstone of our very existence. It will always be here in its diverse forms. Well, maybe.

We often hear the phrase 'bread basket of the world', an indication of its importance in the world's economic machinery. Over millennia, we have called upon the pagan deities, offered sacrifices and invented a whole gamut of seasonal rituals to ensure a good harvest in the coming year. The annual Thanksgiving ceremonies are a testimony to the continuation of such rituals. Corn dollies and corn-sheaf bread are symbolic of the pagan infrastructure which still exists.

Body of Christ

Bread plays no minor part in the scriptures either, but has achieved dynamic status as a parable medium. Ravens brought bread to the prophet Elijah when he went into hiding. The miracle of the five loaves and two fishes feeding the five thousand is well documented and often quoted. And who has not learned of the importance of bread as a representation of the body of Christ at the Last Supper? This is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church which maintains that the communion host is actually the body of Christ.

"...Take, eat; this is my body" ( Matthew 26:26 )

Leavened or Unleavened?

Leavening is the biblical word for yeast. Unleavened bread, therefore, contained no yeast and was somewhat flat, since it is the yeast which makes the bread rise. Leavening was also equated with sin and was to be avoided at all cost. Of course, this presupposes that you agree with the principle of sin. Hmm! Could be another article there.

St Anthony's Fire

If you've ever wondered how a belief begins life, this account might proffer a reasonable explanation. In the middle ages in Europe much of the bread was made from rye flour. But rye bread had a problem. It was prone to attack by a fungus called ergot. The result of prolonged consumption of the diseased bread was a painful burning sensation in the legs. It was known as St Anthony's Fire and those with the disease in its advanced stages would gradually watch their limbs turn black and gangrenous. Many sufferers in the early stages of the problem were advised, or felt the call, to travel far away from home to a shrine in order to be at peace with God and pray for forgiveness and a healing. Well, guess what? After a month or two they got better, which encouraged an even stronger faith in God. However, there was no one around at the time to tell them that by moving away from home, they moved away from the cause of the disease and simply lived on bread totally unaffected by the ergot.

My point is that here was a belief born of ignorance of the facts. You may be thinking - what does it matter how belief is arrived at or how faith is formed as long as it is there. If you are thinking along those lines, I would like to hear from you.

Write now!