Tag Archives: bread

Praying with Pope Francis: May.

During May, we pray that deacons, faithful in their service to the Word and the poor, be an invigorating symbol for the whole Church.

Jesus became bread broken for us, and He asks us to give ourselves to others, no longer to live for ourselves, but for one another.
– Pope Francis

Francis mentions bread because from the very beginning (Acts 6) Deacons were appointed by the Church to help with distributing food to the community. Saint Stephen was one of the first group of seven deacons in Jerusalem and was stoned to death by the mob who attended his trial for blasphemy. Shown here above the door of his church in Canterbury; see also our post for St Stephen’s day.

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We remember especially our friend and contributor, Friar Deacon Chris (top picture): teacher, scholar, writer, friend to refugees. The church would be poorer without the likes of him!

Will.

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April 18: Emmaus VI, breaking bread together.

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‘They knew him in the breaking of bread.’ I was uneasy about using this photo with its bread knife, when a picture came into my mind.

I was 21 years old, and seated at table with the family who were supposed to be helping my stumbling steps in the French language. The father of the family is standing to my left, the long loaf held against his chest as he cuts thick slices for his family and guests. Such a clear image it is too; no wonder then that only a few hours after his death, these two recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread!

Learning to speak and read French opened doors in my heart and mind for which I am forever grateful; although it took months to be competent and confident. How did it feel to be taught for two or three hours by the greatest of teachers, and then to have their whole beings exposed to the heavenly light of the Resurrection?

 

 

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April 17, Emmaus V: to walk renewed.

pope-xmas-mealPope Benedict sought to bring renewal to his guests at a Christmas meal.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Luke. 24: 28-35

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Jesus continued on as if he was going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

During this week of Pilgrimage, we’ve been following the faith journey of the two travellers on the road to Emmaus. And hopefully their story has encouraged us in our own faith, to understand more deeply who Jesus is, and to walk with a renewed sense of his presence in our lives.

Jesus never pushes himself upon us. As he waited for the travellers to ask him to stay, so he waits for us to invite him into our lives. They didn’t know it was the risen Jesus walking with them on the road – but they knew that their hearts had warmed as he spoke to them of the Scriptures and the purposes of God.

And they really wanted to have him with them for longer. They welcomed their new friend. And because of their spirit of hospitality towards him, they were brought into a wonderful fellowship with the risen Lord – so by the time he left them, they not only recognised who he was, but they also knew that he had given their lives a new hope and a new purpose.

If we share that same purpose and hope in Jesus, risen from the dead, we don’t have to keep on asking him to stay with us, because we know that he’s with us all the time. We just have to make sure that we stay with him – especially when times are difficult. He is always faithful. It is we who sometimes aren’t.

May we, like the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, find ourselves more enthused by God’s purposes for us and for the world, and more willing for Jesus to reveal himself to us; willing to welcome him into our lives and homes.

 

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14 April: Emmaus II, Let’s get away from here!

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There were two disciples – Cleopas and another – who were shattered by the things that  had happened over Thursday and Friday – it didn’t feel like a Good Friday to them. And now on Sunday there were reports from some of the women they went about with, claiming that Jesus had been seen alive. ‘Let’s get away from here and clear our heads!’ You can just imagine them saying such words.

Some think Cleopas is with his wife Mary: we tend to be led by paintings such as Caravaggio’s, to see both the disciples as men, but we are free to see them as a couple. The lessons of the story do not change.

But clearing their heads was not happening. Everything was windmilling round their minds as they talked but there was no resolution to it all.

The whole idea of resurrection can seem as incredible to us as to Cleopas and Mary. It doesn’t happen, no eloquent sacred celebration can disguise that. But if it were true, what then? How would you live the rest of your life? Cleopas and Mary ran back to join their group, the Body of Christ. Who would you take the good news to, and how would you share it?

As the Lord said to the lawyer, ‘Go and do likewise.’

 

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22 January: Church Unity Week: Unusual kindness V.

sjc. big wave

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Keep Your Strength Up

“Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.’ After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.” (27:33-36)

I love coffee but lost my appetite for it.

I love a good read of the bulky weekend paper but my brain had no space for it, too busy processing and preparing, harnessing the little energy reserves I had to face cannulas and PICC lines and nauseating chemo.

Every hair from my head would be lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And when you can’t eat to keep your strength up because the chemo makes you sick on a Wednesday, you chew on the words that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they’ll rise up on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, trusting that one day this broken body might rise again strong and supple scarred and scared.

Every hair of my head was lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And as I look back these ten years hence, there wasn’t one set of footprints; there were hundreds of the friends and loved ones who visited, listened, cried, prayed and carried the body of Christ strengthening me. Every hair of my head was lost but I was rescued from the storm, thankfully.

Prayer

Loving God, Your Son Jesus Christ broke bread and shared the cup with His friends. May we grow in closer communion when we share our pain and suffering. Encouraged by St Paul and the early Christians, give us strength to build bridges of compassion, solidarity and harmony.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask this in the name of Your Son, who gives His life that we might live. Amen.

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11 August, Little Flowers of Saint Francis: XLVII: Saint Clare blesses the bread.

 

ST. CLARE, most devout disciple of the Cross of Christ and sweet flower of St. Francis, was of such great sanctity that not only bishops and cardinals, but also the Pope was filled with great longing to see her and to hear her, and oftentimes visited her in person.

Once the holy father went to her convent to hear her speak of things celestial and Divine; and, while they thus reasoned together of divers matters, St. Clare caused the tables to be made ready and bread to be set thereon, that the holy father might bless it. Wherefore, when their spiritual discourse was ended, St. Clare kneeled down with great reverence and besought him to vouchsafe to bless the bread which was upon the table.

The holy father made answer: “Most faithful Sister Clare, I desire that thou bless this bread and make thereover the sign of the most holy Cross of Christ, unto whom thou hast wholly given thyself”. St. Clare said: “Most holy father, I pray thee have me excused, for I should be deserving of great blame, if, before the Vicar of Christ, I, who am but a vile and worthless woman, should presume to give this blessing”.

And the Pope made answer: “To the end that this be not imputed to presumption but to merit of obedience, I command thee by holy obedience that thou make the sign of the most holy Cross over this bread and bless it in the name of God”. Then St. Clare, as a true daughter of obedience, blessed those loaves most devoutly with the sign of the most holy Cross.

O marvellous thing! On all those loaves there instantly appeared the sign of the holy Cross most fairly cut; thereafter of those loaves part were eaten and part were preserved in record of the miracle. And the holy father, when he had beheld the miracle, departed, taking some of the said bread with him, giving thanks to God and leaving St. Clare with his blessing.

There dwelt in the Convent Sister Ortolana, the mother of St. Clare, and Sister Agnes, her sister, both of them like St. Clare full of virtue and of the Holy Ghost, with many other holy nuns and brides of Christ; to whom St. Francis was wont to send much sick folk; and they by their prayers and by the sign of the most holy Cross restored health  to them all.

Almost as an afterthought we learn of the sisters’ work with sick people! My grandfather was a baker, and his practice was to make three cuts in a long loaf, or even a little mince pie, saying ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ Round Soda bread would be cut into four pieces with a cross and we still have hot cross buns! This post is out of sequence to mark Saint Clare’s feast day.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/lff/lff036.htm

 

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21 June: Corpus Christi II. Enough and to spare

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This picture hangs in the Generalate – the headquarters – of the Missionaries of Africa in Rome. It was painted in Ethiopia. We see, at left, the boy trustingly bringing the loaves and fishes to Jesus, who receives them with open arms and a look of encouragement, eye-to-eye. To the right, a crowd of people sitting on the grass, with two of the disciples offering food to them; a few of the 5,000. The two people about to be fed look dubious, wondering what exactly is happening; most of the others are watching those being fed, but one person’s eyes are on Jesus. In front are six of the baskets of left-overs.

Ethiopia is a country that has known famine more than once in my lifetime, and its share of oppression and authoritarian rule. The question then is, ‘Why should the people trust Jesus to feed them freely and without strings?’ ‘Let’s see what happens’, I imagine them saying. ‘Can we be sure he’s genuine?’

Jesus depended on the disciples to bring his gifts to the people. Today he depends on us. Are we dependable? Are we transparent enough for people to trust us? The Church has to do her work, Christ’s work, and we cannot leave it to the identifiable ‘professional’ members, clergy, religious if we want to get that work done.

May we take and eat. May we take strength from the Eucharist to meet our sisters’ and brothers’ needs, and to rebuild Christ’s church. After all, it was built up by those disciples who did not understand what was happening, even as they played their part in it. Let’s not worry, ‘what is this among so many?’

 

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20 June, Corpus Christi: Temptation lingers.

 

Our friend Christina Chase recently wrote that ‘Temptation lingers in desert spots‘ – which is perfectly true. It’s so easy to get things out of proportion.

But what did the children of Israel  wish for, out there in the desert? The fleshpots of Egypt, not a closer walk with God.

The children of Israel said, ‘Would to God we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ (Exodus 16:3)

And when they were in Egypt, they were oppressed so hard they could not stand – yet they’d rather go back to slavery than walk as free men and women with God. Of course spiritual slavery is more subtle than that. Who are the false gods we are tempted to put before the true One?

God heard his people, but did not answer their despair with thunderbolts to fulfil their death wish. No, he sent mercy, like the gentle rain from heaven, in the form of manna. He sustained them on their travels.

As we will be sustained:

[They said], Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat. Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. (John 6:31-33)

It’s a scandal that Christians are not united at the Lord’s table.

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26 March. Before the Cross XII: the beatific vision.

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Rood, Our Lady and English Martyrs, Cambridge.

This Crucifix is like that of Tignes a couple of days ago in one respect: it is a representation of the Risen Christ, but in a different context, and equally valid.

This Victorian Rood, full of symbolism, is in the Catholic Church of Or Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, England. It is challenging in a different way to some of the other images we have seen this Lent, but like the Welcoming Christ, it is essentially an image of resurrection. No way is this Christ dead or in agony!

So what is the Rood telling us?

Let’s start with the Christ figure. We see a man in the prime of life, vigorously alive, not hanging naked on the cross but standing tall and robed in majesty. No-one could say of him, he cannot save himself! The crown on his head is of royal gold, not thorns; the nails in his hands and feet are in gold also, but lest we forget the earthly reality of the cross, we see red blood on his palms and insteps. As well as a King’s crown, he wears the long white alb and the red scarf or stole of a priest vested for Mass.

The white scarf around his neck is called a pallium. These are woven from lambs’ wool and given to archbishops by the pope. One appears on the coat of arms of Canterbury Anglican diocese and that of Westminster Catholic diocese. As well as announcing Christ as high priest, the pallium is associated with the idea of the Good Shepherd who brings home the lost sheep, and with the sacrificial Lamb of God.

The alb is a symbol of purity – we see in the Book of Revelation all the saints in white garments. Christ’s here has red trimmings; together with the red stole they tell of blood shed in martyrdom or persecution. The priest celebrating Mass today wears an alb to show that he is representing Christ, the High Priest, and seeks to be as saintly as the white garment implies. Christ, of course, has every right to wear the white garment, and each baptised Christian is given a white garment at Baptism: so we are crucified and risen with Christ: a thought to sustain us in times of hardship.

At the foot of the Cross stand Mary – the dedicatee of the Church, and John the Apostle and Evangelist. They are not mourning in this Resurrection Crucifixion but are absorbed in the beatific vision: this cross presents the artist’s interpretation of the true meaning of the Crucifixion.

Angels adore the Lord from around the Cross: again sending us to Revelation and pointing out the one-ness of Creation, of our world of time and space where Jesus died in Jerusalem with the heavenly Jerusalem where he is Priest and King; King of All Creation, not just of the Jews.

At the foot of the Cross and along its trunk and arms are stylised leaves and grapes: in John’s Gospel Jesus says, I am the Vine, make your home in me as I make mine in you. The wine pressed from the fruit of the Cross brings relief from our spiritual thirst and joy to our hearts. Take up your Cross daily and follow me – to the Crucifixion, yes, in smaller and bigger ways each day, but to the risen life each day as well, even before we die and go to meet the Good Shepherd.

Finally, at the feet of Jesus we see a chalice – for the cup at every Eucharist is indeed the Holy Grail, the cup of the Last Supper – and above the cup, marked with a Cross and radiant in gold, is a round of white unleavened bread; the ‘forms of bread and wine’ that make present in our day all that this Crucifix sets out to tell us.

If, like me, silence does not always come easily to your heart in church or in prayer, maybe sitting with this image can help direct your thoughts to the eternal reality which it professes. The whole story of Jesus is symbolised here from his birth to Mary, up to John running to the empty tomb and seeing and believing – and witnessing to what he believed. May we be ever more faithful witnesses to what we believe.

MMB

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24 November: The Road to Emmaus VII – and beyond.

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Then they said to each other, did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32).

Jesus has vanished, but at last the disciples see. They recognize Jesus. And they are able, consciously now, to lay claim to the strange and wonderful joy they felt as Jesus walked with them on the road and explained the scriptures to them.

But now they realise that what Jesus had told them on the road was a preparation for something else. His words, spoken during their journey, were themselves like the journey and not like the full arrival. The disciples did not really “arrive” until they reached Emmaus.

Then why did Jesus at first pretend that he wanted to go further than Emmaus? Perhaps he did this for the disciples’ sake, because he wanted to draw something further out of them. This seeming pretence on Jesus’ part gives the two disciples the opportunity to realise how much they want this stranger to stay with them; even though they do not realise fully who he is, they know that he is important to them, and so they then make a conscious choice and ask him pressingly to remain with them.

But, when would full recognition of the Risen Jesus come? And why hadn’t it come to them yet? Caravaggio’s painting helps us here, helps us to see that the recognition of the Risen Lord comes most fully within the context of the meal. In the Last Supper Jesus commanded the Twelve ‘do this in memory of me.’ He would now, in this “first supper” of his risen life, show them that he meant it. He would show them that this memorial of him was not an empty memory, a mere trick of the imagination, but a real encounter with him. Earlier in the day, Jesus had shown them that Scripture was about him. Now Jesus would show them that the meal is not ‘about’ something, it is something – or rather, Someone: it is Him.

The disciples’ recognition of Jesus and Jesus’ physical disappearance are nearly simultaneous. This is, in a way, a difficult truth. It is always a bit painful to me to think that the two disciples were so close to being able to throw their arms around Jesus once more, if only they had been quick enough! But, always the teacher, Jesus has something else, something more important to show them. When he disappears from their sight at the meal, this disappearance of Jesus is not like the disappearance of Jesus in death. This disappearance does not cause grief, it heals grief. The disciples begin to grasp now that Jesus’ reality remains in the meal. The disciples know him in the breaking of the bread. And, most importantly, they now realise that he has overcome death, and as such has assumed a new form. This form is the form in which we, too, must recognise and follow him.

The adventure of Emmaus happens only three days after Jesus’ death, remember. The disciples will need more time to express in words what they suddenly grasped here at Emmaus on an essential level. We need time, too. But there is so much to learn from this. Here I am, a latter day disciple, with all the advantages of understanding that result from access to two thousand years of Christian teaching. Yet, I can feel as raw and untutored as these two disciples were. And maybe that is the way things should be. It enables me to use their experience as a model and to take comfort and encouragement from their story.

SJC

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