Thursday, January 14, 2016

The kingdom of heaven is like leaven...

To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 
It is like leaven, which a woman took 
and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.

Some of the most beautiful truths are hidden.

I am finding one of these hidden treasures in the baking of the prosfora. This is what we call the bread offered in church for the Eucharist; it means "offering." I enjoy most any baking because it is so interesting to work the dough and see it change. Yet, this bread, this offering, is offered in the work of the people, the liturgy, and the change taking place is true mystery and beauty.

I remember, in my early encounters with Orthodoxy, questioning why the church uses leavened bread when they used unleavened for the Passover meal of the last supper?

I was told by Fr. John, "well, the Last Supper wasn't the Passover." St. John explains the meal took place "before the feast of Passover" (Jn 13:1), and clearly puts Christ's crucifixion on the day of Preparation of the passover (Jn 19:14, 31, 42; also Mt 27:62, etc). The death of Christ coincides with the ritual slaughter of the passover lamb at the temple, because he is the Passover lamb. The Passover hadn't yet begun, in which case the bread would have been leavened. [links below if you're interested in historical-critical arguments.]

But really that's beside the point. The truth is so beautiful, it can clearly be seen as gospel. "You see," Fr. John explained, "Leavened bread is living bread."

Leavened bread, before yeast was easily bought in stores, was made with a bit of old dough, the starter, a living connection with the past. The yeast living in the starter is a hidden force that invisibly spreads to the rest of the lump. Dough you must work with your hands until it too comes alive. Leavened bread is living bread.

The gospel truth is that Christ is risen. Christ is the living bread.
"I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world." - John 6:48-51
We don't continue eating the bread of affliction and die as the Israelites, but we have the living bread of the kingdom of heaven, so that we might live.

To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 

As, I measure the warm water, I take heart. I hide the bubbling yeast in the flour, and thank God for the truth he revealed. I work the dough with joy because Christ is our hermeneutic, who opens the scriptures to us on the road. I offer the prosfora with confidence and humility, because He is our leaven, hidden among us and giving life to all the body.

Research Links
historical-critical arguments for John's timeline:
Biblical Archaeology: Was Jesus Last Supper a Seder?
The Last Supper and Passover 
a theological argument for leavened bread:
Leavened vs. Unleavened Bread: what's the difference?
And a counterpoint, whose conclusion demonstrates the anxiety caused by the historical critical method:
What Kind of Bread did Jesus Use to Institute the Last Supper?

1 comment:

Ashley said...

Your timing is perfect on this! We are having a lesson on prosphora baking for our kids night next week, along with reading books on St. Spirydon and St. Nicodemus since they also were prosphora bakers. Being a new convert in a very large congregation, I've never made it and am excited to learn.