The Gospel for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, brought back memories of a recent visit to the Amish of Indiana. I ate the most delicious breads. It was a delight to watch the women kneading the dough, see pans of dough rising all-round the kitchen and smell and then taste that warm bread, fresh out of the oven. My mother carried out that same ritual art several times a week as I was growing up, a ritual, which sadly I have lost.
The Sunday after my visit to the Amish, as I took that simple, flat, white host into my hand, the thought flitted though my mind, “Too bad Jesus’ ancestors were not Amish.” Would it not be a delight to receive Jesus under the form of a delicious, heady piece of bread? As I reflected on this, a thought struck me. Bread that is homemade is labor intensive and time-consuming. It requires mixing, kneading, waiting, more waiting and then finally baking. It is the bread of home.
When we gather to celebrate and receive Eucharist, we gather as a community, but we also are a people who are not yet “home.” We are a pilgrim people on a journey toward the heavenly kingdom. When we receive the thin host, we are not following some age long regulation of the church, rather we are sharing the bread of pilgrims, imitating Jesus who at the Last Supper shared the bread of Passover, the bread made quickly with no time to rise; yet the bread that transformed to Eucharist, goes beyond all time.
All Catholic churches use standard eucharistic bread, made in time-honored tradition; flour and water, with no additives of any kind. The molds used for hosts are iron instruments similar to waffle-irons. Eucharistic bread is produced on a large scale and provided in bulk to smaller communities, who sort and package the hosts and sell them to individual parishes.
In some parishes the members bake the bread used for Eucharist, but it is not an easy task. Flour and water has to be mixed in just the right ratio and be baked to a consistency that is brown, but not dry and crumbly. How much bread is needed must be determined and then transported to church so it remains sanitary and fresh.
It is also important to remember, that like all other vessels and materials need for a liturgy, hosts do not magically fall from heaven, free of charge. Based on size, style (imprinted or plain), type (white or whole wheat), a box of 500 hosts can average out at about $6. This is another good example of how our gift of treasury to the church is used.
This Sunday, when we receive Jesus in the form of eucharistic bread, let us remember, we are pilgrims, people seeking our eternal homeland, a home flowing with milk, honey and homemade bread! After all, there we will have an eternity to wait for the bread to be ready.
Zahorik is director of worship at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Oshkosh.