I'm a foodie. I admit it. I love food of all kinds. And I love complex food -- dishes with umpteen ingredients, made in complicated ways.
So it was interesting to me, this past Lent, to place myself under a discipline of eating very simply for most meals. In doing so, I rediscovered the goodness of bread. For lunch I'd very often have a simple whole-grain crusty roll, and that was it. But that was enough. I began to look forward to the texture, the flavor, of the bread. I was truly grateful for it at midday. And it stayed with me until it was time for supper.
It's tempting, as people of faith, to want our encounters with God to be novel; flashy; "wow." But in the Gospels, we find Jesus so often using bread -- humble, everyday bread -- as a metaphor for what we need for our spiritual nourishment; indeed, as a metaphor for himself. Not the ancient Palestinian equivalent of filet mignon or cherries jubilee or a salad of arugula and goat cheese; just bread.
How do we nourish ourselves with this bread? By regularly hearing the Word; by partaking of the Sacrament; by opening ourselves to God's presence through prayer and contemplation. Following the Daily Office is a way to open our hands to receive daily bread -- a simple, regular "meal" of Scripture and prayer to keep us going from day to day and hour to hour.
Not too long ago I was in a bakery in northern Michigan that, post the low-carbohydrate fad, sold bumper stickers proclaiming "BREAD IS BACK." Those of us in the broad catholic tradition of Christianity have a gift, in the daily disciplines of our praxis, to offer other Christians who've become jaded by pop-Christian novelty and splash, who just need to be fed spiritually, in good square meals that have staying power. Bread is back; as Christ feeds us through Word and Sacrament and prayer, let's invite others to join us.
"Mother With Baby, Child Placing Bread in Oven," Hablot Knight Browne