Around this time every year, my mother and I would make Easter Bread. Easter Bread is a specialty bread, popular in Europe, that is made in different shapes and styles in honor of the Easter holiday.
I remember the delight of getting my hands all gooey in the dough and the energy it took to knead it.
After separating the dough into balls, it was time to cover it and allow it to rise. After a period of time, that little ball of dough would double in size, pushing up the dish towels covering it. It was almost as if the dough became pregnant. I’ll never forget my mother’s expression at the risen dough. “Ah!” She would gasp with excitement, “God Bless it!” As a child, I wondered how God had time to help our dough to rise, especially at this busy time of year. But I was delighted that divine intervention had somehow decided to mix with our human efforts. The aroma of the bread baking in the oven was heavenly. After the bread had cooled, my mother would give the bread away .
In the Ukraine, Easter Bread is called Paska, a derivative of Pascha, which means Easter. The word Pascha comes from the Hebrew word Pesach, meaning Passover. As the Jews celebrate the feast of Passover, commemorating the liberation of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, Christians celebrate the feast of Easter, commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Passover or Paschal Lamb. Pesach is related to the Greek word Paschein, which means to suffer. This is one reason why Easter Bread is made at this time of year. It is symbolic of the dying and rising of Jesus
This is one reason ordinary bread is used to make Eucharistic Bread. In order to make bread, seeds must die in the ground to become wheat. Wheat must be ground in order to become flour. In each step of the process, there is a dying in order to become something new. In the Eucharist, ordinary bread is transformed into something extraordinary, the Body and Blood of Christ. By partaking in the Eucharist, we too are transformed. We become pregnant with possibilities, energized to knead the dough of life and to give ourselves away for the life of the world. Amen!