Christmas and Easter Unleavened Bread
Jesus came as the Bread of Life. In each Eucharistic banquet, we consume our Eucharistic Lord. Many families celebrate the beautiful custom of breaking unleavened bread at table on both Christmas and Easter.
The breaking of bread together at the Christmas meal is a reminder of Jesus Who was born in Bethlehem, which means House of Bread. The breaking of bread together at the Easter meal is a reminder of Christ Who was crucified at as our Bread of Life and Who gave us His Body and Blood at the Last Supper.
RECIPE FOR MAKING UNLEAVENED BREAD
A simple ceremony for the breaking of the bread at a family meal may begin a few days before, by making unleavened bread as a family.
In the Catholic Church, the bread used to consecrate the Eucharist must be made from wheat flour and water.
The addition of any other ingredient constitutes an invalid bread for consecration.
While the bread made in one's home is not going to be consecrated into the Body and Blood of Christ, we share a simple recipe which has been approved by the Catholic Diocese of Richmond (January 14, 2003) for making Eucharistic Bread. Loaves made from this bread are pictured above.
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1 1/4 cups very warm water--110 degrees
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
Mix ingredients together in a bowl until all the flour is mixed in.
Lightly oil or grease one's hands and then knead the dough for five minutes. To knead, turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and push down with the heel of one's palm, then fold the top of the bread onto the bottom, turn the loaf 1/4 turn, and push down with the heel of one's palm, repeating the above steps. It is important to knead for the full five minutes.
Cover the dough with a moist cloth and let it rest for five minutes. In the meantime, lightly oil or grease a cookie sheet.
Use a knife to cut the dough into four equal pieces. Using your hands, press out one ball at a time into a flat, circular loaf approximately 5 1/4 inches (13 mm) in diameter and of equal thickness throughout. Transfer each flat loaf to the cookie sheet. No dough should be left over.
Using an oiled knife, score each loaf. Press the knife blade deeply into the dough to make 8 vertical and 8 horizontal cuts. Do not cut all the way through, but make the cuts deep enough so that they don't disappear during baking. The cuts will help the bread to be broken more easily.
Bake for 20 minutes our until the bread dulls in color. Check the bottom of each loaf to be sure the dough is baked completely in the center.
Cool loaves completely on a wire rack.
Freeze the loaves until ready for use. Thaw the loaves approximately 24 hours before using.
FAMILY CEREMONY OF UNLEAVENED BREAD
The following is a sample ceremony to use when sharing unleavened bread as a family.
Light a candle and then begin with the Sign of the Cross.
Pray a family grace of thanksgiving for meals. An Our Father works well.
Next read a passage of Scripture that relates to the image of bread in the life of Christ. Several passages to choose from are reprinted below.
Each family member may then offer a brief prayer of praise or petition.
The head of the family reads this or a similar introduction: "We are gathered here as a family who serves our Lord Jesus Christ. As He came to be our Bread of Life, so we share bread with one another in His memory. We are using unleavened bread, which is bread made without yeast, because this is the type of bread which is used in the Eucharist which Christ instituted for us at the Last Supper. We thank especially those who have made this bread for our meal today, namely (name those who prepared the bread). Let us now share this bread with one another. May we share now and always in peace and love."
The head of the house takes a loaf of unleavened bread and breaks it into as many portions as needed for those at table. Each portion should be large enough so that those individuals can share with everyone else at table.
Each person then allows every other person at table to break off a portion of his or her portion of the main loaf. In large gatherings, two or more loaves may be needed so that everyone can have a small piece of everyone else's loaf.
The bread may be eaten plain or with butter, jam, or fruit sauce.
Following the breaking of the bread, the main meal begins.
SCRIPTURE PASSAGES THAT DEAL WITH JESUS AS THE BREAD OF LIFE
Chose an appropriate passage to read during the Breaking of the Bread Ceremony.
Bread was central to Jesus' life. He was born in Bethlehem, which means "House of Bread."Luke 2: 1-7
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Jesus would later claim for Himself the title "Bread of Life" and would state that this bread was His flesh.
Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near.
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
Philip answered him, “Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; don't be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “from now on give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”
They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”
"Stop grumbling among yourselves,” Jesus answered. “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your
forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.
On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)
Jesus instituted the Eucharist with bread and wine, on the feast of Unleavened Bread. Luke 22: Verses 1-22
Now the feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was drawing near, and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to put him to death, for they were afraid of the people. Then Satan entered into Judas, the one surnamed Iscariot, who was counted among the Twelve, and he went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing him over to them. They were pleased and agreed to pay him money. He accepted their offer and sought a favorable opportunity to hand him over to them in the absence of a crowd.
When the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread arrived, the day for sacrificing the Passover lamb, he sent out Peter and John, instructing them, "Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover."
They asked him, "Where do you want us to make the preparations?"
And he answered them, "When you go into the city, a man will meet you carrying a jar of water. Follow him into the house that he enters and say to the master of the house, 'The teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' He will show you a large upper room that is furnished. Make the preparations there."
Then they went off and found everything exactly as he had told them, and there they prepared the Passover.
When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover 5 with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it (again) until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves for I tell you (that) from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table; for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed."
After the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, our Lord made Himself known to two disciples who recognized Him in the breaking of bread.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted 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?”
In the first days of the Church, Christians gathered together to break bread in memory of Christ.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
St. Paul and the other apostles handed on to us the truth of Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist.
1 Corinthians 11:23-34
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment
on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.
So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment. And when I come I will give further directions.