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Hallo again to all.

For the parts of the Anglican (and Roman Catholic and Methodist and Presbyterian) world following the Revised Common Lectionary, this is the summer of bread. Beginning with the feeding of the five thousand, the readings march forward to today when Jesus again declares himself the 'bread of life'. As someone who has a severe gluten intolerance*, this always brings up conflicting feelings. Bread is something we have, to some degree, learned to fear as it inevitably brings up memories of those times before our diagnosis or of when we have erred and accidentally consumed some wheat gluten. It is not pleasant.

Our parish and many others graciously offer hosts that do not have gluten, and for that we are very grateful. While we could receive in one kind, the Anglican tradition has always upheld the significance in the symbolism (and reality) of both. This summer's readings have caused us to think a bit about the language underlying the many allusions to bread in the Gospels.gluten-free yeast bread

The word most often translated as 'loaves' or 'bread' is ἄρτος (artos). In its most basic sense, it literally means 'a cake or loaf of wheat bread' (per the Liddel-Scott-Jones Greek dictionary). Many biblical dictionaries and theologians naturally try to add further significance to this definition, i.e. letting it open up to the idea of food of any sort or taking it metaphorically as the divine sustenance provided by God. In this, they are certainly correct. The Hebrew word for bread clearly shadowing the NT's use of artos, לֶחֶם (lekhem), could mean food in general, as artos also could in Koine Greek generally. Such, we suppose, was the significance of bread to a person's diet that it was nearly synonymous to food.

We know of a few people, who as the result of recovering from alcoholism, feel compelled to abstain from the wine when receiving the sacrament (though many do not). For those persons, the alcohol is something poisonous to their life, if not immediately to their system. It is jarring to think of something as mundane as bread being similarly dangerous to oneself.

It is not, however, an unfruitful sort of jarring. We recognize that when Jesus calls himself the ἄρτος τῆς ζωῆς (artos tēs zōēs), he is not referring to a literal wheat cake, though that might be the vehicle through which the sacrament is made manifest. Just as someone who must avoid the wine can still drink the blood of Christ, so too can someone who struggles with wheat proteins partake of the body.

One of the glories of Scripture, which our tradition affirms, is its ability to be literal and symbolic in the same breath. Bread and body, blood and wine. Bread as food. Bread as the stuff we need to live our lives.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

All of us at Anglicans Online

26 August 2018

*We assure you, we liked bread very, very much before the diagnosis. The gluten-free variety just is not the same

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