Posted by: fvbcdm | October 16, 2014

Feast of Saint Hedwig (16 October 2014)

It’s wonderful how coincidences occur; they are God’s little ways of encouraging us in his ways. In the gospel for today’s Mass, Our Divine Lord tells his followers: beware of the leaven of the Pharisee. And Saint Luke, who reports this to us, explains that by leaven, Jesus means hypocrisy. Why should leaven mean hypocrisy? And therefore why should the Jewish people rid their homes and their meals of all leaven and leavened breads during the celebration of the Passover? And, taking the idea one step further, why do we Catholics use only unleavened bread when celebrating Mass? The reason is this:  to the Jewish mentality beginning with the law of Moses, leaven—yeast or baking powder—was hypocritical because it caused bread dough to seem larger than it really was. When the baker mixes leaven with his dough and gives it time to rise, the whole batch of dough swells up and becomes much bigger than it was before the leaven was added. Why? Because the leaven causes carbon dioxide to be released in the dough, and the gas makes the heavy dough swell and become light and fluffy.

The difference between leavened bread and unleavened is the difference between a nice roll or muffin or croissant, and a plain soda cracker, or our communion wafers. If you were to invite your neighbors over for breakfast tomorrow morning, promising them communion wafers, they’d think you were crazy and probably wouldn’t come. And yet, Christians across the world get up early in the morning to attend Mass and receive the communion wafer during the Holy Sacrifice. That’s the difference between nature and grace. What we would spurn naturally, we eagerly receive under the impulse of God’s grace because we know it to be the Body of Christ.  The coincidence that I spoke of earlier is this: while I was thinking of this notion of leaven, I opened the Houston newspaper which I read each morning.  And there, on page A14, is an article which is VERY important to New Orleanians, those still there and those who have been exiled by hurricane Katrina. The article announces that the Café du Monde is about to reopen! That means that once again, the locals and the tourists alike will be able to sit at the outdoor café just across the street from Jackson Square and our Cathedral, in the heart of the French Quarter, and have their beloved beignets, a sort of fritter made of bread dough, fried in deep oil, and served piping hot, usually sprinkled with powdered sugar.  And of course, eaten with a steaming cup of good New Orleans café au lait—coffee and milk. It is very nice of the Lord to have given us beignets to begin with; to make them an integral part of life in New Orleans, my home town, and then to allow the reopening of this beignet shop along with the notice of it in the Houston newspaper which I read! When we want to jokingly make fun of someone’s ideas, we sometimes say, “Oh, you’re full of hot air!”  It is the hot air in the beignet that makes it so delicious; it is the lack of air in a cracker or a communion wafer that makes them much less desirable. The one is very pure but blah; the other is full of hot air, but delicious. When you eat really good bread, you’re eating a lot of air with your baked dough. And this, to the Jewish mind, was hypocritical. It’s all very well for bread to be full of hot air, but we are expected to be pure, genuine, without pretense or seeming to be bigger or better than we really are. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This Message was composed some years ago.


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