Grains of our Pioneer Forebears


Various Unleavened Breads, courtesy Wikimedia Commons


How often have we heard that “Bread is the Staff of Life?” What kind of bread depends on where we came from and how we have evolved.







A communion service in a small Maine church taught me about differences in the way we consider and partake of many breads.

RICE CAKES are made from a grain that in antiquity was rare and treasured and kept for medicinal uses. Let rice cakes call to mind men and women who are ill, especially those with cancer, HIV-Aids, and those who suffer from mental illness.

MATZO calls to mind refugees and exiles, those who have been forced to leave their home and even flee their homelands. Let unleavened bread nourish refugees, immigrants, and pioneers who must make new lives for themselves.

TORTILLAS are a staple of many families in Central America, where political violence has raged for years. Let them symbolize all people who suffer in war.

CORNBREAD reminds us of the strength of our sisters and brothers of many races, who work to overcome racism and unjust social structure. Let it recall those who have been enslaved because of their skin color.

PITA BREAD represents those in the Middle East where so many forces have created obstacles to peace.

SALTINES shall represent the elders, the “salty” ones. Let saltines remind us of those who have endured and those filled with the wisdom of their long years.

SHORTBREAD brings to mind children. Let it signify little ones, and those especially concerned with them; mothers and expectant mothers, fathers and grandparents, teachers and midwives.

These breads remind us of our forebears, those whose life flows through our veins.

May the holidays bring peace.



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