‘A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by The Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof’.
Anglican Book of Common Prayer
As I gaze out of my windows, stroll or drive around this fair land of Kent, I never cease to be awed by the beauty of the Downs, both the North and Medway Downs which encompass my home town. At this time of year the Sun illuminates a veritable patchwork of golden hues splashed with blushing reds. The Corn, Wheat and Rapeseed has spent months in the fields, soaking up the rays of the sun, drinking in the vast amounts of rain we have had and delighting in the nutrients of Kent’s fertile Earth, now the ears stand tall and erect, dancing in the gentle breeze…whispering.
If you listen closely you can hear the spirit of the crops, our Sacred King who stands proudly in the fields amongst the acres of grain…His symbol. His voice is full of pride and sorrow for Our Lady has declared this to be is His time to die, to be sacrificed and walk among the dead for the good of the living. The Young’un who emerged from a womb of nothingness, to bring light into a world of darkness and ignorance and bring the nourishment of truth and beauty to Mankind, at His time of greatest strength She cuts him down in his prime.
With slow yet striking blows of a shining crescent shaped scythe He falls upon the earth, His body lying limp as life ebbs away and crimson waves of blood flow across the fields staining the land. Crowds of people from all over fight over the remains, clawing at flesh and bone, thrashing…threshing…”The King is dead!” they cry “Long live the King!”
Upon the mill of time and toil the Holy relics of the once and future King are ground into dust…desiccated, finer and more fragile than grains of sand. Yet there is hope, for She who claimed his life can also restore it.
Just as the rains from heaven quench the parched fields so too with water are His ashen remains bound into flesh renewed, like clay, rolled and kneaded to give form and with sweet scented breath He revives and resuscitates. However, it is only with fire that He is truly reborn, for the same fire that birthed him, gave him life and bore him into the world, can do so again. He is resurrected and transformed by this work of magic and alchemy.
Yet the story of our King is not yet over. The ‘happily ever after’ will come but not until those who come hungry for truth, longing to taste the gift He offers, the potential, nay, the promise of Apotheosis:
“I am the Bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger…I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
His body, remade, will pass hungry lips, the lips of those who honoured Him in life and his flesh shall once again decay. The Earth, the Water and the Breath which created him shall in turn create the bodies of those who devoutly partake and the Fire which created His spirit shall in turn fuse with and transform the spirits of those who eat, into those of God himself, radiating with His light and beauty. Our Lord lives again, reborn in each of us who share in the Sacrament, Holy Communion or the Houzle. What ever you choose to call it, eat of His body with reverence, nurture the fire He delivers from within…eat…and ye shall live forever!
I found the above incredibly difficult to write; if truth be told I’m still not sure I captured everything that seemingly simple bread, the most basic of food stuffs, signifies to me and many others of The Faith. I bake bread a lot, almost weekly as I’m sure others do, but in these modern days of convenience and supermarkets it’s easy (and forgivable) to opt out from the effort of baking and simply purchase a roll or two for use in one’s sacraments.
Though I ask you to spare a thought for what you may be missing out on by using store bought. There is an almost alchemical process to bread making, as I hope the above helps to illustrate. Every component, every step has significance and meaning. Baking one’s own bread from scratch puts us in touch with the grass roots of the profound mystery the sacrament encompasses. At Lammas tide, I bake a ‘special’ loaf which begins by cutting corn or wheat and grinding a few pinches of my own flour. The corn is cut with great reverence for in that moment I am symbolically reproducing a great sacrifice. Each grain of cereal has spent its days being warmed by the fire of the sun, nourished by the earth, drinking of the waters from heaven and breathing and dancing in the air, elemental principles which are themselves birthed from a higher power. So the grain no longer becomes symbolic of my God, it is my God and gratefully I take a portion of his body for my own humble table.
His seed, His flesh, taken from His stark remains are ground into just a few pinches of flour. It is my time taken and labour spent which transforms the innocuous into something useful…releasing the potential within. These token pinches of home-ground flour are added to my main bread mix and bound together with blood warm water. The same waters which nurtured the grain are in this instance transformed to sacred blood, the blood of The Mother, and brings the desiccated remains of my God into form. During the ‘prooving’ process we can actually see the dough inhaling, as yeast metabolises and produces bubbles of gas, this ‘body of clay’ breathes and rises. Only when we bake the bread do we inject fire. Just because we use heat from gas or electricity in a modern oven, it’s still fire just like the fire within the earth or fire burning in the Sun…the spirit of fire is there, transforming and ultimately resurrecting.
But like the grain, even bread is useless until it’s actually eaten. The nourishment, the life of the sacrificial God lies dormant until we partake and our physiology gets to work chewing, digesting, macerating and absorbing. The Sacrificial God descends physically just as He does spiritually only this time it is not into the belly of the earth, but into our own bellies and the vital essence bestowed upon Him by earth, air, water and fire dissolves and is absorbed into our own being. The alchemical motto, often found on images of Baphomet immediately comes to mind “Solve et Coagula” – break down and reform.
Anyone who studies the Tree of Life / Kabbalah may, by now, have noticed a cyclical ascent and descent or death and resurrection, through the four kabbalistic worlds of manifestation, from Godhead / Archetype, to Grain to Bread and finally in us…Malkuth or manifestation perfected.
And it must be said, that what is true of grain, is of course also true of grape. Dionysus, the Greek God of wine also holds his place among the Sacrificial Gods so in our sacraments there is special place for this most sacred of fluids, so sacred in fact that many of us brew our own tipple for the same reason we bake our own bread…connection to the entire process and the spirit of Him we are to devour!
It saddens me when I often hear or witness the closing act of ‘cakes and wine’ being an excuse to have a piss up at the end of a rite and in fact if I hadn’t found Traditional Craft when I did I could have easily converted to Catholisism because in the Sacrament, or Holy Communion, I find one of the most deep and profound mysteries expressed, one that we, of The Faith can all partake in. The Sacrament should be an integral part of any ritual or conducted exclusively as a simple ritual in its own right, either way it should of course be enjoyed but with reverence, for it is an act of communion, of transformation and what better time than Lammas to reflect upon something so simple, yet so deeply profound!
Lammas blessings all…!