I remember watching my grandfather bake pie crust for garden rhubarb pie and fluffy white rolls for our monthly family dinner. My memories of those days recall the joy of companionship with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents–a shared sense of belonging indistinguishable from the pleasure of “Grandpa Rolls.”

Rituals involving bread in ancient Israel were among the most sacred manifestations of the divine in everyday life. As our Savior began his life in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” so the simple processes of bread making were woven into life. In those days, men sowed and harvested the grain while women baked bread for every meal. In Palestine, bread is still generally baked in the shape of stones and customarily broken, not cut.[1]

Each day, the women of the house would scoop up some of the family’s store of grain and grind it on a saddle quern consisting of a lower and upper stone. The flour was then mixed with water and kneaded. Thin, flat circles of dough were slapped onto the hot interior of the courtyard bread oven. When done, the bread fell into the ashes below.[2]

Covenants in the Middle East were traditionally made while the parties broke bread together. Inviting a stranger into the home was a duty of hospitality which forged covenant-like bonds between families from different regions. Families who hosted travelers often depended on their former guests to host them if they were traveling to the guests’ region.[3]

Author with her grandfather

Author with her grandfather

Thus, around the dinner table, those who were once strangers became companions. The word “companion,” meaning someone “with whom one spends a lot of time or with whom one travels” derives from the Latin “com-panis,” one who breaks bread with another.[4] I recently had a dream that my husband, Micah, and I were conversing with my grandfather, who passed away a couple of years ago. We weren’t seeing eye to eye about something until I said, “Micah and I are a chip off your block because we both like to make bread.” He threw back his head and gave a merry laugh.

Like families ancient and modern, each Sunday, we break bread around the sacrament table with our “ward family,” united in our commitment to travel alongside one another, share burdens and mourn together.

As we partake of pieces broken from the same sacred loaf, we remember Christ’s sacred body and His At-one-ment that breaks down the “wall of partition between us.” [5] As church “members,” we together form Christ’s church.[6] When we re-member, (the Latin prefix “re” meaning “again,” we recall our commitments to each other and to the Savior and are rejoined members of the body of Christ. We may consider that the opposite of remember is dis-member (from the Latin prefix de meaning “take away”): to be separated from the whole, or torn limb from limb.[7]

It is a central mission of the Church to gather scattered Israel, re-membering the “poor and needy,” any who are lost among the ten tribes, and those living in our midst who are not currently breaking bread with us.[8] Another term that captures this process of re-membering is re-storing a process which Patrick Mason asserts will “remain ongoing and incomplete so long as there are any poor or “any manner of ites’ among us.” He continues, “What is being restored in the Restoration? God’s people. The poor will receive the kingdom of heaven. The brokenhearted will be healed. The captives will be liberated…In the ultimate sense, this is the atonement and reconciliation that only our Savior Jesus Christ can fully accomplish” as we “[co-participate] with him as ‘saviors…on Mount Zion.’”[9]

Two friends on the road to Emmaus unexpectedly rediscovered the joy of Christ’s companionship. When their new acquaintance began expounding scriptures they invited him to stay with them. He “took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.” It was then that “their eyes were opened, and they knew him” before Jesus vanished out of their sight.[10]

Curiously, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, already His followers, did not recognize Christ until He broke bread with them. We too will come to know Him at the most personal level as we sup with him. “Here I am!” He calls. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”[11] When we finally eat face-to-face with the Savior, our faith in Him may turn to knowledge, changing everything.

This transformation develops gradually, beginning with His role as the word, the seed swelling within our hearts.[12]

But Christ appears at every step, being also the ground for the seed, fertile enough for us to firmly root and ground ourselves in Him.[13] Christ is the Son-light that warms and germinates the seed[14] and the living water that rains down upon it.[15] Christ is the sower who oversees the growth of this precious seed, eventually employing us to aid Him in the harvest, tossing out the weeds, and taking the wheat to the storeroom.[16]

Ultimately, Christ is the rock upon which the wheat is ground,[17] the salt and living water that binds it into dough.

Having submitted to the process Himself, He is the seminal work of the Bethlehem Bakery, the stone-like loaf of bread containing a living lump of yeast.[18] As His loaf children looking to His example, we lie flatly divested of any foreign yeasts, humbly waiting for Him to raise us up.[19] The refiner watching the fire with care, Christ manages the heat judiciously to bake us to perfection.[20] Then we fall from the sides of the oven and into the ashes in similitude of His death as the original bread torn and broken to forever satisfy the hunger of His children.

Can we say what portion of the resulting bread is truly us as individuals and how much of it is Jesus? By the time our bread is ready for consumption, we are so fully enmeshed in His being and infused in every particle with His nature that we are one with Him, there being no point at which He ends and we begin.[21] We become a piece of His living bread prepared to nourish all around us. Having become like Him, we are ready to break bread with Him and await His arrival as our dinner guest.[22]

[1] From Daily Life in Ancient Israel
[2] The source for this is no longer active on Harvard University’s website
[3] From Entertaining Angels: Hospitality in Luke and Acts
[4] See Google’s English Dictionary provided by Oxford Languages
[5] Ephesians 2:14
[6] 1 Corinthians 12:12-27
[7] See Online Etymology Dictionary
[8] Alma 6:6
[9] Pages 20-21 in Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st Century World by Patrick Mason
[10] Luke 24:30-31
[11] Revelations 3:20 (NIV)
[12] Alma 32:28 and John 1:14
[13] Ephesians 3:17
[14] John 8:12
[15] Jeremiah 2:13
[16] Matthew 13:24-30
[17] Psalms 18:2
[18] John 6:35
[19] 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
[20] Isaiah 48:10
[21] John 17:21
[22] 1 John 3:2 and Luke 22:29-30