NOTE FROM JEN: This is the one post in the series where I asked a guest blogger to address a word from a specific angle. I have seen astonishing health benefits from limiting grains and giving up wheat entirely, and know many people who have experienced the same. There’s little question that for some significant segment of the population, grains are detrimental to health. So I asked blogger and certified Nutritional Consultant Katie of Wellness Mama to address the question: If bread is not good for many of us, what’s up with it being specifically mentioned in the Lord’s prayer?
We petition God specifically in the Our Father for “our daily Bread” and references to bread are sprinkled throughout the Bible. Christ even refers to himself as “The Bread of Life” on two occasions in the Gospel of John.
Jesus included this petition for “daily bread, ” in the Lord’s prayer, and there is a very poignant reason for this wording beyond asking for a substance made of flour.
The word used for “daily” is “epiousious” which the meaning of is often debated, but is most correctly translated to mean “essential” or “supersubstantial.”
This reference to Bread in the Lord’s Prayer, of course, refers to Christ who said: “The bread that I will give is My Flesh for the life of the world, ” (John 6:51) While we are asking God to provide for our daily temporal needs, the mention of bread in the Our Father is commonly associated with a Eucharistic reference to our daily need for Christ, rather than to just a food made of grains.
Grains In The Old Testament
Grain references sprinkle the Old Testament, from the admonishment of Adam after the fall that “From the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, until you return to the ground from which you were taken, ” (Gen 3:19) to the preferred offering of Abel’s livestock to the grain from Cain’s field. (Gen 4:4-5)
A very well-known mention of grains is in Ezekiel, when God gives Ezekiel a recipe of “wheat and barley, and beans and lentils, and millet and spelt” and tells him to make bread out of them. This reference has gained popularity among the health community and there is even a commercial brand of bread made using this recipe.
Something commonly missed in this reference to bread is the context of this Chapter in Ezekiel. A siege is underway and the people are entering a time of famine. This recipe for bread is hardly a prescription for health, but rather a means of survival under dire conditions.
God’s people had to consume unleavened bread during the haste to leave Egypt and were given manna to eat during their time of exile, though they eventually cried out for meat and God gave them quail. During the seven years of famine in Egypt, the people had to eat grain because it was all they had.
Grains In The New Testament
In the New Testament, the word “Bread” takes on a strong symbolic parallel to Christ himself. Christ was born in Bethlehem, meaning “House of Bread” and is laid in a manger, a feeding trough.
Christ calls himself the Bread of Life and tells us that unless we “eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.” (John 6:53) As Catholics, we understand this to be a reference to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
This reference to bread in John’s Gospel is an association to the eventual fulfillment of the remembrance of Passover by the Jewish people in the Old Testament, and ties in an equally important title of Christ: The Lamb of God.
In the Passover, a lamb had to be slain and eaten in its entirety and its blood painted on the door to tell the Angel to pass over and leave the firstborn sons of God’s people unharmed. The blood of the Lamb took the place of the blood of God’s people in the slaying of the firstborn. It was the blood of the lamb that saved them. The Jews continued to remember this deliverance each year in the ritual of Passover.
The Last Supper takes place during Passover, on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when the sacrificial lamb was usually consumed. When Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples, the lamb is notably absent, since Jesus will become the Sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. The blood of Christ saves us, as the blood of the sacrificial lamb during Passover foreshadows.
Jesus holds up the bread saying, “This is my Body, which will be given for you.” In this central moment of our Faith, Jesus unites his titles of the “Bread of Life” and the “Lamb of God, ” which we must eat to have eternal life. It is not the bread itself that is salvific, but the flesh of Christ that it is transformed into. In the moment of transubstantiation, the substance of grains becomes the flesh of Christ, our sacrificial Lamb.
The next day, Christ dies on the cross at the hour that the lamb is usually sacrificed during Passover, another symbol of his role as the Sacrificial Lamb. The “Bread of Life” becomes the “Lamb of God” and sacrifices Himself for our sins.
Just as with the Jews at Passover, unless they consumed the lamb and marked their doorposts with its blood, they would lose the life of their first-born son. Catholic faith holds that the Eucharistic Bread is not just a symbol of Jesus’ body but His actual flesh, His presence among us.
The consumption of Christ in Holy Communion can be thought of in a two-fold way. The actual form of grains, the “Bread of Life” that we consume in the Eucharist can represent the ties to the times of famine and need in the Old Testament, and how grains were necessary for survival during times of punishment. Through the Eucharistic prayer, we also consume the Lamb of God, the true Body of Christ, which represents the real and everlasting sacrifice of Christ as the Lamb who took away the sins of the world.
Though grains sustain in times of famine and trial, it is the Lamb that brings our Salvation. Thus, the Eucharist reminds us of both references to Christ, the “Bread of Life, ” our sustenance during trial, and the “Lamb of God” that grants our salvation by His Blood.
Thus, when we pray for our “daily bread, ” it is understood that we pray not just for our daily temporal needs, but more importantly for the sustaining nourishment of Christ truly present in the Eucharist.
Should We Consume Bread Since It Was Eaten In the Bible?
To digress, let’s consider our temporal needs that we also petition God for in this reference to Bread. Are we praying specifically for bread? Is this reference in the Lord’s Prayer a command to eat grains for sustenance?
From a nutritional perspective, I often encourage people to cut grains out of their diet, and many people have dramatic health results from doing so. Often, people question how grains can be bad or harmful to us if they are referenced so often in the Bible and if Christ even referred to himself as the “Bread of Life.”
This is certainly a question worth considering, and I think we can find the answers to this in Scripture as well. God’s people ate grains in times of famine or trial. The grains sustained them, but during times of celebration or feast, they ate the “fatted calf.”
Similarly, when Christ was fasting in the desert, he ate only bread and water, a sign of sacrifice. Ezekiel had to eat bread during a pending famine, not during a time of plenty. The references show that while grains can sustain life, they are not necessarily the optimal food. Even today, Catholics abstain from meat while fasting because it is a sacrifice.
From a nutritional perspective, it is important to note that the grains of Christ’s time were much different than the grains we consume today. During Biblical times, there were only three varieties of grains: Einkorn, Emmer and later Triticum aestivum.
Today, there are almost 25, 000 varieties of grains, most created in a lab through hybridization and genetic modification in the 1980s. They were modified to be more resistant to disease, to produce more and to resist some forms of pesticides.
We consume grains in much larger amounts than were likely consumed in Christ’s time and don’t often use methods like soaking, sprouting or fermenting to lower the antinutrient content. It can be assumed with certainty that Jesus was not stopping by Krispy Kreme or grabbing a hamburger from McDonalds on His way to the wedding at Cana.
Grains these days have been linked to autoimmune problems, metabolic disorders, inflammation, cancers and other problems. Even if grains (in much different form) could have been consumed without harm in Jesus’ time, their modification and the way they are processed today often create problems for our bodies.
With heart disease and cancer claiming millions of lives annually and metabolic disorders rampant, one must evaluate if eating grains is the best treatment of our bodies- the temples of the Holy Spirit entrusted to our care. Grains have been modified to such a degree that they have little nutrient value, high pesticide contamination, and they create an immune response. This is certainly not the way God created them, and likely not the way He intended us to eat them.
So, when asked, “Shouldn’t we eat grains since they are referenced so often in the Bible, even as a title for Christ Himself?” I emphatically answer “NO!” for several reasons:
God gave us many other foods that are more nutritious than grains, including meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and healthy forms of fat. We can eat these foods in the form God created them without having to process them to remove harmful antinutrients.
While grains can prevent starvation and keep a person alive, they are not necessarily the optimal food for human consumption and we over-consume them drastically. With the high rates of obesity and disease in our society, it is often better to avoid grains, which create an insulin response and can lead to other problems in the body.
The consumption of grains is certainly not necessary for our salvation. God did not say, “eat bread and you shall have eternal life, ” but that unless we eat “His Flesh and Drink his Blood, ” we shall not have eternal life. It is Christ as the Lamb of God who ensures our salvation. After all, Man cannot live on bread alone, but only on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God!
Katie, a.k.a. Wellness Mama, is a wife, mom (with a new baby due this month!), certified Nutritional Consultant and freelance journalist. Check out her great blog, Wellness Mama, which is one of my top daily reads.
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