Why is it important that the bread of Eucharist be “bread broken”? What does it tell us about Jesus and about the community that shares his life?
When I was growing up, we had many opportunities to appreciate the role of food and drink in fostering family relationships. Whether we gathered around the dining room table for dinner, or celebrated a special occasion, food and drink played a delightful role, along with conversation and laughter. On solemn or sad occasions too, meals had a central place. “Breaking the bread” was what my Italian aunts and uncles called a funeral lunch. It was as much a part of leave-taking as the wake or liturgy itself. Shared meals were so central in our lives that it came as a surprise to me, years later, to learn that some families don’t eat together.
Truth to tell, traditional practices of shared family meals can no longer be taken for granted. In today’s busy and individualistic society, we catch some food on the fly, or watch television while eating. Eating is more a functional than a social event for many. Yet there remains something special about breaking bread with those we love, even if it happens less frequently than it once did.