First the dough: flour, yeast, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon and orange zest. And sugar. Milk, eggs, butter. And currants. Don’t forget the currants. Mixed, kneaded, left to rise in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, not a tea towel, in the warm oven.
Next, prayer. Get the kids into clothes, shoes, socks, and out the door into the mist. In time? Oh late, late, late, lost and lost and argh the wrong turn but finally there in the shadowy church, the voices— first one side and then the other— raised in verse and verse and antiphon. Finally it is done, too soon. And Anthony smiles and Bella sighs and Lucy is not ready to go home. Chit chat with the deacon and priest and a nice lady and Look here, next to St. Francis. Your saint, Anthony. Yes, of course you know. Yes, what about Saint Anthony? He was a Franciscan, see the same robes and rosary. And see the baby Jesus about to leap at him? Yes, he is standing on a book. Anthony was an Augustinian monk who left the monastery to become a follower of Francis, a poor itinerant preacher. All the monks had to agree before he could leave the monastery because he’d made promises. He lived at the time of Francis. He preached to the fish when the people would’t listen. He was born in Portugal but died in Padua and so he is St Anthony of Padua. I’ve been to his church in Padua. I hope you will go there some day.
Home again and time to shape the buns. The dough doesn’t want to be shaped. It resists. Refuses to stick to itself, to be balls. The buns are odd sizes, some too small, but it’s too late, this dough will not stick if I try to cobble them together. My stomach growls at the smell. Not yet. Finally they’re set to rise and I move on to the next item on my list: bread for Easter. Challah for the holiday. Don’t forget the sugar this time. Don’t forget to buy more eggs. So glad I remembered to on the way home. Cooking and fasting, busy in the kitchen with food for not now. Prayer and work and children in and out playing, watching, asking, needing, begging, helping, demanding, singing, crying, needing kisses. Oh so much crying. Oh so many wounds.
The noon hour comes and the buns are done. Hot and frosted with a cross. Sweet and spicy. Delectable. Everyone eats two. Devours. Savors. Lucy gets crosses on her allergy-friendly cookies. The sweetness of breaking the fast at last. I used to feel guilty to eat something so sweet, a treat. But they’ve always been eaten on Good Friday. Not just Lent, but on that particular day. Why? Tradition calls me to dig deeper, to discern the sweetness of the cross. Sweet with the bitter. The fruit of the tree of life restored to us to whom it has so long been denied. Marked with a cross: Hail, our only hope. There is something so fitting about breaking the fast with this tantalizing treat, not enough for the tongue or the growling belly, and yet enough to last until dinner. Enough food for thought as well as body.
And now it’s almost three the bread comes out of the oven and feet are back in shoes and jackets on and everyone in the car and this time it’s everyone going to church. Not Mass. Don’t genuflect, see, the tabernacle is empty. Just bow to the altar, let’s sit here. I wish they would stop whispering. I wish I could prostrate myself too. just lie there on the floor in front of the altar. The sparrow finds a space for her nest. Couldn’t I? But no. Too practical and self-conscious. No prostrations for me. I’m practically asleep on my feet during the petitions were they all there? They seem so short this year, usually they seem to drag on and on. Lucy falls asleep, kneeling, with her head on her arms on the pew and I scoop her up to go kiss the cross and the deacon smacks it into my mouth, a sore spot throbbing on my lips. No reproaches I reproach, grumbling to myself. I miss them. Why can’t we have the proper music, the good stuff? (I will play them on my phone later as I’m dredging and frying the trout which is perhaps a little too extravagant for Good Friday, maybe I should have stuck with tuna or bean soup.) And then communion and she’s still out and on my shoulder now and Ben clinging to my hand and again my mouth and again the deacon, but this time I’m opening it to be fed and he places the host gently and does not smack me. The sweetness of the breaking of the fast, the throbbing forgotten. And suddenly it’s over. Dark and over. Next time we come, but not here, the other church, it will be Easter and full of joy and we’ll wear bright dresses and there will be flowers and music and Alleluias and my heart will hear trumpets even if they aren’t playing.