Arches are structures with deep resonance. They embody and symbolize many things: strength and support, lightness and openness within density, thresholds into liminal space. As an archetypal symbol, the arch is fundamentally masculine. In mythology arches & doorways are understood as thresholds in time and space (chronos/physical world) through which one passes to enter another kind of time and space (kairos/spiritual world), a concept that is deeply consonant with our ministries of both worship and hospitality.
In architecture, the arch serve to lift the eye (and spirit) upwards to a higher plane/ideal. It is also a fundamentally Johannine symbol, which may well have figured into the architect Ralph Adams Cram's extensive use of arches throughout the monastery, as they recall Jesus' "I AM" sayings from the Gospel of John—the Way, the door to the sheepfold, etc.
We find a profound significance for our own lives in what the Gospel of John tells of the Beloved Disciple's friendship with Jesus and his call to be a witness to the mystery of the Incarnation. We bear the name of Saint John the Evangelist to show the church what is the source of our inspiration and our joy. The brothers' bronze cross bears an intricate weaving of images from the Johannine writings of the New Testament:
Sift together into a large bowl:
8 cups whole wheat flour
8 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
1 cup oil (vegetable, canola, or other light oil)
1 cup water
16 oz. honey (1 small jar)
Pour liquid into dry ingredients and mix till thoroughly blended;
dough should be stiff and moist, but not sticky.
Turn out onto lightly floured board and knead briefly, using additional flour as necessary.
For ease of handling, divide into two portions and work one at a time.
Roll out on lightly floured board about 3/8” thick.
Cut into rounds of appropriate size (no larger than 6 1/2” diameter).
Stamp firmly with floured mold or incise with cross, using sharp, thin knife dipped in cool water.
Place on a heavy, light-colored, oiled (or use vegetable spray) cookie sheet and bake at 400° F for 12 to 14 minutes, depending on your oven’s temperature.
Cool loaves on wire rack and wrap well before refrigerating. May be reheated in microwave – ever so briefly to avoid drying – before use.
This recipe yields several large (approx. 6”) and medium (approx. 3” diameter) loaves for a total of 16 to 24, depending on size.
Some Advice for Bakers beyond the Monastery:
Practice! Don’t expect your first batch to be ready for prime time. You, your oven, and your kitchen all bring something to the process, so sort that out before you forge ahead to make the loaves to be used on the Altar for Easter morning when the Bishop is there and the sanctuary is full. Besides, the birds will find your ‘practice runs’ to be a special treat!
Before rolling out the dough, divide it into four portions rather than just two. Your home kitchen is probably smaller than the monastery kitchens, and you may find it easier to work with less dough on your kitchen counter.
Try to roll the dough as evenly as possible and try rolling to 1/4” rather than 3/8” – experiment with different size rounds and depths, so that you can find the combination that works for you and your oven.
Don’t incise the cross too deeply & don’t drag the knife across the dough, rather lay it on top and lightly imprint the dough with the knife.
Rather than a greasing the cookie sheet, parchment paper works well and does save the effort of cleanup. Also, ‘airbake’ cookie sheets help to keep the bottoms from getting too dark.
The goal in baking is to get a lightly golden brown top, but not toasted. You should find that once the bread has cooled and you break it apart, it is moist and slightly sweet inside.
The loaves can be frozen in tightly sealed containers (such as Ziploc freezer bags) well in advance. Allow 24 hours for them to defrost so that they are room temperature at the time of the service.
Finally, remember that these aren’t just any loaves, but rather they will be made sacred when they are consecrated at the Eucharist. As you go along, take the time to notice the smells, textures, and colors of the dough and loaves. The process of preparing them is both mundane and holy and it involves all your senses. It is a very special way of sharing in the liturgical and spiritual life of your community.
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