Spring is a season of excitement and expectation. The trees lining the streets are dusted with bright buds, promising flowers and leaves. The wind is warmer now. The raindrops are accompanied by robin song. I see that winter has faded, and with a surge of delight I think: ‘It is time…to make paska!’
For the past three or four years, making paska has been one of my favourite springtime traditions. Part of my appreciation for this sweet and citrusy bread comes from our shared heritage. The recipe was well loved by the Mennonites, who carried it with them to North America from the Ukraine. The rich bread is beautiful as well as delicious, decorated with icing or crosses. Another common name for it is ‘Easter bread’. I, however, prefer to call it paska. Not only is it more fun to say, I find it more meaningful. The name ‘paska’ is derived from ‘Passover’.
Thinking of Passover reminds me of another special type of bread: matzah. It is the flat bread, eaten as a memorial of the quick flight out of Egypt- from slavery to freedom. Traditionally on the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the house must be cleaned of all other breads…only the pure matzah remains. In 1 Corinthians, Paul points out the purity that the matzah symbolized, and connects it with the sacrifice of Christ. “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8, ESV) I find it interesting that matzah is both striped and pierced…
Later on in 1 Corinthians, Paul again brings up bread… “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Corinthians 11: 23-24, ESV) So I take the broken bread- in remembrance of Him. Paul goes on to say that to eat from the bread and drink from the cup is to ‘Proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes’.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again!
Paska carries rich stories, and not just culturally. It is meant as a memorial and road mark, pointing to the Bread of Life. I love how bread can be used to tell a story, but I must admit that sometimes I let myself get distracted. I need a moment to step back and see not how this epic story is being told, but what is being said.
Spring is a season of excitement not only for what is coming, it is a season of excitement of what has been fulfilled.
He is risen!