The Pretzel and Lent?

Lenten pretzelIn my opinion, there is nothing like a good pretzel. What most people don’t realize, as Evelyn Birge Vitz explains in her book, A Continual Feast, is that pretzels were first baked as a Lenten food.

The pretzel is a very ancient bakery item, going back at least to the fifth century. Monks are credited with twisting dough into the now familiar pretzel shape to represent arms crossed over the chest, which was the posture for prayer back then. Pretzels would appear on Ash Wednesday and disappear on Good Friday.

Its shape and ingredients are reminders of the Lenten season.

Prayer. Pretzels are made in the form of two arms crossed in prayer. The word bracellae, “little arms,” became in German Bretzel, then Pretzel.

Fasting. Pretzels were the food for the poor. Because these early Christians ate no dairy products during Lent, the pretzel consisted only of flour, salt and water – it could not be simpler.

Works of charity. The coarse salt sprinkled on pretzels reminds us that salt, so necessary to all forms of life, is what Christ has called us to be for the world.

This first week of Lent might be a good time for us to embrace the spirit of the pretzel. Allow these 40 days to be a time of prayer, a time to reconnect with God. Allow the simplicity of the pretzel to call you to a life of simplicity, centered around the values of living as a child of God that have been taught to us by Jesus. Allow the salt of the pretzel to remind you that you are called by Christ to become, for the world that encounters you, the “salt” of compassion, generosity, kindness, and mercy. Allow the cross formed by the pretzel to be a sign of the cross Jesus calls you to take up as you journey with him to the promise of Easter.

Still looking for a Lenten resource to help you move through these 40 days? Our Sunday Visitor has a very good one – “Read, Reflect, Respond” – that will help you to reflect on the word of God and allow it to influence your actions and prayer life.

Question – Are there any Lenten traditions from your family or ethnic background that you can share with us that help you move through these 40 days?

February 25th, 2015 |