I did not invent this fabulous title--my husband did after seeing me reverentially carrying in the first baking of Hot Cross Buns from the local market. I stepped carefully, knowing I was carrying something holy which I did not want to drop. Can I even express what those square treats with white icing in the shape of a cross on top mean to me?
Childhood--going to Reibach's Bakery with my mom and buying the Lenten buns. By then Mom was pretty far from traditional Christianity, more like a Unitarian in fact, but she had been brought up in the Protestant Church, and her grandfather--L.Clark Seelye--was a minister. She would have attended services with her family. So, in some way, the food marked by Christ's cross must have meant something to her.
As I begged to eat one before we got home, Mom gave in and handed me a warm treat the like of which I shall probably never again experience this side of heaven. It was Eucharist for me, though I had no knowledge of this Sacrament then, no idea who Jesus was, though I must have asked some pesky questions because I knew the food had religious significance. In our family the only altars my family worshipped at were: nature, birds, Bach, and I.F. Stone's Weekly.
Once I had my own kids I bought the Lenten bread for them, but somehow they didn't appreciate it. "Ack, I hate raisins!" Ben declared. "What are those weird green and red bits, Mom?" Char spat them out. I adore candied citron as well as raisins, and if one of my kids had wanted to scrape the thick lashings of white frosting off with their milk teeth, I wouldn't have protested. It was all part of the Sacrament, after all.
So how do we get from festive eating to Jesus and the cross? We know that Jesus practiced "table fellowship," that one of his brilliant ideas was inviting broken and marginalized people to sit with him to eat and drink. How else do we include people on the outside into the kingdom? I think these buns are an open door to the kingdom, if we only recognized it.
I believe Jesus was also brilliant with symbols. He knew that turning water into wine would go down very well indeed, and that it would remind all that God saves the best for last; that He is a god of abundance, not scarcity; and that miracles happened then and still do if we only can see them.
If I weren't so worried about ruining a perfectly sweet piece of paradise, I would consider sticking a Hot Cross Bun in my purse. So that when the days are dark and the nights too long; when my body is tired from chemo and I am not feeling particularly brave; I could reach in, lift out the bun, and take a deep bite of heaven. It would reassure me that God is near--that He cares if I am hungry or afraid--and that He takes joy in my innocent pleasure at a t
reat that reminds me of His suffering at the same time that it reminds me of His joy.