The "Little Arms" of prayer
During the season of Lent we remember the saving action of our Lord Jesus Christ in a variety of ways. Ashes help us to remember the cost of our redemption and our destiny as humans. Palms remind us of the divinity of Christ and his willingness to suffer for us. And pretzels remind us to pray every day.
Did I just say pretzels?
Yes, pretzels are a Lenten tradition in Christianity dating back to the early 600s. The first pretzel was an invention of an Italian monk who was looking for a simple reminder to his brother monks that Lent is a time for prayer. So, fashioning a Lenten bread with only flour, water and salt (in those days people cooked without butter or oil during Lent), he rolled out the dough in strips. Then he gave the world the distinctive pretzel shape by folding the strip of dough over itself, just as one would cross one's arms over the heart in a gesture of prayer. The bread was then baked as a soft bread, just like the big soft pretzels we have today.
In the shape of crossed arms, these little breads were called bracellae, the Latin word for "little arms." From this word came the German word bretzel, the root of our familiar word pretzel.
Today, we have pretzels as a reminder of the importance of prayer, of daily turning to our Lord this Lent so that we better prepare for the great events of Holy Week and the Easter celebration. Each pretzel is a delicious Lenten treat to remind us to turn to the Lord often and "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8).
Lord, may these pretzel snacks remind us to always turn to you in prayer.