The whole season of Easter is a time for reflection on Baptism. In the ancient Church adult converts were baptized at the Easter Vigil and then given daily instruction by the local bishop during the following fifty days. Before Baptism the converts were taught salvation history from the Hebrew scriptures—only after Baptism were they taught from the New Testament. This underscored the importance of Baptism as entry into new life. In addition the converts’ memories of the Baptismal liturgy recalled vivid experience in a rite of passage. In darkness they had removed all their old clothes, been immersed in water, and raised up as the sun rose, to be dried off and dressed in new clothes—a white tunic we call an alb. After that they were anointed with oil and shared for the first time in the community’s thanksgiving meal. They not only received the bread and wine that we still share today. They were also given a drink from a cup of milk and honey, since through their Baptism and full participation in the Eucharist they had entered the Promised Land, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Many of us, baptized as infants, do not have vivid sensory memories that we can revisit as we reflect on the significance of our own Baptism. But all of us can make direct contact with Baptism’s meanings by tasting milk and honey. Here’s a simple recipe: To one cup of milk add three tablespoons of honey and a pinch of salt. Mix thoroughly in a blender or food processor. Or mix by hand, in that case using milk at room temperature. Chill and serve—a quarter cup per person. (Extend the amounts as needed.) As you sip the milk and honey say a brief prayer of thanks for your Baptism.
Milk and honey is wonderfully sweet, and tasting it—as a form of gustatory prayer—is a vivid experience. It reminds us that in spite of all the troubles we face now we have indeed been delivered out of slavery to sin and death and from wanderings in the wilderness. In Baptism and Eucharist, freed from Egypt as members of the New Israel, we have entered the Promised Land.
Milk and honey is wonderfully sweet. Try it. You’ll like it.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington