Go ahead and start stocking up.
Anyone who knows me well is privy to the fact that I have a sweet tooth — and a sweeter tooth for chocolates. Bring me a bar of rich chocolate and you will have my loyalty! One of the many blessings of being temporarily sojourning in Europe is finding myself on the continent that takes its chocolates seriously.
So I was pleasantly shocked when I came across a beautiful article by Sara Maitland in The Tablet in which she performs a spiritual dissection of chocolate like I’ve never read before.
I have her to thank for combining two things I love very much: Chocolates and Catholicism.
Come Easter (or already now) and you will find chocolate stores stocked with chocolate eggs and bunnies of different sizes.
But when we look at how chocolate is made, it resounds so much with what Easter is all about, that it is totally appropriate for celebrating God’s providential love for us.
“At Easter, God gives us His greatest gift, and therefore celebrating this joy with chocolates is wholly appropriate. Chocolate is the ‘fruit of the earth and work of human hands.’ Converting the natural cacao bean into edible chocolate is a complicated, laborious process involving fermentation, drying, cleaning, roasting, shelling, grinding and heating, just to produce unadulterated chocolate in a rough form, which can then be refined and flavored.” – Sara Maitland, The Tablet (April 22, 2017)
Chocolate therefore involves great labor. And this reminds us of the sweat and tears that Jesus underwent during his Passion and death. A seed must fall to the earth and die before it yields its rich fruit. It’s the same with the cacao seed.
Easter changes our mood. We have been low-key, introspective, repentant and sorrowful through the Lenten season. But on Easter, our joy bursts forth on receiving the Good News of our Savior’s victory over sin and death. Chocolate is also a mood-enhancer. Don’t let me remind you of all those times when you have reached for a bar of chocolate during those depressing and low emotional moments. I have, too. It lifts our spirits and makes us feel good; it takes away some of the pain and brings us comfort.
Chocolate is unusually ‘moldable’ — it can take a great many different forms and flavors. Like God’s living grace poured into our hearts, it can be ‘different’ for each person, while still unified in one body. There are forms of chocolate for children and for the most sophisticated adults; you can combine it with your favorite flavors and avoid those you don’t like. This individual adaptation to need and desire shows how God works differently in each of our lives, he is generous and sensitive. There is no rigid formula for everyone.
The untreated cacao bean is extremely bitter, like the vinegar that Jesus was offered on the Cross. It is only through a long laborious process that it becomes sweet to us. The bean must be gathered (arrested), dried (“I Thirst”), shelled and ground (scourged and crucified), fermented (placed in the grave) and so transformed into sweetness and joy (resurrection).
This is why chocolate is such an appropriate symbol for Easter. So next time, when you crave a piece of chocolate, don’t feel guilty. Let it remind you of the great love that God has for you. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”
Or as Forrest Gump famously said, “Life is a box of chocolates.”
P.S. Yes, this article was written in a moment of chocolate-induced frenzy.