Our tea kettle has stood mute since Ash Wednesday, its cheery hum hushed as if in contemplation of the season. When the girls decided to give up drinks other than water during the forty days of Lent, I am not sure if they quite realized that this would mean parting with the most cherished moment of their day, Afternoon Tea. Their sacrifice was particularly acute during the first few days, and more than once I saw a girl cast a wistful glance at that tongue-tied pot during the suddenly hollow hour of two o'clock in the afternoon.
For quite some time, it has been on my mind to surprise them with a special "Lenten Tea." Naturally, water will serve as a substitute for our usual hot refreshment, but at least the china set will be summoned from its sudden sabbatical to grace our table once more. Plain water issuing from that lovely teapot should in itself serve as a subtle reminder of the intrinsic beauty of sacrifice offered with love.
Forgoing the usual literary selections, our Lenten Tea reading will be taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, and each offering on the menu will represent a fragment of the underlying story. The Gospel was so full of vivid imagery, that I decided to prepare two separate Teas for Lent. We will read Chapter 14 on the first day and Chapter 15 the next. As we read, the significance of each item on the table will become clear to the children, and hopefully it will create a memory they will not soon forget.
This first of two menus, based primarily on Chapter 14, might even work well for Holy Thursday:
Lenten Tea Menu
Palm on the Road
Thirty Pieces of Silver
Mount of Olives
The Cock Crows Twice
Clouds of Heaven
Saint Peter's Tears
Recipes and Suggestions
1. "Palm on the Road" (Mk. 11: 1-11): Although this Tea was created with Chapter 14 in mind, I could not resist starting off with the story of Palm Sunday and Jesus' reception in Jerusalem. To create "Palm on the Road," you will need:
White or whole wheat bread, thinly sliced
Hearts of Palm (canned variety available in the grocery store)
A hint of ketchup or mustard
Butter thin slices of bread (the "Road") and cover with sliced heart of palm. Add a small dot of ketchup or mustard (if the children like it) for a flavor boost. The ambitious might try piping it through an icing bag, but a squeeze bottle or even the tip of a toothpick would work just as well. These simple savories could be cut into squares and should be served open faced.
Heart of Palm has a delicate flavor children usually like when they try it. Perhaps the symbolism of "Palm on the Road" will serve as an incentive.
For a more substantial offering, consider trying this recipe for Heart of Palm Salad instead.
Quote "And many spread their garments on the road, and others spread leafy branches which they had cut from the fields." Mk. 11: 8.
2. "Costly Oil" (Mk. 14: 3-9): Any type of flavored olive oil, homemade or store bought, preferably in an attractive bottle, would work well to represent the expensive oil offered to Jesus so lovingly by the woman in Bethany. It will be an appetizing accompaniment to the "Unleavened Bread."
Quote "And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her." Mk. 14: 9.
3. "Thirty Pieces of Silver" (Mk. 14: 10-11; Mt. 26: 14-16): Any round savory suitable for teatime would do well, but I plan to serve sliced Munster cheese cut into circles with a biscuit cutter. The detail of the number thirty is not mentioned in Mark's Gospel, so I have included an additional reference to the book of Matthew in the menu.
Quote "Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, 'What will you give me if I deliver him to you?' And they paid him thirty pieces of silver." Mt. 25: 14-15.
4. "Unleavened Bread" (Mk. 14: 12-22): This will be warmed pita bread cut into wedges, although matzoh would work well too. Pita is perfect for dipping in the flavored oil, and this will serve the dual purpose of representing the moment of the Last Supper in which Jesus identifies His betrayer, saying, "It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me." Mt. 14:20. (The Munster cheese rounds could be tucked inside the pita as well.)
Quote "And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to Him, 'Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?'" Mk. 14: 12.
5. "The Mount of Olives" (Mk. 14: 26): This is perhaps the simplest item to prepare. Pile assorted olives on a plate to create the perfect "Mount of Olives." I know at least a few of my children like olives.
Quote "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." Mk. 14: 26.
6. "The Cock Crows Twice" (Mk. 14: 27-31): My sympathy always goes out to St. Peter during this part of the story. He loves Jesus so much and sincerely believes he will not fail Him--what anguish he must have felt. If you are not serving this Tea on a Friday, chicken tea sandwiches could symbolize this aspect of the Gospel story and would make a perfect addition to a luncheon tea:
Cold sliced roast chicken (or sliced chicken from the deli)
White or whole wheat bread
Butter or mayonnaise
Optional: tomato, tarragon, chopped celery, or flat-leaf parsley, a pinch of salt and pepper
Cut the sandwiches into triangles and serve two to each child.
Quote "And Jesus said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.'" Mk. 14: 30.
7. "Gethsemane Figs" (Mk. 14: 32-42): Dried figs would make an appealing accompaniment to the other items on the table, or, if you do not mind sweets during Lent, Fig Newtons would work well too, especially because the last few menu items happen to be on the sweet side.
Quote "And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here, while I pray.'" Mk. 14: 32.
8. Judas' Kiss (Mk. 14: 43-50): My children are off candy for Lent, but a single Hershey's Kiss would work so well that I cannot help suggesting it. If you would prefer to avoid sugary treats, or if your children are giving them up for Lent, a fresh strawberry could serve as a "kiss" as well.
Quote "And when he came, he went up to him at once, and said, 'Master!' And he kissed him." Mk. 14: 45.
9. "The Clouds of Heaven" (Mk. 14: 62): Once again, this is an optional sweet offering. Fresh whipped cream would go well with either the strawberries or the Hershey's Kiss. Plain yogurt could replace whipped cream and be served with the strawberries if you are avoiding added sugars during Lent.
Quote "And Jesus said, 'I am; and you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.'" Mk. 14: 62.
10. Peter's Tears (Mk. 14: 66-72): This may sound ridiculous, but I plan to offer each child a couple of peppermint Tic-Tacs to represent St. Peter's tears of regret. It will punctuate the meal, and help them to remember a pivotal moment and the final lines of Chapter 14.
Quote "And immediately the cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, 'Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.' And he broke down and wept." Mk. 14: 72.
If you have the help of an older child or a bit of extra time, it would be worthwhile to create small cardstock signs for each of the dishes featuring the short Biblical quotes in the recipe section. Agnes, Theresa, and Margaret would relish a task like this, especially if they had purple markers and perhaps stickers for embellishment. As much as I would like to surprise them with this Tea, oftentimes being included in the preparation is half the fun!
Lenten Tea Shopping List
Whole Roasted Chicken or Sliced Chicken (if you haven't any left over roast chicken on hand)
Munster or another thinly sliced white cheese for "thirty pieces of silver"
White or whole wheat bread, thin sliced (you may need two loaves if you have a large family)
Pita Bread or Matzoh
Herbs (if needed for the olive oil)
Tomato, tarragon, celery or flat-leaf parsley (optional for chicken sandwiches)
Fresh strawberries (if you are not using Hershey's Kisses)
Canned or Jarred Goods:
Heart of palm
Black, green, or assorted olives
ketchup or mustard (optional)
Flavored olive oil (or plain if you are making homemade flavored oil)
mayonnaise (optional if you are not using butter for the chicken sandwiches)
Dried figs or Fig Newtons
Hershey's Kisses (if you are not using strawberries)
Heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract for homemade whipped cream--or Cool Whip or Redi-Whip topping for convenience. Plain or vanilla yogurt would work too.