Ten Propositions on Feasting
I begin with the assumption that the church has been powerfully de-ritualized this season. Habits die quickly or become rusty when not exercised. As Dru Johnson notes in his book "Human Rites," we need to know our rites. The more we understand our rituals the more meaningful they become. And we have forgotten those rites and/or meaningfully ceased to practice them. I offer ten brief notes on recovering the ritual of feasting in this age:
First, we eat without thanksgiving. Gluttony exists because thanksgiving does not. Eating is not a neutral exercise. Christians eat as acts of triumph over the world.
Second, the ritual of eating is undervalued in America. In this country, food is consumption. We eat because we want to, therefore we eat without intentionality. When rites become trite, our experiences become trivial, and the doors for abuse open wider.
Third, corporate eating is de-valued because we allow teenagers to rule over the table. Parents must re-assert their authority over the table, and keep food at the table and not on laps in front of laptops.
Fourth, feasting suffers when worship looks like a funeral. If every head is bowed and eyes are closed, we cannot see the feast or hear the feasters. Feasting is diminished when worship is feast-less in character.
Fifth, feasting is best formalized and appointed. When it is that way, it can be adorned with fancy napkins and plates. It allows family members to long for something better. We are gnostics to think that immediacy is best. Christians understand that better feasts mean preparing more to enjoy better.
Sixth, feasts are more meaningful when we incorporate singing. Feasts in the Bible are celebrations of our freedom from bondage. Singing to Yahweh a new song is declaring Pharaoh will never rule over our appetites again.
Seventh, there is no friendship without Christ. There are shared experiences and stories, but friendship is rooted in a shared Christ. Feasts are accentuated when brothers dwell together.
Eighth, relationships change and are re-directed. Someone who was a friend in eighth grade may not be a friend now. God gives us a rotation of friends through life because He knows that our changes will require new people to speak into our particular phases of life. Feasts restore friendships and renew friendships and are the genesis of new friendships.
Ninth, many of us are worse friends than we think, but we have better friends than we deserve. Feasts create the environment for friendship rituals to be exercised in service and communion.
Tenth, all rituals require meaning. All good things require work. Therefore, all feasting is meaningful work. It provides true health for the Christian.
Real health is grounded in a proper relationship with God, and since this relationship is in part sacramental, it involves physical things. The purpose of these physical aspects is not, however, to provide mechanical health to the "human biological machine." Rather, the purpose of these physical aspects is to communicate to us, in a mystery, the grace of God (JBJ, See "Studies in Food and Faith").