One of the pleasures of retreating at Mt. Angel Abbey is the gift of wholesome and delicious food!
Every meal is an anticipation of a work of culinary art in taste, origin and nutrition. Ingredients are often local, healthy and earthy. The monastery serves guests in a purposeful posture of hospitality. There’s joy in the feasting. The tables are set simply but with beauty, there’s many choices of delightful delicacies. The atmosphere is gentle and festive. Conversation, laughter and depth of thought and heart come easily. There is grace said and received in their house.
It’s sad that there’s so much legalism, self-loathing and severe treatment of the body bound up in eating these days. Gluttony or Asceticism seem to bully the hungry and often turn meals into madness.
I love that one of the freedoms of the New Covenant is the gift of eating freely. Our new Eden in Christ has no tree with poisonous fruit and lying serpents looming in apocalyptic culinary consequence.
1 Timothy 4:1-5
“God’s Spirit specifically tells us that in later days there will be men who abandon the true faith…These men…command abstinence from food—good things which, in fact, God intends to be thankfully enjoyed by those who believe in him and know the truth. Everything God made is good, and is meant to be gratefully used, not despised. The holiness or otherwise of a certain food, for instance, depends not on its nature but on whether it is eaten thankfully or not, It is consecrated by the man who has accepted the message, and thanks God for food.”
Robert Farrar Capon understood this lavish grace and freedom and expressed it masterfully in this quote:
“O Lord, refresh our sensibilities. Give us this day our daily taste. Restore to us soups that spoons will not sink in, and sauces which are never the same twice. Raise up among us stews with more gravy than we have bread to blot it with, and casseroles that put starch and substance in our limp modernity. Take away our fear of fat and make us glad of the oil which ran upon Aaron’s beard. Give us pasta with a hundred fillings, and rice in a thousand variations. Above all, give us grace to live as true men – to fast till we come to a refreshed sense of what we have and then to dine gratefully on all that comes to hand. Drive far from us, O Most Bountiful, all creatures of air and darkness; cast out the demons that possess us; deliver us from the fear of calories and the bondage of nutrition; and set us free once more in our own land, where we shall serve Thee as Thou hast blessed us – with the dew of heaven, the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine. Amen.”
–The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection
I pray we all can find peace and joy in eating. That we will be guided by love and not law, joy instead of drudgery and togetherness instead of isolated punishing. You are loved and your Creator has blessed you with a bounty of glorious abundance and goodness to enjoy!