Practicing Delight

Dan Cranley, theological Student and intern at St. George’s is leading a Lenten book study on Thursday nights at 7pm. The book we will be reading is “Food and Faith: A Theology of Food” written by Norman Wirzba. Below is Dan’s reflection in preparation for the groups third gathering from March 22nd.

Practicing Delight

“Thanksgiving is the power that transforms desire and satisfaction, love and possession, into life, that fulfills everything in the world, given to us by God, into knowledge of God and communion with Him.” Alexander Schmemann – The Eucharist.

In our “fast food” culture, finding time to properly “practice delight” in the food we eat is becoming more difficult. But when we make the commitment to practice thanksgiving as we gather around the dinner table, we combat this message of “fast food”, with a practice that draws us to the divine power. When we thoughtfully give thanks, we are drawn to the truth that food has the ability to direct us to God every time we eat it and receive energy and pleasure.

As I think of practicing delight around the dinner table, I think of my sister -in-law Liz, she has a remarkable ability to create tasty, fresh and delightful food, with a mixture of ingredients that have been combined with great mindfulness and care. I have yet to share a meal with Alex, Adam, Liz, Finlay and Jasper (my nephews) and not get up with a sense of joy and thankfulness. Thankfulness for the delicious meal enjoyed, a knowledge that God has provided that meal (from the ingredients grown, the meat provided, the investment, effort and passion of the chef) and for the community I find in family. Through all of these things, I feel I am drawn to something greater than myself. I’m drawn to the delight of being a member of creation.

“If we want to know and experience the liveliness of life and the loveliness of the love that sustains it, we must move through (not around) creation to its Creator… Gathered around a table and prepared with an appropriate focus and sensitivity, we have the opportunity to approach and participate in the life of God.” (Wirzba, 182)

When we, as people of faith, sit down for a meal and give thanks, we are not merely thanking God for the food we eat, but we are also recognizing the life giving power that flows through creation and provides us with energy and sustenance. Thanksgiving may also draw us to contemplate the fact that we as members of creation have a responsibility to not only use the resources of creation wisely, acknowledging that as members of creation we cannot simply reduce other members to a commodity or profit. God desires all of creation to be whole and well, not just humanity.

Wirzba explores this concept by looking at wine,

Wine is… Because it is His (God’s) very present pleasure to have it so…Those who truly love wine are not simply those who become drunk by its consumption. They are rather those who are open to the miracle of sunlight, water, plant, and soil transformed into grapes, open to the gift of fermentation and taste, and open to the conviviality of a shared bottle.” (page 184-185)

The joy and love of wine is not simply in the consumption of it. When approached with sensitivity and contemplation, wine may elevate one’s life, through the awareness of the delicate process of wine waking or the sharing of a bottle of wine with companions, we are drawn out of ourselves into relationship.

Wirzba is not combating consumption in this chapter, but encouraging a more mindful, responsible consumption. He appears to be combatting humanity’s drive for power and control over the world that we are placed, leading us all to a place of ungratefulness.

The point is not to stop consuming, since people need to eat and use the world, but to resist the culture that would have us see the point of things as residing in their being sold and then consumed by us. It is to resist market driven enticements that train people to be ungrateful because they do not have the latest, improved product or do not fit the current, always changing style. (page 193)

We combat this ungratefulness by practicing delight and gratitude. Delight and gratitude for the sustenance and provision God offers us in the membership of creation. So in saying grace, we are in fact making a political statement to the fast food world in which we find ourselves. We are in fact claiming food as a God purposed sustaining power to all members of creation. By this, we are also proclaiming that food is more than a manufactured product that a corporation has placed on our tables, for a profit. It is our connection to the world as members of creation, sustained and created by God.

Discussion Questions

How does one become worthy of the food we must eat, worthy of the life and death that our eating requires?

How do you feel your eating has been shaped by your practice of “saying grace”?