It is hard to imagine a church gathering without food. Likewise, when friends and family gather together it would be very odd to simply sit or stand around for hours talking and playing games but not to have some food to share. Whether it is the comfort of having a mug of tea or coffee in one’s hand or the warmth of the liquid that makes one feel more secure and open, I do not know. But there is a connection between eating, drinking and good companionship. Perhaps it is the food and drink that helps to make our meetings sacred. In all religions throughout time, food has always been a factor. That which sustains and nourishes us is by nature a symbol and essential element of our well being. The Christian service of Holy Communion could be interpreted as a sacrament that commends us to view all our meals as sacred and opportunities for communion with God, through the fellowship with each other.
To think about the process of eating and the thought of someone watching me chew and swallow is not very pleasant. It seems very personal and I feel embarrassed at the thought of it. And yet when I join with someone else in this very personal action I do not feel so insecure. The memory of entering the school cafeteria in college and looking at everyone eating with their friends, while I stood there with my tray of food in hand, but seeing no one that I knew filled me with an isolation that was greater than if I was the only one in the building.
How and what we eat reflects directly upon our spiritual and physical well-being. When we eat very fast it is harder to digest and it is harder to communicate as compared to a leisurely and thoughtful time to not only chew one’s food but also to reflect upon what each other is saying. When we do not eat with those in our community, family or friends we distance ourselves from them, even if it is because we are busy trying to get to so many different events in which we participate in together.
Throughout his life Jesus uses food, both as a means of teaching and as a vehicle with which he unites his life with his friends. In doing this Jesus is clear that religion and faith that is only interested in ideas or supernatural experiences is severely lacking. Jesus joined us in the very basic experience of living to show us just how sacred it is. We want to get away from it all or to seclude ourselves sometimes, and with good reasons, but it is in the basic acts of living together that we are to expect to experience God.
If we cannot touch the mystery and beauty of life in ordinary times such as eating with each other, than the moments of awe on the mountaintop will not make much lasting sense either.