In the kitchen we prepare the food. We sometimes, if we are lucky, get a little taste test. But the full meal isn’t experienced until we transition to the dining room, or primary eating area. I know not all homes have an official “dining room.” For the sake of this reflection, hold in your mind your main eating area, that table where your family typically eats its meals.
Eating together is an ancient practice. Every culture has its own traditions, rituals and procedures for shared eating. Eating, especially eating with others, serves multiple purposes. First, the obvious, you’re eating to stay alive. The human body can impressively go about 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. We need both food and drink to live full, healthy lives.
Eating together has other purposes as well. Eating together places everyone at the same level – you are at a common table. In many cultures and throughout much of history, you were eating out of shared vessels as well. We are sharing the fruits of our labor, our harvest (or our grocery trip). We have conversations with one another. We find out about our day, our plans, our hurts and our joys. While the ideal family meal of everyone smiling, sharing appropriately, using their utensils with competency and napkins on every lap might sound out of reach for your family, no matter how messy the meal memories are being made. We are teaching our children, and reminding ourselves, that we are on a journey together through life. We come together at table to share with one another.
There is, of course, another table which we come around as a community. We come to the altar, the table of the Lord. We gather here to be fed in a supernatural way. When we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus, we believe that we are receiving true food and drink which will sustain us, body and soul. Jesus’ gift of Himself remains unchanged. As Catholics, we believe the the Eucharist is the True Presence of Christ. Each time we receive Jesus, we open our lives to Him, to be transformed by Him, from the inside out. As a community we come to become one in the Body of Christ.
This week, take a look at your eating space. Ask yourself, “What kind of eating experience have we been having lately? I am I happy with it? How can we model our gathering at table to be more reminiscent of the Eucharistic table?”
Consider spending extra time and effort this week in your eating area by tackling any of the following projects:
- Washing table and chairs
- Laundering cushions
- Oiling any hardwood areas
- Moving table and cleaning rug/moping whole area, not just around the table
- Dusting and cleaning any wall hangings or pictures
- Using china or fancy dishes for one meal, not to celebrate a special occasion, but to celebrate your family
- Cook as a family and then eat as a family – no one is left out from the preparation
- See if you can identify one or two meals as unique to your family, what are your favorites? What do your children think they will cook when they are adults?
Thinking about your spiritual “eating area,” consider the following:
- Read through Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on the Eucharist, Ecclesia de Eucharistia
- Take one of the free courses from Scott Hahn’s St. Paul Center. I highly recommend either The Lamb’s Supper: the Bible and the Mass, or Covenant Love: Introducing the Biblical Worldview
- Spend a Holy Hour in Adoration
- Attend an additional Mass this week
Next week, we will move into our main living spaces. We have been fed at table, now we go to engage more deeply in the relationships that were strengthened there.