The dawn of human-consciousness brought the certainty of mortality and the awareness of both a physical and spiritual component to life. We, humankind, know real hunger and thirst, both physical and spiritual. We labor to meet those needs both physically and spiritually. Food and drink are the most basic answer to these needs. Therefore it should be no surprise that food and drink make a perfect vehicle for ritual and are of crucial importance in many religions.
“And you shall keep it a feast unto the Lord”, Lev. 23:41. The Jewish calendar is full of festivals commemorating major events in Jewish history or celebrating certain times of the year—Passover, Pentecost, and Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year.) All Christian feasts—Easter, Pentecost, Christmas and Epiphany—are celebrated with a sacred meal. In Islam the principle feast is Eid al-Fitr, (the feast of breaking the fast of Ramadan); the other great feast day is Eid al-Adha (the feast of Abraham’s sacrifice and God’s response.) A wedding feast is common to all traditions.
The sacred meal symbolizes communal unity and communion with deity; the Grace of God is the ultimate nourishment. The sacred meal is meant to help move the believer from being a citizen of the world to be a citizen of heaven.
The sacred meal in Christianity is understood in a great variety of ways; for some it may be only a symbol or a remembrance, or it could be just an obligation, even for those who understand that Grace is present—some believe it is always subjective while others are certain the Grace is objective. In many Christian traditions the sacred meal is numbered among the sacraments and received frequently, while in others the sacred meal is monthly, quarterly or even annually. Much discussion takes place about the "form" (words) used in the sacred meal and the "matter" (physical elements.) The lamb shank at Passover and the bread and wine in Communion are examples.
But when all is said and done, we hear: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst." This is the perfect sacred meal. In just a few days we begin Holy Week and the institution of the perfect Sacred Meal. Will you come to the table? You, our readers of Episcopal Journey of Hope are invited to share how important the Sacred Meal is in your life.
(As some of you have noted. This and the prior two Goodtrhunder articles cover three of the Seven Ancient Spiritual Disciplines—Stewardship, Fasting, and now, Sacred Meal.)