Food and Faith

The reading this morning comes from Food and Faith, a collection of writings that might prompt us to explore the meaning of our meals:

The Interiority of Faith by Thomas Moore:

The idea of feeding the soul is an old one, which can be found in mystical literature from around the world. Jesus said with utter simplicity: “ I am the bread of life.” Ancient notions of soul food can be found in the words of modern poet Anne Sexton in “ The Jesus Papers.”:

Mary, your great

White apples make me glad…

I close my eyes and suck you in like fire.

I grow. I grow.  I am fattened out.

Religion teaches us that sometimes spiritual food for the soul is closely connected to the body’s food. The story in Genesis about Adam and Eve eating forbidden fruit is worth years of meditation. Somehow, eating the wrong things brings a curse on life. The story has far-reaching and sublime theological implications, but may also speak to the simple truth that we can be nourished or poisoned with whatever we take into ourselves- the books we read, the people we associate with, the religion we follow, or the food we eat…

In fasting and feasting, in proscriptions and blessings, religions around the world stress the importance of food for the soul, not just for the body. When I was a child, we ate fish on Friday and fasted for hours before communion and gave up certain foods in Lent, and these simple food practices helped link religion with daily life in a simple but effective form of enchantment.

When practices like these disappear, the fantasy associated with food, and therefore its soul and charm, diminishes. These days even religion seems to have forgotten the importance of  lacing food with sacred imagination, and so we are left with food as a mere means of sustenance and health. We are getting fat in body, but not in soul. We are eating apples from the corner stand, but not Mary’s apples…

Give us this day our daily crumb, our ice cream cone, our cherry pie. The slightest things—a walk, a word, a breeze, a passing view—please the soul immeasurably, and feed it. A dinner with a hint of imagination and effort, a tree bearing fruit outside the kitchen, an old recipe, can all feed the soul as they nourish a body.