Gratitude, Christmas and Homegrown Hogs Final thoughts on Wendell Berry's The Art of the Commonplace

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace, Sacramental Living and Christamas feasting.

“The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.”

 

We start just about every meal in our family with this prayer which is also a psalm. Reciting it brings to mind one of my favorite quotes, “all food is divine love made edible.”

My heart needs to remember these words, especially now as the Christmas feasting approaches. I began this advent exhausted, and am already eager for the relief of having the holidays over-with and the return of a normal routine (though honestly a routine is starting to feel more and more like an illusive goal, anybody with me?).

I don’t want to be a Scrooge, and really I love Christmas. But for me the joy of the holidays can be quickly overshadowed by the demands (though I admit they are nearly all self-imposed).  We must make it to every party, and the Christmas pageant (seriously do they need to do a Christmas pageant when they are three years old? and actually we missed it but only because we had another holiday party), I need to get cookies baked, presents wrapped and in the mail (they already aren’t going to make it there by Christmas!).

Yet, ever so slowly (as in slooooowly) I am learning this year that if I can  just snap out of the craze long enough to take a deep breath before I start guzzling eggnog, then I can remember that all I have is a gift. And so for all things I can be grateful. The whole world changes when I remember that we are all made of God’s breath and the dust of His creation, that His spirit surrounds us like air (or maybe even His spirit is air, who can really tell?).  Living in this reality means it is possible to bake and eat, to wrap and shop and in those very same moments to give thanks to God. I can live  richly and prayerfully even standing in line at Walmart.

This week the Liturgy of Life Reading group finishes our last essay in Wendell Berry’s, The Art of the Commonplace, entitled, The Pleasures of Eating.  This excerpt is from the last section and I read it today coincidentally while I was feeling quite satisfied cooking a homegrown ham, realizing that knowing the history of the piece of meat added significantly to my delight in preparing it for my family and my thankfulness to God.  This passage is a beautiful conclusion to the book and is also a perfect bridge into the feasts of the Christmas season.

A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then may be the best available standard of our health.  .  .  I mentioned earlier the politics, aesthetics and ethics of food. But to speak of the pleasure of eating is to go beyond those categories. Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance-is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection to the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.  When I think of the meaning of food, I always remember these lines by the poet William Carlos Williams, which seem to me merely honest:

There is nothing to eat,

seek it where you will,

but of the body of the Lord.

The blessed plants

and the sea, yield it

to the imagination

intact.

 

 

 

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and looking forward to having you reading along with us in 2016, starting mid-January.

 

This post is part of a series of reflections on The Art of The Commonplace. For more Liturgy of Life, subscribe or follow on facebook. To learn more about our reading group, click here, or check out our facebook group. We would love to have you read and ponder along with us.

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