Berry on food as sacrament

If I ever talk of daily food as a sacrament — a visible sign of grace — there are those who raise their eyebrows in disbelief: parents of young children as they wipe up the pureed banana slops of the kitchen floor; or the one who struggles with an eating disorder and for whom food is the enemy to self-worth. Generally though, those who grimace the most are the ones invested deeply in the more formal sacraments of the church. They are concerned, I think, that in casting the sacramental net so broadly I am in danger of diminishing rituals of particular worth.

While I am all in favour of the church-related sacraments — those like communion and baptism especially — my own view is that to allow the sacramental to be limited to particular church rites and rituals, no matter how rich, is to diminish the sacred possibilities inherent in all of earthly life. Even worse, when it comes to faith that implicates every aspect of our lives, we let ourselves off the hook too easily.

In regard to food, Wendell Berry says it succinctly but well:

‘To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such a desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness and others to want.’

5669124Wendell Berry, The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural, Counterpoint, 2009, 281.

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