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Sustenance: On Eating

an excerpt from Garden in the East: The Spiritual Life of the Body

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” (Mark 14: 22)

WHEN, IN THE GOSPEL OF MARK, the author tells us that Jesus took the bread, blessed and broke it, the word used for blessed in the Greek is eulogéo, literally translated as “to speak well of” or “to confer what is beneficial.” The food becomes blessed, becomes blessing. When I take food as blessing, it means I am reaching further into God’s grace, accepting what is before me as a gift, with a measure of respect and wonder.

In this way, I give thanks. In this way, I nurture the garden without overwatering or allowing the soil to dry and crumble around the roots of the plants I mean to grow. This is the basis for that delishatarian posture, putting food back into its proper place in my life. Whether I view food in that moment as fuel or medicine or sustenance, or all of it at once— food is blessing. It is celebratory and joyful, delicious and life-giving, no longer “good” or “bad” and not given the false power of moral labels. I glimpse this in a meal here or there, not always, but with some increasing regularity. It’s hard work to untangle old messages and ideas.

It’s hard work to put aside my tendency to become judgmental or self-righteous where eating is concerned. Eyes on my own plate, eyes on the plates I put on my family table, eyes on my heart. Who’s to judge? When I choose to move food back into a place of blessing— with commitment and intention, supported by prayer, awareness, and good counseling— I can hope for deep shifts on every level. Clearing away that old growth in the area of eating and the attitude toward food means I am moving one step closer to appropriate care and love of the body as a way to respect the gift of this garden. Food becomes delicious again, eating becomes blessing, like water when the soil is dry, like the strong sun revealed after a long winter.

When I choose to eat because I want to be nurtured, and because that food is delicious and supports my long-term sustainable health goals, I am back in right relationship. I aim to set goals for good health— body and soul— and then eat to support those goals. I aim to keep food and eating in their true place and find the blessing in each meal. I take time to taste each bite, to savor the flavor on my tongue, the blessing on my lips. Amen and amen.

#blessing #communion #food #orthodox