Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Soul Food

Though the 90-degree weather does not smack of cold and flu season, all you have to do is take one step inside my home and you will find yourself smacked indeed... with fever, chills, and a runny nose... which is why for Sunday dinner I decided we needed something wholesome, like Coq au Vin. It is marvelous and marvelously simple to make - just throw some chicken and vegetables, along with a bottle of red wine, 2 cups of broth, and S & P, into a roasting pan for the better part of a day and...voila! C'est finit. You can bump it up to the level of "divine" if you include crusty, chewy slices of warm french bread slathered with cold, hard butter. I guarantee you, the butter won't be the only thing that melts right there at the table...

At dinner I sat across from Dutch - very far across from him, in fact, to avoid contagions - and with every steaming mouthful found my frayed nerves calmed, my tired body reinvigorated, and my sense of internal equilibrium slowly - but slowly! - returning.

"No wonder meals like this are called soul food," I said. "I feel as though my soul - which seemed fractured a moment ago - is being restored to a state of wholeness." Dutch, who is verbally concise by nature, and acutely laconic when ill, said not a word; he didn't even throw me a nod of recognition. But I choose to believe that he agreed with me. And as I sat there listening to the sound of myself chewing I began to think about Christ’s attitude toward food while he walked the earth...

I thought about when the five thousand gathered to listen to Christ's teaching... how He was unwilling to let them go away hungry… and instead He took a boy’s meager lunch, five loaves and two fishes, and multiplied them into enough food to feed the vast mountainside of people…

I remembered the exchange between Christ and his disciples after Christ had had the miraculous and (to the disciples) baffling encounter with the Samaritan woman... The disciples offered Him food; Christ refused it, saying, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about" (John 4.32). "My food," he went on, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4.34), suggesting that we gain spiritual nourishment by being obedient to God.

The next morning, with these thoughts still in my mind, I read Luke chapter 24. In it, the resurrected Christ first appears to his disciples, who are terrified, thinking they are seeing a ghost. To qualm their fear, Christ shows them His hands and feet as proof that He is, in fact, Himself… “Touch me and see,” He says, “a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (Luke 24.39).

Another thing that a ghost does not have, presumably is... the ability toeat. Which is precisely why I found Christ's subsequent words so shocking: "‘Do you have anything to eat?’” He asks; and Luke says, “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence” (24.43).

Can you imagine, I thought to myself, being there in that room with the resurrected Lord - who is now no longer an earthly being - and having Him ask you for something to eat??? Such an ordinary, earthy, essentially human thing to say. And yet, Christ said it.

I am well familiar with Biblical themes of heavenly feasting... The metaphor of being invited to a banquet, of eating the body and blood of Christ, is rife throughout Scripture... But for some reason I had never considered the very obvious fact that eating presupposes hunger... that an enormous part of why that steaming bowl of Coq au Vin tasted so extraordinary was that I was hungry.

For some reason, I have never imagined heavenly beings as possessing the sensation of physical hunger... Instead, when in my subconscious mind I picture heaven, I am more likely to imagine disembodied spirits floating around in some undefined location. But this image of Christ bent over a piece of broiled fish begs me to relinquish my assumptions. In fact, it forces me to; as well as to remember that the resurrection does not simply mean spiritual regeneration - though that in itself is remarkable - but physical regeneration as well.

Christ's resurrection means that we will be reunited with Him, and with all those who have experienced death before us, in a world where there is some form of hunger and eating.

I am nothing like a theologian, and my "musings" on this subject might have been better left unwritten... but if I have been haunted by anything these last few days it is the idea that God not only created me to hunger and thirst, but that these longings are eternal, and not just temporal. Perhaps most amazing, He created me not only to experience hunger and thirst, but to be filled... with food and drink, yes, but most and first and best of all, with Himself.


Joseph Anfuso said...


This entry would definitely NOT have been "better left unwritten." Thanks, as always, for sharing your valuable thoughts and insights. :)


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