Tag Archives: Agrarian

Eating as Sacramental Holiness


“The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical – in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.  The current version of the ‘dream home’ of the future involves ‘effortless’ shopping from a list of available goods on a television monitor and heating precooked food by remote control. Of course, this implies and depends on a perfect ignorance of the history of the food that is consumed.  It requires that the citizenry should give up their hereditary and sensible aversion to buying a pig in a poke.  It wishes to make the selling of pigs in pokes an honorable and glamorous activity.  The dreamer in this dream home will perforce know nothing about the kind or quality of this food, or where it came from, or how it was produced and prepared, or what ingredients, additives, and residues it contains – unless, that is, the dreamer undertakes a close and constant study of the food industry, in which case he or she might as well wake up and play an active and responsible part in the economy of food.”  (Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating” 1989 article republished in Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food)

In this amazing passage  Berry offers a critique of eating without consciously understanding the ingredients, origins, and full context of what is being eaten.  The dream offered by so-called scientific advancement is a dream that offers static, flat, and lazy food enjoyed by none, but efficient.  Except that it is not.

One of the amazing things about Holy Eucharist is its medicinal quality.  It is a particularly powerful medicine of the Holy Spirit that binds us together and feeds us as the Body of Christ and it doesn’t do it efficiently.  According to the scriptures the bread is the body of Christ and the wine/juice is the blood of Christ.  It is a constant and blinding reminder that we are not called to the convenience of letting God’s creation fall apart.  Rather, we are called to the death, suffering, and damnation of Jesus Christ; we are called to partner with God in the reconciliation of all things (Colossians 1).

We are invited to the table to be consciously aware of who Jesus is, who we are as people called to be the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.  It is slow and we never do it alone.  This is communal medicine, for the whole body.

This should affect how we eat other meals as well.  Now, don’t hear me saying these things as one who has attained such a grand accomplishment.  Like holiness, it is not easy.  It might begin with a sort of revelation, but it does not end with said revelation.  It is a slow process of recognizing that whole foods sustains us more efficiently (for our bodies, not our schedules).  Local foods don’t just heal our bodies and the bodies of our families, but they heal local economies (while money spent at national chains only returns 13.6% of revenue to the local economy, money spent in local businesses returns 52% to the local economy).

Slow food, grown locally, bought locally heals the body, the community, and the Body.  It is a Eucharistic endeavor that should push us all to do a little more.  Take the next good step.