A Feast For Body And Soul
Seated amid such sumptuous and savory surroundings, I gradually became aware of the beauty and the exigency of that gathering. The bounty before me represented a family continuum of gifts spanning a century or more.
The table was of French design covered with Italian lace. Upon it was placed a truly American feast. Thanksgiving Day had come round again and tradition reigned supreme. The Autumnal centerpiece was replaced by a golden brown turkey of gargantuan proportion. Stuffing (two kinds) protruded from its cavities. Surrounding the glistening fowl, seemingly in a posture of homage, were bowls and baskets of culinary delights: mashed potatoes, string beans, candied yams, turnips, cranberry sauce, corn bread, rolls and butter. The light of candles and a chandelier blended with that of the last fall and illuminating the scene in a warm and almost mystical glow.
Drawn by the aura and the aroma of that setting, generations found their place around that table. The feasting began with a call to prayer. Immediately, the gaiety faded to quiescence, words and hearts laden with thankfulness were raised to God. Fitting to the day, the sentiment was one of gratitude for the blessings of life, love, and family and of hope that all the beloved who once graced that table were celebrating an eternal feast in heaven.
Seated amid such sumptuous and savory surroundings, I gradually became aware of the beauty and the exigency of that gathering. The bounty before me represented a family continuum of gifts spanning a century or more. Those old family recipes contained a special ingredient which produced a torrent of fond memories and amusing stories that strengthened the ties of family. The presence of love, caring, and influence of deceased loved ones pervaded the room as if by some unspoken seance. The various families that constituted the extended family around me were engaged in a spiritual celebration of the meaning of the lives of all the members occupying the branches of the family tree. At that point, I felt the meal become liturgy. We had come together to give thanks to God and to celebrate a sacred oneness. Could it be that my vocation was exalting this commingling of disparate individuals into something that it was not? I recognized the occasional pettiness and disparaging statement, the children dropping food on the floor (much to the delight of the family dog), and the signs of exhaustion. Overarching all of this, however, was the manifestation of Our Lord's words about being present where two or three are gathered in his name and an experience of tradition and family that spoke of a comforting unity of something and of someone "living" in you. It seemed to me that all those around that table did or will share the same discernment.
My thoughts drifted to a much earlier time, historical, the very root of this day. Having preserved in the face of the perils visited on their lives in a new land, a grateful band of Pilgrims gathered to give thanks to God. The emotional content of our current celebration was there at that first meal: gratitude for their survival, the abundance produced by their God-graced labors, the importance of faith, family and community as the bulwark against the challenges of life. How wonderful it is that the passage of centuries and the changes in culture and fashion have not laid low the significance of Thanksgiving Day and all of the human dignity and drama that it represents. The central fact of god living and working through his creation to inspire our sullied nature to bring forth the noblest of ideals and actions for the benefit of the family and of the world still prevails. Thus, evening fell upon our togetherness. Declaring themselves to be "stuffed", all departed to their lodgings and to their lives. Concurring that the feasting on the wholeness and on the holiness of the day was complete, I also departed. And I was full.