Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maundy Thursday-No Foolin'

April Fool's Day is today and, just think of the irony. It falls on the very day I chose to begin my self-portraits of dinner...AND it's Maundy Thursday. This is the day when the body of Christendom eats the body of Christ, all together, in churches and cathedrals and assembly halls and humble little house churches. There is no other 'civilized' religion left that eats its deity that I know of. Of course, being Protestant, I accept consubstantiation as opposed to transubstantiation, the idea of Christ being with us in communion in spirit but not actual body. It was important to learn the difference as a young Presbyterian and as a confirmation teacher.

The part I find wryly humorous is that this is traditionally the evening of many, many, many church dinners held in the hour before the worship service itself. The meal honors the observance of Passover without becoming a cheap (read that, disrespectful) imitation of our Jewish sisters and brothers observance of the Seder dinner. The humor comes in when I realize that of all nights of the year, this should hardly be a night when dinner becomes an exercise in dietary constraint.

A last meal with a friend whom one has no hope of ever dining with again on this earth should be a celebration-a grand send-off, with many cups of wine and delicious courses as our faith ancestors included. I never gave much thought before to the notion that in Presbyterian churches of my past and the Methodist church of my present that the hot dish, salad potluck and lemon bars are our high-carb, zero alcohol idea of celebration.

Dinner tonight consisted of lasagne, pesto ravioli, fresh fruit and a green salad. Very tasty, very well prepared. There were even hot dogs baked in Pillsbury crescent rolls for the children, and chocolate milk, as well. Dan and I drank water.

The true meal of the evening, however, came after all of us had repaired to the sanctuary and witnessed a moving first-person meditation by one of the elders, a small black woman, on the life of Jesus. As I watched and listened, I wondered what it could have been like to have eaten his last dinner with his friends, knowing what he was facing. As we sang the communion hymn, I was humbled to think that a meal, any meal, could ever approach the importance and significance of a little piece of bread dipped into a cup of grape juice.

Back in my studio as I painted my little watercolor sketch of salad and pasta, I reflected on what it was this evening that gave me real nourishment. And I give thanks. If we are what we eat, I imagine I must be carrying around at least a little bit of the hope for the world inside me this night.

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