The Sacramental Communion of Food

July 11, 2014 by Chara Bouma-Prediger Chara Bouma-Prediger

This week, our reading discussion featured a short story by John Steinbeck titled “Breakfast”, shared with us by Professor and Eighth Day Farm community member Mark Pearson. The brief tale painted a rich scene of the seemingly insignificant moment of a shared meal between strangers. We discussed the poetic and expressive language of the story, and then Mark asked us to ponder some of our own food stories. He challenged the group by asking why are we doing this internship for the summer, and what the important narratives or food stories in our lives have been.

This question immediately struck me in multiple ways, and although I’d never considered returning to those rich, shared life experiences of food in such a way, I know that they’ve been abundant in my life. Thus it was slightly shocking when no one scene or instance stood out brightly in my mind, after all agriculture and food sustainability have been a major focus of my private and academic life wholeheartedly for the past few years now.

During this same discussion we touched on a piece by Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating” and considered it side by side with the Steinbeck. Berry reflects that the pleasures of eating, noticeably plural, are extensive and cumulative, not only affecting the individual’s place within the processes of food but also their larger role within life. As a group we wondered if these pleasures of eating are brought out when in community with others and also when in nourishing relationships.

Mulling these two pieces around, one of my own food stories started to shine brighter in my mind. It was a scene filled with friends and community, one that depicts a sacred communion shared amongst a group of individuals. My co-workers and I used to share the sacred ritual of communion twice a summer at the camp where I worked the past three summers. For me, these moments were deeply moving and holy, and were enhanced by the bread and wine that had been prepared by our very own staff. Those experiences of sharing the body and the blood of Christ with one another, seated on the earth around a large communal table, were merely actions and glimpses that confirmed to me that the kingdom of God is present within our ephemeral world. This specific food story of mine, among others, connects me with the community that I’m currently immersed in, and the land that provides for me.

chara n gary            This internship, and the connections which develop around Eighth Day Farm, continue to inspire and give me hope that the kingdom of God is present amongst us. These common and shared food stories, whether they’re Grower’s Group potlucks or intern meals, become the sacramental communion that we relive again and again through the communities that we inhabit and embody, whether they be made of humans or plants.