Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is my world

Humanity is hungry. We were created as hungry beings and one of the most fundamental and natural things that we do is eat; but what does it mean to eat? The answer lies in the first reference to food in the Scriptures, and, more importantly, where that reference is found:

God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” Gen 1:29

At the pinnacle of the creation narrative, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27 Two blessings were given to humankind after their creation. First, that they should have dominion over the whole earth; that out of all that was created man stands as the summit as priest and custodian over all the created order (Cf. Gen 1:28). Secondly, that man should eat. The two are inextricably linked.

God created mankind and made them custodians of all life but also decreed that the world which they had dominion over should be their food, their communion; the thing that brings life. The fundamental reality of food is that it is, as the Scriptures say, given; it is a continuation, a constant reminder of the gift of life itself. Here, it comes into a beautiful interplay with the first gift of God to man, that he is priest over the world. God is in his very nature sacrificial, he eternally begets the Son, the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and, most lowly of all, he gives of himself to create food for us (Although he is inexhaustible so nothing is taken away from him in the giving, it is still an action of giving something up, albeit impassably). Man sharing in the Imago Dei, the image of God, is also a sacrificial being and so the great sacrifice of praise is rendered to God and the cycle of givenness becomes a communion.

Here we are talking about primordial sacrifice, a type or image of the archetypal sacrifice, but it tells us something so important, inspires us to do something so important. We are “a royal priesthood” 1 Pet 2:9 (Cf. 1 Pet 2:5-9) of all believers, and as such, we are all called continually to “offer a sacrifice of praise to God” Heb 13:15 and bless the one who blesses us. When we eat, we begin a meal by giving thanks to God for it. In this small action this primordial sacrifice is made real again. We do not simply take the food, we do not become consumers of the world, but rather recipients of a gift, for rather than taking we receive by saying ‘blessed be God’. In recognising the gift, blessing God and receiving that which sustains our being, we enter into a communion of blessing with God.

All this, the sacrificial meal of all believers is a type of the true meal, the archetypal food; the food that comes to us from beyond time. In the Eucharistic meal we offer God not just blessing but all the work we have done, every little way we serve the kingdom, and we offer the creation itself back to God. We offer in sacrifice that which sustains us, our food, and in the offering a true and perfect communion – for God returns to us the food offered but it is changed, transformed, (Resurrected!) into the food of the Kingdom to come and we eat and drink of a world as yet not realised. We share in the very life of God himself by eating and drinking of him given impassably for us and to us. In all that we do let us make that meal present. All that is given us let us give blessing for and receive rather than consume – whenever we eat let us say ‘Blessed One give the blessing.’

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This blog is a forum for discussion of ideas from a faith-based perspective. The views expressed on it are those of the authors and cannot be held to represent those of the Diocese of Nottingham or the University of Nottingham Catholic Chaplaincy.