Thursday, May 19, 2011
The Big Feast
I remember the metal box my mom used to store her recipes. It was small, the kind you use for placing index cards. In fact many of her recipes she wrote on those cards and there were little tabs, well worn from her fingers, that separated meals into different categories. And the box had decorations on it – pieces of celery, bright red tomatoes, and sprigs of parsley. The little box contained a world of delicacies, from soups to desserts. I can still remember the taste of mom’s spaghetti sauce, or her vegetable soup, or a dish she called chicken roge (I can remember the taste of that, too, but am not as sure about the spelling).
She never varied that much from her recipes. She may have added to them, but did not alter them when she cooked. I suppose it was easy for her to follow the laid out directions. In the back of the box were recipes cut from newspapers and magazines. These were folded neatly, filed away I guess for a future meal.
Maybe there is something to learn from her recipes and what she did with them.
A few days ago I was riding with Brother Mark and we chatted as he drove. We were talking about the seemingly infinite array of opinions and interpretations that flood the airwaves and other media day in and day out. In the more abstract realms of thought – like theology, spirituality and, yes, politics, arguments and discussions are endless and can get quite heated. Nothing is ever settled for good and as time passes the opinions and angles proliferate and these in turn redefine previous positions and the like. It is hard to get a firm handle on anything. It is as hard to get down to concrete data, to keep one’s feet on the ground. It is hard to see straight, to know what is right or wrong or even in the middle.
Mark said that maybe we are not meant to know the inner workings of things. The essence of life teases our imagination but we can never find it, never coax it out of its shell. And all about us and within us are shells, delicate coverings for what lies beneath. But the inside is not ours to know. Is the inside God? Who knows? The debates rage on, never arriving at an answer.
That little recipe box contained a limited set of directives that, if followed step by step, provided culinary delights. I grew up on these, quite literally. I suppose that mom wavered from time to time, maybe blending in a seasoning or two, or allowing the pot to simmer longer than suggested by the recipe. But basically she was happy to work within limits, limits that gave forth wondrous results.
We are bounded by limits. We live through the eternal, but with a finite way of seeing it all. We try and catch a taste of the eternal with our recipes of religious certitude and longing, even though these can never be adequate. But we must live, and think, and celebrate our lives. God knows we must have sustenance, and he provides.
God is the Grand Chef. The universe is his recipe box, filled with all kinds of surprises, mixtures, simmering times, cooling times. And all the peoples of the earth, of time itself, are invited to share the preparation of the feast. We do so in different ways, and at different times. We all live by a promise and a hope that God is preparing something wondrous, something good, and we are asked by him to have patience until the time it is ready to be served to all the peoples of the earth.