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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community


Tuesday, November 26, 2013
BLESS THIS FOOD by guest blogger Adrian Butash
 

Food blessings connect all humankind in reverence for the Almighty.

Sharing food is the most universal cultural experience. Expressing thanks for food was humankind’s first act of worship, for food is the gift of life from above. In every culture there are sacred beliefs or divine commandments that require honoring the giver of life — God or the divine principle — through acknowledging the sacred gift of food.

While prayers often derive from specific religious contexts, they may be experienced and enjoyed by all, just as religious music and fine art transcend their origins and have universal appeal. There are many nonreligious prayers that evoke spirituality by virtue of the beauty of the words and the underlying humanity that shines through.

Today, the notion of the family is under siege by a barrage of social ills, and family life may be disrupted by parents’ absence as they work two jobs, by divorce, or by frequent separation resulting from business travel that takes parents away from home. The family food blessing is a perfect and reverent way for families to experience a direct kinship with each other, as well as with the Almighty. A grace’s spiritual power can be felt as a profound sense of reality. God is present. A family praying together is a beautiful thing — a wonderful blessing all its own. When we say a grace at the table before eating, we give thanks for our togetherness, our blessings, and our happiness. Also, we can honor deceased loved ones or faraway friends or family by mentioning their names during mealtime grace, thus having them join us in spirit at the table.

Food blessings provide a window to the profound spirituality that we all share and that connects us to all humankind, nature, and the infinite. Saying a blessing before a meal can bring us closer to our brothers and sisters, parents and friends. Asking a friend to choose and recite a food blessing is a wonderful way to welcome that person into your family setting. The occasional gathering for prayer, no matter how brief, keeps the heart and mind in touch with the most fundamental of joys: belonging.

Children need to see, hear, and experience prayer in order to learn from the ritual. The table blessing is among the easiest and most enjoyable for children to partake in — coming as it does just before the family feast. For children who can read, Bless This Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World offers the opportunity for them to lead the family in prayer, to participate actively in a family ritual instead of remaining a subordinate, passive member at the table. The food blessing is a powerful medium that enriches the meaning of family and allows us to touch a higher realm of spirituality.

The compelling beauty of these thanks-giving food prayers reveals the noble spirituality of humanity. Prayer is how human beings relate to God, nature, and their place in the divine order of things. Amid the words of prayer you will find the soul of humanity, the song of ages.

When your family and friends gather at the table, you will find that starting your meal with a blessing enhances the experience for all who are gathered. Bless This Food provides an easy way for anyone, young or old, to create a special, spiritual moment that everyone present will enjoy and remember. A circle of friends is the ultimate blessing.

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Adrian Butash is the author of Bless This Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World. He studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University and lives in Santa Barbara, California.

Listen to a podcast of Adrian Butash speaking about mealtime grace on Public Radio International’s Interfaith Voices.
 

 


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