Eating as a Spiritual Act
How we eat and what we eat can contribute both to our health and our spirituality. When we eat, we are eating to sustain a being that owes its existence to the Creator. We are also partaking of nutrients that were given to us and for which we should be grateful. Eating can become a sacred act of giving thanks.
The most sacred act in Christianity is a meal, the Eucharist, meaning thanksgiving. When we recall that God is the ultimate source of what we consume, eating can become an opportunity to give thanks to God for graciously supplying us with basic foodstuffs. The Rabbis teach us, "The one who eats without giving thanks to God is a robber."
Human beings gather and prepare food. It is God, however, who created the earth which produces it and the various types of seeds that yield produce and has made them available in such quantities so no one anywhere should lack food. When eating is discovered to have a higher significance than filling our stomachs or tantalizing our taste buds, the mundane act of eating is transformed into a spiritual event.
Eating is a reminder of the wonder of Creator and creation. Nourishment is a daily reminder of all that is lavished upon us, and, spiritually informed, it impels us to provide lavishly for others in return. No wonder meals have always played central roles in the spiritual lives of Jews and Christians, not just on holidays but every day.
Another consideration of food as a promoter of spirituality relates to the issue of quantity. The fact that we as a society consume more than we should is nowhere more readily apparent than by our collective size. Americans weigh more than they did decades ago. Americans weigh more than people in other cultures. Our children are getting heavier and heavier. Type 2 Diabetes is now becomingly increasingly more common in adolescents.
Limiting the quantity of food consumed can have unforeseen beneficial aspects. The less weight we carry, the less strain we place on our organ systems. Our hearts have less volume to supply with blood. Our backs have to support less weight; our gastrointestinal tracts absorb fewer harmful chemicals. Elevation in blood pressure can be caused by excess weight and can cause problems in the heart, brain, and kidneys. Certain types of cancer are more common in people with excessive weight. Heart disease, some lung disorders, and disturbances of the gall bladder are associated with excess body weight. In terms of eating and health--less is more.
A simple positive behavioral step like eating less, when analyzed, and its ramifications for the human organism appreciated, can lead to an appreciation of the body not only as a physical wonder but as a spiritual one as well.
April 2, 2009; 11:36 AM ET
Faith and Healing
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