When I was a kid all family meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner (or dinner and tea as we called the midday and evening meal) were eaten at the kitchen dining table.
Sunday evening was an exception. Cheese on toast (Mousetraps) or saveloys (with lots of tomato sauce) were an informal meal eaten in comfort in the living room, perhaps watching the Wonderful World of Disney or Country Calendar.
Our family had simple table rituals. We started eating only when everyone was ready to eat, and we didn’t leave the table – until all had finished eating, then we could ask and be given permission – and then it was to the dishes.
It all sounds a bit regimented today, a bit quaint perhaps, but that’s the way it was and these simple family table rituals opened the way for a lot of good family round-table interaction.
There would be conversation about everything that had happened in the day. Great stories were told. Some of our best family laughs happened at the table and some of our biggest fights too.
The table was a place of gathering and a place of interaction.
The table is also a significant place of encounter in the scriptures: “My table thou has furnished” (Psalm 23) and in the gospels Jesus spends a lot of time eating and drinking at table.
On the night before his final suffering Jesus gathers those closest to him to the table for a meal, the Last Supper which for us is the First Eucharist.
Today, with this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper we enter the Paschal Triduum, the journey through the suffering and death of Jesus to his resurrection.
In this Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper we are not simply remembering an historical event, but seeking to actively encounter Christ in our present-day lives.
Those who seek the fullness of life with Jesus are offered resurrection. In the hours that follow the Last Supper Jesus suffers and is put to death. Three days later God raises Jesus from death in the event which offers us hope in every suffering.
Just as the table was a place of engagement and encounter for my family, the table in the household of Jesus is also central.
It’s a place of service, for the two who were sent to prepare the upper room and for those who cooked and served.
The upper room table was a place of robust honest conversation: one of you will betray me … who ?
The table of the Last Supper was a place of table turning: Jesus the Master kneels to wash the feet of his friends.
While the table of God is the place where everyone is welcome, it’s also a place from which we all at times distance ourselves: too much preparation is required and after time we feel as though we have lost our appetite and no longer have the taste for a conversation is uncompromisingly real. Then our pride prevents the humility required for a return and for the service.
Let’s enter these Triduum days, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday aware of our longing for the new life of Easter, and praying for each other.
thank you father, your house sounds just like mine, growing up, my brother once said to me ” that church of yours takes up a lot of your time” at that stage it was an hour a week on a Sunday(its a lot more now) my reply, How can time spent with the lot be to much time, for me there is never enough time .
That is what I miss the most now I live alone, those wonderful gatherings at the table!
Thanks be to God, I am able to gather as I am I am able at His table with my Faith family.
Jesus -save me a place at your table !
Thank you Father,
Yes, the rules at the table were such a wonderful way of ‘sharing’ showing respect for each other, appreciation for the meal, etc., valuable discipline.
Your reflection fills me with gratitude for my Christian upbringing, and Our Lords suffering, death and resurrection, to save me.
Thank you for this reflection Father John. Our table growing up in a very large family seemed much the same as yours -although pre television Sunday night was always a more casual meal. The rituals of grace and not leaving the table until given permission followed by dishes and Rosary have continued in our own also rather large family too and it is interesting to hear the many stories told years later about meals around the big round table. Little ones did a lot of listening to older ones talking (and were way ahead of their years in what they were exposed too!) but a lot of the time was all of us talking over each other with not much listening going on. Nothing was perfect but it was family. Writing this makes me realise this is how it is with God’s family – our need for the rituals but sometimes not a lot of listening going on.
Bless you and FFF for bringing us these reflections and the Lectio Divina Homily studio to help us on our journey.