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Bless This Food

Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World

by 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 the family to experience a direct kinship 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. For loved ones who are deceased, for friends and family who are far away, a grace said at the table that mentions their names is a magical way to honor them and have them rejoin the table in a sublime sense.

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 prayer models to see, hear, and experience 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 (New World Library, October 2007) 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

Consider: The first inter-human act of the newborn child is to experience satisfaction through food. In the first hour of life, our senses may transmit ephemeral sight, sound, or touch quanta, but it is the initial ingestion of milk from the mother that constitutes the first inter-human act: life-sustaining nourishment. The immediate response to this nourishment is a systemic and psychic satisfaction, and the hunger-gratification cycle begins at this instant and continues throughout life. The just-born infant’s first human experience is a “gift” of milk in response to its sucking instinct and need for food, a gratifying experience that affects the infant’s psyche on its deepest level. This gratia (thanks) experience is imprinted on the newborn’s uninscribed mind and is the primordial unconscious analogue to voiced prayer. Our first common human emotional experience is the gratia response for food.

The gratia experience we encounter as infants is transformed and intellectualized over time into an appreciation of food as both spiritual and physical nourishment that we acknowledge in the gratia prayer.

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.

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 these words you will find the soul of humanity, the song of ages.

When your family and friends gather at the table, you will find starting your meal with a blessing will enhance 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.

About the Author

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. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA.

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Based on the book Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World © 2007 Adrian Butash. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com <http://www.newworldlibrary.com/> or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.


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