Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Come, Dine with me.

Lately, I have been musing about the table.

"He sits me down at his banqueting table; his banner over me is Love," says that most beloved of poems, Song of Solomon (I've been reading a beautiful book on the Song of Songs, given me for my 50th birthday by my spiritual director and written by that profound mystic, Bernard of Clairvaux, counsellor to kings and popes). The table is a powerful metaphor for our relationship with the Eternal Lover, and our relationships with each other, non? We share in His Life by breaking bread together. We are his friends, invited to dine at the feast. Heaven breaks in at the Sacramental table: Heaven Breaks In! At the table, we are somehow predisposed to accept love. It beguiles us. It defines us. It draws us nearer. We experience his Presence.

A Table, as the French say, is an invitation to a dance.  I remember one of the first French chefs with whom I studied and cooked, when I was just a young woman, talking to me about the menu as a seduction (which of course it is), where each course builds in depth and intensity.  Yes, rather like that other thing on which it is modeled. (We will speak much more about this in future postings).  And as the courses progress, we, as guests, are increasingly of the view that our pleasures for the evening are in capable hands, such that, little by little, a growing warmth envelopes us, and we become as children, open to Love, not to mention the course to follow! Come, beloveds, sit at my table and dine with me. The candles are blazing (unscented, please), casting their soft, mellow light on the beautiful women and the handsome men, making each guest a lover, a wit, a bon-vivant, an artist of life. And we haven't even yet mentioned that Grand and complex elixir, the wine. 

I sometimes wonder that this isn't God's desire, to seduce our hearts at his table, such that we sit, even for a moment, in the warmth of his Presence and become like children, teachable and open to his Love.  Yet, we have not yet learned to dine. We are too busy wolfing down the microwave burritos, standing over the sink, to appreciate the pleasures in store for us if only we could turn our hearts to his table, and receive his bountiful blessings. I sometimes wonder that he invites us to drink his wine and we are still looking for the Pepsi. The scents and delights and tastes of heaven, and yes, even the presentation, are as yet overwhelming to us, and we are still eating hot dogs and Kraft Easy Mac and wondering that there could be anything better. 

What then, is the message of the table? We are going to explore this together. But let me say this: it is beyond what even we might imagine.  Our most soulful sex cannot approach it, though it hints at its ecstasy. Our most sublime meal, French Laundry or otherwise, is but a shadow of the feast to come. But this God in whom we can live, and breathe, and have our being, has written it on our hearts: Come, Beloveds, and dine.