Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Liturgical Menu

I've probably written about this before, but I think I'll do it again - I want to craft a menu that follows the liturgical calendar in a particular way, primarily in living out the Rule of St. Benedict in my current state in life. The Rule of Benedict talks sparingly about the life of a monk appetite-wise, but he does address it partly in Chapter 4, when he lists tools of good works; while speaking, of course, on the love of God and neighbor, Father Benedict does eventually list a few things that challenge me in my lifestyle:

10. To deny oneself in order to follow Christ.
11. To chastise the body.
12. Not to become attached to pleasures.
13. To love fasting.
35. Not addicted to wine.
36. Not a great eater.

And in Chapter 39, when proscribing the meals of the day, he also writes:

"Above all things, however, over-indulgence must be avoided and a monk must never be overtaken by indigestion; for there is nothing so opposed to the Christian character as over-indulgence according to Our Lord's words, "See to it that your hearts be not burdened with over-indulgence" (Luke 21:34)."

My life is one big over-indulgence.

Another challenge, same chapter:

"Except the sick who are very weak, let all abstain entirely from eating the flesh of four-footed animals."

So, basically just fruit, veg, fish, and fowl. Those monks who strictly observe the Rule will maintain a completely vegetarian diet, and some actually continue to follow St. Benedict's instruction of having one to two meals a day (depending on the period of the liturgical year) as well as being allowed a POUND of bread to snack on throughout the day. Some monasteries abstain from wine (except for during Mass) even though St. Benedict says that (although abstaining is the best) that a monk can be allowed up to a hemina - nearly a LITER - of wine a day, more in the heat of the summer!

My point is that Benedict laid down his rule in a way that says: THIS is the best thing to do, but we can allow even THIS, but it would be pretty good if you could maintain the ideal. In other words, he mentions the ideal and then, out of mercy, allows his monks some leeway. And, as an oblate, I have even MORE leeway, since I'm not bound to follow any of this. But, I keep feeling this call within me to change my eating habits according to the liturgical calendar. The fact that I've failed miserably at it all this time, and yet still haven't shaken off this desire to do it, makes me think that perhaps God is asking me to do this. It's penance, to be sure. It's not a burden, since I'll still eat. It sort of follows the Rule of Benedict, although not completely. And it keeps me mindful of the Church's life all day long, which IS something the Rule speaks of (as well as some of the prayers of the new Ordinariate prayer book), that we ask him to make us always mindful that we are walking in his sight.

So, I am crafting a menu - a way of life - that will help me to do this with my appetite. I always try fasting and this other stuff as a way of losing weight, that weight loss is in the front of my mind, whereas penance and the suppression of my unruly passions is sort of in the background - that's why I keep failing, I believe; God isn't my reason for doing this, but the hopes that I'll finally lose weight and keep it off. So, my focus has to change.

The Church teaches that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life, that all we do is drawn to It, and that through the Eucharist we obtain in a most particular way, strength for our journey. Accordingly, the liturgy (Mass, Divine Worship, Divine Liturgy) is the most profound way in which we are brought into that Heavenly presence; just our presence there allows us to receive great gifts of grace, being so close to Jesus Christ and surrounded by his angels and saints. However, the liturgy of the hours - the great Divine Office - is a liturgy that, again, puts us in his presence in a special way (not as profound a way as the Mass, of course). So, as I try to pray the Divine Office, as I've written before, I seek God to sanctify the day, praising him throughout the day not just in personal, private prayer, but in this public prayer of the Church. So, in my eyes, inspired by the Rule (and, I believe, the Holy Spirit), I believe that changing my eating habits to coincide with the liturgical year is yet another way to always keep myself mindful of the fact that all things come from God and that I am always in his presence; in giving up all the goodies and in ignoring my desire for meat when I'm eating vegetables, I offer him penance in gratitude for his gifts, but also in sorrow for my sins. Then, in great feasts like Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost - as well as the Sundays outside of Lent, those meat dishes will allow me to remember his great goodness, and his ever-abiding grace, to get through this life in every little thing, including which dish I decide to thaw from my freezer. Losing weight is a happy accident, a coincidence, whereas love for God and a desire to offer him even my meal plan, is the main reason for all of this.

I'm not going to be so bold as to write out the menu here or create all the "rules" - I'm going to let God do that and, when I've actually followed this method for a large amount of time, THEN I'll post about it. I'll let the Holy Spirit move me and craft things, shifting it a little this way and a little that way, and we'll see what the Lord comes up with. Jesus, I trust in you! Do with me as you will!