"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, March 7, 2011

Food and Faith

Today is Pure Monday for most Eastern Christians, that day of strict fast and abstinence by which we mark the beginning of Great Lent. As we have, over the past two weeks, gradually given up first meat and then dairy, and now enter into a time of rigorous askesis, it is always worth considering why it is we fast, asking not only the significance of our giving up food, but the significance of food itself for a people and a faith that has at its heart the eucharistic feast.

Three recent books by two very interesting Orthodox thinkers have helped us to further understand the connections between theology, gardening, and food: Vigen Guroian, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening and Idem., The Fragrance of God (which I reviewed here), and Rod Dreher, Crunchy Cons: The New Conservative Counterculture and Its Return to Roots.

Now Cambridge University Press, later this spring, will be bringing out another volume attempting to explore some of these connections:

Norman Wirzba, Food and Faith: A Theology of Eating (CUP, 2011), 264pp.

The book has a foreword by Stanley Hauerwas.

The publisher provides us the following foretaste:
This book provides a comprehensive theological framework for assessing eating's significance, employing a Trinitarian theological lens to evaluate food production and consumption practices as they are being worked out in today's industrial food systems. Norman Wirzba combines the tools of ecological, agrarian, cultural, biblical, and theological analyses to draw a picture of eating that cares for creatures and that honors God. Unlike books that focus on vegetarianism or food distribution as the key theological matters, this book broadens the scope to include discussions on the sacramental character of eating, eating's ecological and social contexts, the meaning of death and sacrifice as they relate to eating, the Eucharist as the place of inspiration and orientation, the importance of saying grace, and whether or not there will be eating in heaven. Food and Faith demonstrates that eating is of profound economic, moral, and theological significance.

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