“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” – Auntie Mame
You really suck sometimes. But then again, yesterday, as I experienced the Easter celebration, you seemed less sucky and even somewhat hopeful and vibrant. To the artist in me, Easter represents an extraordinary banquet of magic, wonder, incarnation, love, family, spring, beauty, Eucharist, friends, music, flowers, warmth, comedy, tragedy, fairy tale, and hope.
My daughter Lauren has a life quote from the movie Auntie Mame:
Auntie Mame: Oh, Agnes! Here you’ve been taking my dictations for weeks and you haven’t gotten the message of my book: live!
Agnes Gooch: Live?
Auntie Mame: Yes! Live! Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!
I must admit that many days of my life I have missed the banquet. Especially the early days. Yesterday, however, I feasted. The celebration of Holy Communion at St. Paul’s was truly life-giving to me. Here is how I describe it in Chapter 11 of Sex, Lies & Religion, “Through this Holy Communion with God not only do we become one body and one soul, but we are restored to that completeness and love the world has lost. We realize that no one is “worthy” to receive communion, but that life comes to us as a free gift. Schmemann says it beautifully: ‘Adam is again introduced into Paradise, taken out of nothingness and crowned king of creation. Everything is free, nothing is due and yet all is given…There is nothing we can do, yet we become all that God wanted us to be from eternity, when we are Eucharistic.’”
Can life truly be a sacrament? One definition of this marvelous word sacrament is: Something regarded as possessing a sacred character or mysterious significance. Alexander Schmemann in his epic book For the Life of the Worldsays, “Man is what he eats. We are hungry beings and the whole world is our food. Man must eat in order to live; he must take the world into his body and transform it into himself, into flesh and blood. He is indeed that which he eats, and the whole world is presented as one all-embracing banquet table for man. So, please help me answer this penetrating question, was Schmemann quoting Auntie Mame…or at the risk of being totally inaccessible, were they both quoting the German materialistic philosopher Feuerbach who, in turn, was unwittingly quoting the Bible?
Schmemann describes the sacramental life this way: “Lost and confused in the noise, the rush and the frustrations of ‘life,’ man easily accepts the invitation to enter into the inner sanctuary of his soul and to discover there another life, to enjoy a ‘spiritual banquet’ amply supplied with spiritual food. This spiritual food will help him. It will help him restore his peace of mind, to endure the other – the secular – life, to accept its tribulations, to lead a wholesome and more dedicated life, to “keep smiling” in a deep religious way.
While I take exception to two thoughts here, namely that man “easily” accepts the invitation (at least for this man it has never been easy), and secondly, the delineation of the “secular” life, the central idea is LIFE-CHANGING. Life is a banquet!
Unfortunately, I have the double curse of having an “activator” personality and growing up in the current Western mindset that more is better and that much more is much better. So, many days I tend to tragically miss this banquet called life.
However, as I grow older and hopefully wiser, there springs hope that I am beginning to understand the sacramental life. Here is a Facebook/Twitter status exchange from a few evenings ago between myself and a respected friend:
@RandyElrod Fun pre-Spring evening strolling down Main Street w/@spencesmith having intriguing conversations @55 South, McCreary’s Pub, and Vino at Village
@JerryBarnette You are reminding me of some of the stories told by CS Lewis in his book Surprised by Joy. It is a contemplative, sacramental life that you seem to be living and very uncommon in the modern stressed lives most of us live. If this is true, then you are an example of what Richard Foster says:”Far from being evil, the physical is meant to be inhabited by the spiritual.”~Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water
I must confess that tears welled up as I read Jerry’s comment. For you see, in this portion of my life, looking at life through fifty-one year old eyes, while still feeling eighteen inside, I still find myself asking, as does Schmemann, How am I to catch up with the life that has gone astray?
What is this life that I must regain?
What is the ultimate end of all this doing and action?
What is the life of life itself?