I love The Lord of the Rings trilogy, a compelling story and brilliant piece of literature. My wise wife has often talked about the difference between reading the books and watching the movies is the absence of feasting in the film version. Throughout the books are many examples of joy-filled feasts (which you want so badly to be part of), while if you only watch the movies you wouldn’t be far off to assume the books are mostly about epic battles with Orcs who have some serious dental hygiene issues.
Tolkien got the balance right – even in the midst of a life-and-death battle in Middle Earth, there was space and time for feasting. In fact, the feasting, the banqueting on joy was, some would say, necessary; the feasts fed courage and hope as much as they nourished bodies.
The bible also gets the balance right. In the epic battle of heaven and hell, have you noticed how many biblical pictures of joy are feasting images? (e.g. Isaiah 25:6, 55:1-2; Matt. 22; Luke 13:29; Luke 15:23; Rev. 19:9) The joy of the life God invites everyone to enjoy is often pictured as a banquet. And not your low calorie, high fibre, “pinch-as-little-enjoyment-out-of-food” type of spread; and, conversely, not the mass-produced, low-quality “all-you-can-eat-and-stuff-your-face-as-fast-as-you-can-without-stopping-to-talk” buffets.
No, we’re talking about delighting in “the richest of fare,” which is not only the food but the rich company at the feast, the sparkling wine and conversation. Feasts are God’s way of sustaining joy in the midst of our sometimes difficult lives, a savoury taste of the full life we’re meant to enjoy, a very real (if not delicious) rebellion against the kingdom of darkness. There’s so much that squelches gladness that we need to wage war with a feast, simply to remind us of what’s real and true.
With that in mind, let me share with you a prayer I love from Brigid of Kildare, an ancient Celt who converted to Christ – she captures the spirit and joyful gusto of a good feast.
“I wish I had a great lake of ale for the King of kings, and the family of heaven to drink it through time eternal. I wish I had the meats of belief and genuine piety, the flails of penance, and the men of heaven in my house. I would like keeves of peace to be at their disposal, vessels of charity for distribution, caves of mercy for their company, and cheerfulness to be in their drinking.
I would want Jesus also to be in their midst, together with the three Marys of illustrious renown,and the people of heaven from all parts. I would like to be a tenant to the Lord, so if I should suffer distress, He would confer on me a blessing. Amen.”
I like the way this woman prays. Someone who can pray for a great lake of ale for the King of Kings is someone who knows God and the joy he has to offer.
So this summer hold a feast, especially if you’re struggling to live in joy. Invite a few friends out for a picnic or over for a BBQ, raise up your glass, offer the prayer of Brigid of Kildare (if only the first line), and enjoy the the richest of fare, the gladness you were made for.