Thursday, November 7, 2013
...setting the table before you begin to cook? Ladies, this has changed my life. I don't know why, exactly. Something about the last minute pressure to actually get the food on the table being gone makes for a great cooking experience overall.
My table is in my kitchen, so somehow being able to glance over at a neatly set table while I do the prep just keeps the end goal in mind. We're not just throwing the slop to the pigs, you know? We're creating an experience. We're crafting a space to pause and be a family, and to pray for a moment. Yes the food, yes we need to eat to survive. But that's not the primary point when we sit down to family dinner. Right?
Please don't misunderstand me...dinner is not perfect peace in our home. There is a lot of practice going on every night regarding manners, keeping to one conversation and being considerate. We have not 'arrived' by any stretch of any remotely sane imagination. But it's all in the trying, right? Here again we see the domestic church mirroring the Church herself...not perfect yet! But so much grace is poured out as we sit together, laugh together, mess up the evening together, and forgive one another for it. over. and. over.
I know that in many homes setting the table is a kid job, which is great. For me though, if I make myself set the table with real intentionality, even prayerfully, I approach meal prep and the rest of the evening differently. I'm sure in my own weakness at that time of day (read: ready for a break, still a LOT of work to do) I just need a little discipline to get me through the transition into the evening. Table setting is helping me do just that these days.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd there is a lot of focus on the contrast between the great and the small. Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. The more I reflect on this, the more I see its truth illumine everyday life. Sometimes the tiniest actions are the ones that help to sanctify our time.
I will leave you with a poem that we're studying in homeschool. It's very old, and anonymous. I cannot find much in the way of it's history, but I gather that it's just been kicking around forever. It's included in the wonderful collection "Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages" that Harold Bloom assembled. (He argues that it contains what we could call the "pre-canon," or the literature that used to be a part of childhood that prepared people to more fully appreciate the Western canon...but that's another post!)
The movement of this poem is from great to small, and then out to great again. It moves from an entire culture (a Kingdom) into the most intimate of details (a basket of flowers on a bed...death? birth? marriage?). It then zooms back out to the Kingdom, and posits that this is the Key of the Kingdom. The reader asks, "What? What is the key?"
I think it must have something to do with this movement...the culture informs the tiniest details of our life, and the tiniest details of our life, in turn, form the culture. If this kingdom is the Kingdom of God, then this has serious ramifications. Which culture will we allow to form us? How will the details of our life form the culture?
Suddenly setting the table before I cook the meal becomes a piece of the key.
This is the Key of the Kingdom
In that Kingdom is a city;
In that city is a town;
In that town there is a street;
In that street there winds a lane;
In that lane there is a yard;
In that yard there is a house;
In that house there waits a room;
In that room an empty bed;
And on that bed a basket ––
A Basket of Sweet Flowers:
Of Flowers, of Flowers;
A Basket of Sweet Flowers.
Flowers in a Basket;
Basket on the bed;
Bed in the chamber;
Chamber in the house;
House in the weedy yard;
Yard in the winding lane;
Lane in the broad street;
Street in the high town;
Town in the city;
City in the Kingdom ––
This is the Key of the Kingdom.
Of the Kingdom this is the Key.