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Spiritual Discipline of Feasting

Take Jesus at his word—let's celebrate.

Published on:
May 1, 2018
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3 min.
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I spent Holy Saturday of Easter week alone in my home with a microfiber cleaning cloth, a spray bottle of all-natural multi-purpose cleaner, seven pint-size mason jars, three bouquets of flowers, eight layers of orange-scented cake, and ten cups of orange blossom buttercream.

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting—a day to concentrate on the spiritual epoch in which we live. On Holy Saturday, we mourn Christ’s death even as we know celebration waits just around the corner. We sit in anticipation, attempting to feel what Jesus’s disciples might have felt—overcome by the painful reality of death, confused by the nonsensical words of Christ, and lonely without the companionship of the great teacher. 

On Holy Saturday, to be honest, I struggled to relate to the disciples.

That Saturday, my puppy balanced on his two back paws—nose resting on the counter—to watch me assemble two cakes, layer by layer. In the silence of my kitchen, I spread silky frosting, building matching masterpieces of four layers each. Birds chirped just outside the open windows to celebrate the early spring, unaware it was a day of mourning. I piped green letters on the top of both cakes: “Blessings on your Confirmation” on one, “Alleluia, He is Risen” on the other. Hardly the activities of solemnity and mourning.

Our Perpetual Holy Saturday

Christians live in a perpetual Holy Saturday. We carry the weight of loss, of heartache, of broken bodies and relationships—constant reminders of the deep groaning of this world. In a way, we proclaim that resurrection waits just around the corner. We pray, “Thy kingdom come,” as we attempt to believe that one day God truly will make it so.

Unlike this past Holy Saturday, I find it much easier to relate to Jesus’s disciples in the day-to-day experience of the brokenness around me. I mourn the death of friends, of dreams, of unanswered prayers. I’m confused by the nonsensical words of Christ—words that promise resurrection and tell us to eat bread and wine together in the meantime. I’m plagued by loneliness and I long for the companionship of the great teacher. The weightiness of the present makes the promises of Christ feel so far away.

But on Holy Saturday, to be honest, I struggled to relate to the disciples. Unlike the dark day  they spent thinking all hope lost, we lament while already knowing the end of the story. We wait in confidence that one day later we get to celebrate resurrection. I tried to carry the weight I felt as I left the dark sanctuary on Good Friday, and yet as I prepared my home for Easter brunch, I couldn’t help but replace my mourning with eagerness for the day to come. After all, I had cakes to bake.

Preparing a feast prompted me to drop the yoke of mourning and pick up instead eagerness for the day to come. The rituals of methodically spreading orange blossom frosting atop layers of fluffy cake, of scrubbing countertops and setting of the table, of arranging small bouquets all around my house together set my eyes on the joy to come.

The spiritual discipline of feasting. 

Appreciation for ancient Christian practices has grown among young adults my age. Growing up, I never heard talk of the church calendar or contemplative prayer. Occasionally I heard of Christians fasting. But for the most part ancient spiritual disciplines were absent from my spiritual formation. But now the oldest rhythms of Christian life have become common among men and women craving a more contemplative encounter with God. Even then, most often I hear advocates for individual, ascetic disciplines like fasting and silence.

So when the darkness threatens to overwhelm me, I set the table, bake a cake, and arrange small bouquets of flowers.

Equally important is the spiritual practice of feasting. Even those who do not worship in the rhythms of the liturgical calendar have some awareness of the forty-day fast leading up to Easter. Much less common, on the other hand, is the recognition of the full celebration of Eastertide—fifty days of feasting that lead us from Christ’s resurrection to the day of Pentecost. 

Yet the feasting carries us out of the liminality of Holy Saturday to live in the promise of resurrection. 

Feasting takes of Christ at his word when he commanded us to eat and drink until he comes again. 

Feasting prompts us to exchange shouts of “Alleluia, He is risen!” with each other and reminds us that his kingdom draws near.

So when the darkness threatens to overwhelm me, I set the table, bake a cake, and arrange small bouquets of flowers. Easter is not yet over, the season for feasting day after day after day. But even when the day of Pentecost arrives, I plan to set my table as a spiritual practice.

I’ll spread buttercream and stack layers of cake with my pup looking on, balanced on his two back paws. I’ll open the windows and hear the birds chirp, unaware of the many reasons for mourning.

For one day soon, we’ll celebrate resurrection.

Kendall Vanderslice
Kendall Vanderslice is a food writer based in Durham, North Carolina. She holds an MLA in Gastronomy from Boston University, and is a student at Duke Divinity School where she studies the intersection of food and theology. She has written for Christianity Today, Christ and Pop Culture, and Religion News Service. Her upcoming book on dinner churches and embodied theology of eating will be published by Eerdman’s Press later this year.

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