Pantheists commune with Nature in myriad ways. One way often overlooked, involves our daily food. We ingest natural elements--fruit, vegetables, fish, fowl, and meat--in an intimate communion between body and earth. The miracle of existence requires taking life from animals and/or plants to nourish our own. This profound fact merits an expression of gratitude, and what better way to give thanks than through a table grace?

Many of us associate pre-meal blessings with orthodox religion. But "saying grace" long predated Judeo-Christianity; rites of giving thanks for food extend far back into pagan antiquity.   Pantheists can supplant ritual based on conventional doctrines with rituals based on their heartfelt spirituality and a deep appreciation of Nature.

As a suggestion, hereís what we do for supper: We place a small vase of fresh flowers (a token of Natureís beauty) on the dinner table.  We light a candle (a symbol of warmth and lasting life). We sit around the table and hold hands (an act of love, sharing, and closeness). Then, for a few moments, we engage in a silent grace (quietly giving thanks and treasuring life, each in our own way). After 15 or 20 seconds, we release hands and dive into dinner.

It doesnít always go smoothly. We strive to eat meals together and plan our schedules accordingly, but the flow of everyday activities occasionally derails the ceremony. Sometimes our 15 year old daughter and 12 year old son try to shorten the meditation because they canít wait to eat, and my wife and I must remind them to "have grateful thoughts." But overall, our table grace adds a special dimension to our days.

The simple ritual feels right, reminds us of Natureís bounty, and reconnects us to the source of life.
 

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By Gary Suttle
 

Copyright © 1999 Gary Suttle
 
 
 



 
 

Here are some thoughts on gratefulness from A Grateful Heart, edited by M.J. Ryan (Berkeley: Conari Press, 1994).

I've always viewed mealtime as a humbling moment...it's almost as if nature had created an infallible way to remind us, daily and nearly hourly, that we are bound to and dependent upon every other living thing in this universe, a knowledge that is surely the ultimate blessing.
William H. Shore

Gratefulness--'great fullness," as Brother David Steindl-Rast reminds us, "is the full response of the human heart to the gratuitousness of all that is."  Truly every single thing we have has been given to us, not necessarily because we deserved it, but gratuitously, for no known reason.  And whatever source we believe is the giver--some concept of God or simply the breathtaking randomness of the universe--when we give thanks, we take our place in the great wheel of life, recognizing our connection to one another and to all of creation.  Offering a blessing, reminds Brother Steindl-Rast, "plugs us into the aliveness of the whole world."
M. J. Ryan

No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
John Greenleaf Whittier

The food which we are about to eat
    Is Earth, Water, and Sun, compounded
through the alchemy of many plants.
    Therefore Earth, Water and Sun will become
part of us.
    This food is also the fruit of the labor of
many beings and creatures.
    We are grateful for it.
    May it give us strength, health, joy.
    And may it increase our love.
Unitarian grace
 


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Photo Credit: Michelle Garrett

Copyright © 1999 Gary Suttle