Until That Higher Convivium

By

Jennifer and I read Robert Farrar Capon’s Supper of the Lamb out loud to one another this year. We read it on road trips, and in the bed at night, and on the sofa during rainy Saturday afternoons. For the first (and almost certainly the last) time in our lives, we wept over the final pages of a cookbook. For both of us the experience was like discovering a friend that we’d never known yet always missed. When introducing the book to others, Jennifer often describes it like this: “If G. K. Chesterton and N. T. Wright got together to write a cookbook, this would be the result.” It’s now one of our most cherished books, and it’s one that I pick off the shelf often, rereading favorite passages.

It’s a book that I think so throughly captures the spirit of the Rabbit Room and Hutchmoot that a few months ago, I spent a lot of time trying to track down Capon. I knew he was old, and I’d read that he had a hard life filled with heartbreak and disappointment, and I felt a deep need to thank him for his work, to let him know how much it meant to me and to so many others. I also secretly hoped to find a way to coax him into sharing a meal with us at Hutchmoot one day.

I never did manage to get in touch with him, and if you’ve paid much attention to the Facebook and Twitter feeds this morning, you’ll know that that moot isn’t going to happen. Robert Farrar Capon died yesterday and took his seat at a greater banquet table than Hutchmoot has to offer.

I like to think that as he joins that Higher Convivium, of which he so vividly wrote, that he’s offering up one of his great toasts and assuring the rest of us that there’s plenty of room left at the feast. I imagine that he’s tasting that wine, the like of which we scarcely dream, and it’s spilling down his chin as he laughs and shouts to remind us who we are, and who we are yet to be, and how important it is that we see Creation for the great good it was made to become. And as he sits down and sinks his teeth into the true work of the Lamb, I wonder if that toast might sound something like this one from the Supper of the Lamb:

“With that I leave you… I wish you well. May your table be graced with lovely women and good men. May you drink well enough to drown the envy of youth in the satisfactions of maturity… May there be singing at our table before the night is done, and old, broad jokes to fling at the stars and tell them we are men.

We are great, my friend; we shall not be saved for trampling that greatness under foot… Come then; leap upon these mountains, skip upon these hills and heights of earth. The road to Heaven does not run from the world but through it. The longest Session of all is no discontinuation of these sessions here, but a lifting of them all by priestly love. It is a place for men, not ghosts—for the risen gorgeousness of the New Earth and for the glorious earthiness of the True Jerusalem.

Eat well then. Between our love and His Priesthood, He makes all things new. Our Last Home will be home indeed.”

“Lion become priest
And Lamb victim
The world awaits
The unimaginable union
By which the Lion lifts Himself Lamb slain
And, Priest and Victim,
Brings
The City
Home.”

Farewell, Father Robert, until we moot in that Higher Convivium.

Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he’s the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


7 Comments

  1. Andrew Peterson

    @andrew

    I had the great pleasure of reading the first half of this book in London this summer, because a Rabbit Room copy was at our host’s house. Capon was a writer whose work belongs on the shelf next to Tolkien, Lewis, Buechner–basically everybody we laud here in the Rabbit Room. This book about food woke my heart like the best stories do. God bless him and give him rest.

  2. Brenda Branson

    Great tribute Pete! I’ve given this book to two people dear to me. Hoping they both find treasure there. I love the idea of a Moot with Robert someday and with all of you!

  3. Jennifer Kennedy

    Just found this link via Julie Silander’s Greener Tree Reads site. This is the 1st sentence I noticed…it literally jumped through my pupils (really!)

    “Jennifer often describes it like this: ‘If G. K. Chesterton and N. T. Wright got together to write a cookbook, this would be the result.'”

    This is the best description of this book I have yet read!

    (BTW, any reference to GKC usually jumps off the page at me. One of my favorite FB sites is “GKC is my homeboy”) 😉

  4. Jennifer Kennedy

    I’m sorry that my last comment may have seemed irreverent…I didn’t want to take away from the feelings in the wake of his death.

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