Of all the books I’ve read this year (2012), there’s a single standout that has found a comfortable home among all time favorites like Godric, Jayber Crow, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Lord of the Rings. It was written by an Anglican priest named Robert Farrar Capon, it’s called The Supper of the Lamb, and it is, of all things, a cookbook—or a “culinary reflection” as the subtitle would have it.
Some of you may recall that Evie read a passage from it before Saturday’s dinner at Hutchmoot 2012, and one day either Jonathan Rogers or I will give a full account of its greatness. Today is not that day and this is not that post. But I’d consider it unforgivable to let Thanksgiving week and its many feasts go by without a mention here of so fitting a book. If there was ever such a thing as a “Thanksgiving book” then surely this is it. Equal parts cookbook, comedy, theology, liturgy, and poetry, it’s a book that somehow encompasses almost every aspect of life, and the life to come, and does it all within the context of food.
I’m going to shut up now and quote a piece of it so you can see what I mean (it bears mentioning that this passage follows immediately upon an argument for the joys of belching and a citation to be read over the magnificence of baking soda).
Travel safely this week. Give thanks. Enjoy the feast.
“For all its greatness (trust me—I am the last man on earth to sell it short), the created order cries out for futher greatness still. The most splendid dinner, the most exquisite food, the most gratifying company, arouse more appetites than they satisfy. They do not slake man’s thirst for being; they whet it beyond all bounds. Dogs eat to give their bodies rest; man dines and sets his heart in motion. All tastes fade, of course, but not the taste for greatness they inspire; each love esacpes us, but not the longing it provokes for a better convivium, a higher session. We embrace the world in all its glorious solidity, yet it struggles in our very arms, declares itself a pilgrim world, and, through the lattices and windows of its nature, discloses cities more desirable still.
You indict me, no doubt, as an incurable romantic. I plead guilty without contest. I see no other explanation of what we are about. Why do we marry, why take friends and lovers, why give ourselves to music, painting, chemistry, or cooking? Out of simple delight in the resident goodness of creation, of course; but out of more than that, too. Half of earth’s gorgeousness lies hidden in the glimpsed city it longs to become. For all its rooted loveliness, the world has no continuing city here; it is an outlandish place, a foreign home, a session in via to a better version of itself—and it is our glory to see it so and thirst until Jerusalem comes home at last. We were given appetittes, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great.”
And, finally, a benediction from Chapter 15:
“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 your men wear their weight with pride, secure in the knowledge that they have at last become considerable. May they rejoice that they will never again be taken for callow, black-haired boys. And your women? Ah! Women are like cheese strudels. When first baked, they are crisp and fresh on the outside, but the filling is unsettled and indigestible; in age, the crust may not be so lovely, but the filling comes at last into its own. May you relish them indeed. May we all sit long enough for reserve to give way to ribaldry and for gallantry to grow upon us. 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 Priesthoood, He makes all things new. Our Last Home will be home indeed.”