Food for the Journey

One of the many terms for Holy Eucharist is the Latin “viaticum.”   It means food or provision for the journey and gets used primarily to refer to our final communion that gives sustenance for the road to paradise and path to glory where there awaits a heavenly banquet feast for God’s children who are welcomed home.

On Thanksgiving Eve, I returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  Much like our Jewish forebears viewed the promised land, so did our American forebears view this land while holding onto a vision of hope and shaping a nation under the watchful eye of God.  Both sets of ancestors traveled a treacherous journey in which they made many sacrifices and overcame numerous obstacles.  They subdued the soil and cultivated the earth, planting physical seeds—as well as spiritual ones—in hopes of a rich harvest and enlightened future destiny.

While on the pilgrimage, Mass and meals were central to our daily trek.  Our daily bread gave us necessary nourishment.  Celebrating Mass on the top of Mount Carmel (where Elijah met God), Mount Tabor (where Jesus was transfigured), Mount Calvary (where our salvation was won), in Bethany, in Bethlehem, and on the Sea of Galilee, readily reminded us why Catholics are Eucharistic-centered people, why participation in Thanksgiving meals was at the core of Jesus’ journey, and why His nature was expressed so well at table fellowship.  We visited numerous sites where He shared meals with others: in Cana for a wedding banquet, in Tabgha (the place of seven springs) where He multiplied loaves and fish to feed thousands, in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was consumed and first Mass was consecrated, and on the Galilean seashore where He made breakfast for seven of His disciples after rising from the dead.

Christians in America on the final Thursday of November can easily see the parallels between the biggest family meal of the year and modern church rituals that began in small house-churches in Israel 2,000 years ago.  They mirror each other well.  Each begins with greeting one another, usually by the host offering a more formal welcome.  We assemble first in a living room or assembly space where we get caught up on news of loved ones or receive instructions on things important to our clan.  Though now it is via screening devices with pictures and notes amidst background music, then it was by reading letters from Paul and others, retelling stories of family history, singing hymns, and sharing good thoughts that evolved into Prayers of the Faithful; in some homes, each person states that for which s/he is thankful.  Sometimes the head of the house—then and now—offers commentary or a homily on what these things mean to our family or community.  After affirming what is important to us, we move from living room to dining room (or pulpit to table) so that we can partake of the magnificent feast.  We pay tribute to deceased family members and other ancestors who provided us with solid foundations upon which to build our lives.  Various homes, like various churches, have various rituals that express our relationship with God and one another.  They all remind us that we need provisions for the journey of earthly existence, starting with physical food to nourish us and spiritual sustenance to give us strength for the road ahead and assurance for the glory beyond.

In the Holy Land, each site of interest and each table of fellowship drew us closer to our earthly purpose and heavenly destiny.  Both in the promised land of Israel and these promising lands of America, we are part of an unfolding story of faith that is rooted in historical Thanksgiving meals.  They include Cana where it was prefigured, Capernaum where it was shared, Jerusalem where it was ritualized, and Emmaus where it was revealed to pilgrims of faith.  They include Native Americans and Puritan Pilgrims near Plymouth Rock, blue and gray soldiers of North and South during the Civil War, people of different political parties and religious denominations today, and homes that welcome and assimilate sojourners of diverse cultures and skin colors.  We are all on pilgrimage and we each need food for the journey.  In that sense, we are all eucharistic souls that consume what we desire with grateful hearts while longing for the true promised land beyond these earthly shores.

I wish you a blessed and nourishing Thanksgiving feast!

6 thoughts on “Food for the Journey

  1. Glad you made the trip. Thank you for sharing the experience with us .Happy Thanksgiving weekend as we count our blessings and reflect on the journey. Your intentions are in our daily prayers. The Bread of Life . You reminded us how we need it . Blessings always. Joe and Annie


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