Bless this Food
& Contemporary Graces from Around the World
By Adrian Butash
blessings connect all humankind in reverence for the Almighty.
Sharing food is the most universal cultural experience. Expressing thanks for food was humankind’s first
act of worship, for food is the gift of life from above. In every culture there are sacred beliefs or divine commandments
honoring the giver of life —
God or the divine principle — through acknowledging the sacred gift of food.
are often derived from specific religious contexts, they may be experienced and enjoyed by all, just as religious music and fine art transcend their origins and have universal appeal. There are many nonreligious prayers that evoke spirituality by
virtue of the beauty of the words and the underlying humanity that shines through.
notion of the family is under siege by a barrage of social ills, and family
be disrupted by parents’ absence
as they work two jobs, by divorce, or by frequent separation resulting from
business travel that takes parents away from home.
The family food blessing is a perfect and reverent way for the family to experience a direct
kinship with the Almighty. A grace’s spiritual power can be felt as a profound
sense of reality. God is present. A family praying together is a beautiful
thing — a wonderful blessing all its own.
When we say
grace before eating, we give thanks for our togetherness, our blessings, and our happiness. For loved ones who are deceased, for friends and family who are far away, a grace said
at the table that mentions their names is a magical way to honor them and have them rejoin the table in a sublime
Food blessings provide a window to the profound spirituality we all share and that connects us
to all humankind, nature, and the infinite. Saying a blessing before a meal can
bring us closer to our brothers and sisters, parents and friends. Asking a
friend to choose and recite a food blessing is a wonderful way to welcome them into your family setting. The occasional gathering for prayer, no matter how brief, keeps the
heart and mind in touch with the most fundamental of joys: belonging.
prayer models to see, hear, and experience in order to learn from the ritual.
The table blessing is among the easiest and most enjoyable for children to
partake in — coming as it does just before the family feast. For children who
can read, Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from
Around the World (New
World Library, October 2007) offers an opportunity for them to lead the family
in prayer, to participate actively in a family ritual instead of remaining a
member at the table. The food blessing is a powerful medium that enriches the
meaning of family and allows us to touch a higher realm of spirituality
first inter-human act of the newborn child is to experience satisfaction through food. In the first hour of life, our senses may transmit ephemeral sight, sound, or touch quanta, but
it is the initial ingestion of milk from the mother that constitutes the first
inter-human act: life-sustaining nourishment.
response to this nourishment is a systemic and psychic satisfaction, and the hunger-gratification
cycle begins at
this instant and continues throughout life. A just-born infant’s first human experience is a “gift”
of milk in response to its sucking instinct and need for food, a gratifying
experience that affects the infant’s psyche on its deepest level.
(thanks) experience is imprinted on the newborn’s uninscribed mind and is the primordial unconscious analogue to voiced
prayer. Our first common human emotional experience is the gratia response for
The gratia experience we encounter as infants is transformed and
intellectualized over time into an appreciation of food as both spiritual and physical nourishment that we acknowledge in
the gratia prayer.
often derive from religious contexts, they may be experienced and enjoyed by everyone, just as religious music and fine art transcend their origins
and have universal appeal. There are so many nonreligious prayers that evoke spirituality by virtue of the beauty of
the words and the underlying humanity that shines through.
The compelling beauty of these thanks-giving food prayers reveals the noble spirituality of humanity. Prayer is
how human beings relate to
God, nature, and their place in the divine order of things. Amid these words you will find the
soul of humanity, the song of ages.
When family and friends gather
at the table, you’ll find starting your meal with a blessing will enhance the experience for all who are gathered. Bless this Food provides an easy way for anyone, young or old, to
create a special, spiritual moment that everyone present will enjoy and
remember. A circle of friends is the ultimate blessing.
This article is based on the updated version of Bless this
Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around
the World © 2013. Printed with permission
of New World Library. www.newworldlibrary.com
Butash is the author of Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from
Around the World. He
studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University and lives in Santa Barbara, CA