I picked up a book that a colleague was throwing out today- entitled ‘The Celtic Year- a celebration of Celtic Christian saints, sites and festivals‘ by Shirley Toulson.
I had a flick through- and came across this
I would like a great lake of the finest ale
For the King of Kings.
I would like a table of the choicest food
For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made from the fruits of faith
And the food be forgiving love
I should welcome the poor to my feast
For they are God’s children
I should welcome the sick to my feast
For they are God’s joy
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place
And the sick dance with the angels.
God bless the poor
God bless the sick
God bless our human race
God bless our food
God bless our drink
All homes, O God, embrace.
And this in turn reminded me of the film Babette’s Feast.
For those of you who have not seen this film, it tells the story of an extreme religious community on the wild Denmark coast, living a life of simplicity and austerity, clinging on to the teachings of their now dead leader. Then along comes a refugee from the wars in a troubled 19th Century Europe, and they take her in. For years she works as an unpaid servant, preparing the dreadful food- fish soup and gruel- that the community eat.
Then one day, after years of hard work, news reaches her that she has won a lottery- a small fortune. The community prepare themselves to say goodbye to their loyal servant, and reluctantly agree to allow her to cook for them- a feast.
A feast the like of which this community- with all its austerity, its petty squabbles and its suspicion of all things ‘of the world’- could not begin to imagine. The finest wines, turtle soup, amazing complicated dishes.
And Babette’s former life as a famous chef in Paris is revealed- as the members of the community are transformed by this encounter with the feast- as tongues are loosened, and rigidity eroded. Until they stand together and sing hymns under the stars.
And discover that Babette had spent every single penny of her new found wealth on this one meal…
It is a story of grace and redemption and religion gone wrong, only to find itself again.
Here are a couple of clips- you can watch the whole thing on You tube should you fancy it.