Posted on: Wednesday 30 May 2018
Posted in: Religious Education
I was asked by one of our devout Muslim students if she could speak in Chapel about Ramadan. I thought it was a good idea and built a service around the topic, but enlarged upon it showing how food is used within various world religions as an expression of faith.
The theme of the Service was taken from Matthew’s account of the Temptations of Jesus and read, “It is written, one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). This was a starting point to discuss how food is an element in all religions. This is not limited to specific foods that have great symbolic value, such as the elements of the Jewish Passover meal or the bread and wine of the Eucharis, but every day foods.
Thus, a Sikh service of worship ends with a meal that is open to all; Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. This is a living out of the Sikh core belief in living generously and treating all equally.
In Hinduism, the daily worship of a devout family involves the offering of food that represents offering of themselves.
In the Buddhism community, both monks and laity are bound together by the food that the laity give to the monks on a daily basis. This is not out of compassion, although that is a Buddhist virtue, but a way the lay Buddhist express their faith and gain merit.
In Christianity, fasting is not only practised during the seasons of Lent and Advent, but also weekly as many Christians abstain from eating meat on a Friday as a reminder of Christ’s death. The seasonal fasting allows the Christian to prepare prayerfully and thoughtfully to celebrate the great events of the Christian faith: Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.
It is this desire to come closer to God which is behind the fast of Ramadan. Going without food and drink from 5.00 am to 5.00 pm, allows devout Muslims to concentrate their minds on their faith, for the Ramadan is not only one of the Five Pillars of Islam, but is a yearly opportunity to read the Quran.
So, food can be seen as an expression of faith, a means to bind a religious community together and a means by which an individual can express his/her faith. The Chapel service concluded with the following grace that demonstrated the understanding that food can convey and invoke a greater spiritual understanding beyond the mere physical:
For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
for faith in a world where many walk in fear;
for friends in a world where many walk alone;
we give you humble thanks, O Lord.
Fr Patrick Duckworth