The Way of Communion: Eating as an Extension and Echo of the Eucharist

The Climacus Conference 2011

From February 18 through the 19th, St. Michael Orthodox Church in Louisville, Kentucky, hosted the 2011 Climacus Conference of Thoughtful Ascent. This gathering, dedicated to the contemplation of noble ideas, featured lectures on education, literature, philosophy, patristic thought, marriage, and film. Speakers included David Wright, Rachel Leake, Andrew Kern, Vigen Guroian, John Granger, Bobby Maddex, Molly Sabourin, Aaron Taylor, Joseph Steineger, Evanthia Speliotis, David Bradshaw, Brad Birzer, Fr. Alexis Kouri, and William Weber.

February 2011

The Way of Communion: Eating as an Extension and Echo of the Eucharist

John Granger is a writer and speaker on the intersection of literature, philosophy, faith, and culture. He is also the author of five books, including Unlocking Harry Potter.

February 24, 2011 Length: 43:47





The two Grangers that should be giving this talk about food—my wife and my daughter, Sophia—are in Istanbul this evening. They are visiting Hagia Sophia and the school where Mary grew up and the relics of St. Panteleimon before leaving tomorrow for Jerusalem and the Holy Land. You get stuck with me, because they can’t make it.

With their permission, however, I will share with you notes from the opening to Sophia’s book, Eating with Wisdom—Cooking with Sophia: Understanding Food and Meals as Echoes of the Eucharist.

Let me start with the obvious. There is no subject more difficult to discuss or as important as right eating, and, perhaps, there is no [one] less qualified to speak about it than myself. It is the most difficult subject to speak about with any success because of the profound resistance of anyone and everyone to any instruction contrary to their beliefs about food.

I have been talking about food privately and publicly for about twenty years. I can talk to a group of Harry-haters about Harry Potter, and it’s nothing like the resistance that there is to food. Our core ideas about ourselves and what it means to be human—our identity that we first accepted at our first meals as children—is meshed with our food beliefs. It is a rare person, short of serious illness, that is able to consider an alternative view. To make an impossible task worse, I do not have the certification necessary to strike you as an authority on this subject. Not only am I not a nutritionist or medical doctor, but what I am—the Hogwarts Professor and dean of Harry Potter scholars—is more than likely something laughable or at least something you discount.

As unlikely as it is that any of you will be able to take seriously what I have to say tonight, because of the profound attachment that we all have to our food beliefs, and because I don’t have the authority of even being a good cook, not to mention a student of calories and nutrients, I will risk your rejection of my wife’s and daughter’s message about food with the faith of a child who cried without guile that the emperor was wearing no clothes. The emperor here, of course, is nutritional science and our cultural food beliefs.

The central idea of my daughter’s book is simply this: The prevailing ideas about food in America today, the ones common to every diet plan—the Atkins Diet, radical veganism, and even Bible-based food beliefs—are significant obstacles to our life in Christ. Indeed, they may be the primary obstacles, as unbelievable as that may seem. A conclusion such as this is only as valid an argument and true as its premises. Let me spell out these premises as clearly as I can. In essence, I think there are three.

The first is that our food choices simultaneously and profoundly reflect and reinforce our core beliefs about God, man, nature, and reality. The clichéd truism that “you are what you eat” is true in the sense of “garbage in, garbage out.” More valuable, though, in grasping the importance of food is the idea that we are what we think about food. Every orthodox-revealed religion, as well as every consequent human culture, secular or religious, has a food rule that its members conform to in order to embody or incarnate the cultural beliefs of that group.

The second premise of Eating with Wisdom—Cooking with Sophia is that physics, or natural science, is an extension, a reflection in time and space, of any culture’s metaphysics. Physics [comes] from metaphysics. That is to say, their beliefs about what is most real and eternally true is an expression of ontology as much as it is a revelation of what each knows about nature.

Looking at the two predominant food rules in America today in the light of these two premises, we arrive at Sophia’s conclusion. The two rules are: the du jour rule of calorie-nutrient nutritional scientism and the consequent de facto rule of “tastes great, less filling.” Even if we think food and diet are the concerns of hypochondriacs, political leftists, and others in need of a real life, we know that serious food talk is spoken in the language of food chemistry, that is, calories and nutrients. The specific quantities of energy and matter in anything we eat, our meals on this model, are understood as fuel for the human machine. The search for the best foods and silver bullet nutrients is what we are looking for: the food/nutrient/calorie combination that best makes the design of the body machine, the highest octane fuel, if you will, for our body-cars that we drive around as the ensouled ghost in the machine.

Although this is the accepted model for understanding food and eating conceptually, it is a failed model as we know after a moment’s reflection on our country’s obesity and the prevalence of food-caused illnesses amidst historically unprecedented food plenty. We are overweight and sick because of the food that we eat, when we have a historically unprecedented access to every type and variety of food.

Nutritional science is only a du jour or conceptual model of food for the simple reason that its key gauges—nutrients and calories—are invisible. Consequently, they are useless to us in the moment of decision-making about what we should eat at any given meal. We are left, without the gauges of our conceptual rule, with our de facto rule of “tastes great, less filling.”

On this model, we eat whatever, whenever, and however much food we like, usually justifying it in the smart talk of nutritional chemistry. Our desire for pleasure in eating is checked somewhat, of course, by our fear of death—death here usually wearing the mask of becoming fat. We keep one eye on the scale and one eye peeled for the Cheetos® and bacon double-cheeseburgers.

Our physics reflects metaphysics and our “you are what you think about food” premises tell us that our nutritional scienticism—the way we think, if not act—is a reflection and reinforcement of what Philip Johnson calls “the American State Religion,” namely, philosophical naturalism. Naturalism, in essence, is the belief that energy and matter are what is most real in the world. Calorie- and nutrient-focused thinking in our food choices are an atheistic equivalent of kosher eating, Hindu food rules, and Orthodox Christian fasting in support of those beliefs.

These food ideas, of course, reflect a naturalist physics, a godless or atheistic metaphysics, and a materialist anthropology or idea of the person as primarily a body machine. “Tastes great, less filling,” our default guides in actually making our food choices, [make] our desires and fear our primary authority in how we think, which fosters our roles as consumers easily moved by advertising in a capitalist culture.

The problems here are two-fold. One we talk about all the time—namely, about how Americans are killing ourselves physically at every meal, because we won’t eat the foods the calorie-nutrient chemists tell us we should. The other problem is not as obvious as morbid obesity or a drop-dead heart attack, but is, I think, actually more important.

The ideas of naturalism, our way of thinking about food, reflect and reinforce, and the desire-driven soul that it fosters, are all contrary to the truths and ends of the Orthodox Christian faith. In brief, if you are an atheist, materialist, and belly-focused person at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you are an atheist, materialist, and desire-driven dummy.

The thesis and third premise of Eating with Wisdom—Cooking with Sophia is that we need a better food model than the nutrient, IV-drip bag, and all-you-can-eat buffet line for the greater life in Christ. This better model is, not surprisingly, the Eucharist—the Body and Blood of Christ—the most real, and, perhaps only, truly human food.

Sophia makes seven points in her cookbook’s introduction about why the Eucharist’s food model fosters Orthodox faith in our life in Christ, and I will only be able to cover four or five of those tonight. In essence, though her argument is that Communion is the correct model for our thinking about food and cooking, because of what the Eucharist is and what it does as the substance of the creative Word and metaphysical center, it makes us human—not as machines but as images and likenesses of God. It also fosters spiritual-mindedness, life, and peace rather than carnal-mindedness which St. Paul says is death (Romans 8:6).

I think the truth of Sophia’s thesis is most clear if we think about how we receive Communion and contrast that with how we make our day-to-day food decisions. Let’s look at the Eucharist and how we approach it for signs of [what] spiritually-minded eating might look like. What strikes me first is that we do not commune as individuals but as distinct members of the body of Christ. Understanding how different this is from our usual thinking involves some looking at our own eyeballs, so bear with me here.

We should start with the obvious, but much-denied fact, that as Americans, per se, we are Protestants and we are materialists to a greater or lesser degree. Our nation was founded, for the most part, by religious nonconformists of the radical Reformation, expelled with the English Restoration at the end of the 17th century, and by economic immigrants looking for material prosperity. What both groups shared was a belief in the sovereignty of the individual and a nominalist or anti-sacramental understanding of the physical world. The country founded by these people—and I need to say that I did my six years in the Marine Corps and consider myself a patriot, so please don’t feel that I’m just running down my country; this is just to look at the country for what it is—and the citizens of that country, shaped by the institutions they established, reflect their beliefs.

We believe in the absolute distinction of subject and object—that is the heart of materialism—and that the state’s primary responsibility is the guarantee and protection of the rights of individuals. If you are Orthodox and do not believe you are a Protestant, I offer you a reflection that it is only in America—that Orthodox churches have pews, that Orthodox priests wear pants, that sermons last more than half an hour, and that there are no monasteries to speak of, not to mention the lack of wonder-working, incorrupt saints. We’re almost the Baptist Orthodox Church in the world.

Traditional Orthodoxy, in contrast, is not about individual believers, salvation through his or her private understanding of Scripture, and separate piety. Orthodoxy is about our entrance into, our being joined as a distinct member of the body of Christ, his Church. It is by losing our ego-identity and joining ourselves to him that we become persons in Christ, shedding our individuality or ego-persona, gaining a hypostatic reality in his likeness, and sharing in his resurrection and victory over death.

Soteriology in the Church is never alone, if, as persons, we remain, obviously, distinct from each other. Our greater life and hope, however, is no longer in our separate selves but in Christ and his Church. This is reflected in our celebration of the Divine Liturgy and how we commune. In traditional churches, lay people stand silent for the most part—men on the right and women on the left. Our shared identity in Christ, in whom there is neither male nor female, is confirmed and revealed in our eating the Lord from one chalice, one spoon, as members of one body in him. After this sacred meal, we affirm our ecclesial, shared identity in an agape meal which we eat together in conformity to the Church’s teachings about feasting and fasting foods rather than our individual preferences or ideas about food.

Contrast this person as member or social understanding with our individualist thinking about food as calorie/nutrient quantities or “tastes great, less filling.” Unlike our approach to the chalice, our thoughts are about private advantage: the health of our bodies and our vanity. Our only social thought in our food choices on these models is if the food we eat will make us look stupid to others or more or less physically attractive to them. There is no spiritual aspect to nutritional thinking or the default alternative in our desires.

If we believe that our salvation is corporate rather than individual, then the scientistic and consumer ideas of eating undermine our salutary faith, while a Eucharistic model fosters it. We read in Ephesians that the Church is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. St. John Chrysostom, commenting on Ephesians 4, says, “We should all be even only one soul.” Our identity in Christ is not as individuals but as persons in his Body, the Church.

I want to take this social, spiritual, and salutary eating a step further in clarifying the difference between a person and an individual—a member versus an ego. A mystery of medical science demonstrated by Dr. Dean Ornish. Dr. Ornish is famous as the doctor who first demonstrated via clinical trials that eating a low-fat diet and exercising would not only prevent coronary events but also reverse heart disease. What is much less well known about Dr. Ornish’s heart trials is that there is a third component to them in addition to diet and exercise, namely, relationships and stress management. Incredibly, the results from these trials were better than with diet and exercise [alone]. Those with improved relationships had more success reversing heart disease than those who ate well or exercised.

Although this finding was featured clearly in Dr. Ornish’s book on the heart trials, it received little publicity and was largely forgotten. He was so disturbed by this neglect that he wrote a second book about the importance of love, intimacy, and strong relationships for physical health, and the overwhelming scientific evidence of the same. His conclusion in the book, Love and Survival, was:

Love and intimacy are at root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact as positive relationships, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients. It would be malpractice not to prescribe it. Medicine today tends to focus primarily on the physical and mechanistic: drugs and surgery, genes and germs, microbes and molecules. I am not aware of any other factor in medicine—not diet, not smoking, not exercise, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery—that has a greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness, and premature death from all causes than love.

This mystery confounds medical scientists because their conception of the human person is essentially individual and chemical rather than social and spiritual. The Orthodox Christian understanding of the world and man, in contrast, is based on the Logos or Word, rather than energy and matter quantities. It is a principle of relationship.

Christos Yannaras explains it this way—and this gets heavy, it’s going to take a while, but this [is] essential: to understand that the Logos is a principle of relationship and is the fabric of reality as well as who we are most. This is a long quotation from Yannaras—it’s already too dense, so that I couldn’t condense it anymore:

Logos for the Greeks means primarily the form which allows the existence “to show themselves,” “to appear”; in effect, to aletheouein—“to not be hidden.” Aletheia is the word for “the truth.” The fact that existence appears—that is, “to show themselves” means that they are “in reference to”—for this reason, the decisive meaning of logos is “relation.” [It is] the reference and “the reception of” or “the response to” the reference which constitutes the event of communion. The entire universe, the whole of reality, is a communion of logical relation. Sensible beings come and depart, but the logical mode, the how of their cosmic coexistence is always, eternally, the same in the Word. Thus Logos, the given mode of the harmony of relations, is shown to be the abiding and constant existent, the really real.

And if the human person craves immortality, he must, in his individual and collective life, realize the mode of the truly existent—the logic of relations found in cosmic harmony. The Logos made flesh constitutes revelation for the ecclesial experience. It reveals that the mode of existence of God, the communion of love of three hypostases, the mode which is free from every necessity, can also be realized by created man. The Logos’ intervention in history as Christ Jesus reveals that, from the created personal hypostasis of man made in the image of God, man may also exist, not in the mode of nature, but in the mode of love; that he may exist not as a natural individual but as a person free from the necessities of nature, temporality, corruption, and death.

The reason why loving relationships are the key to good physical health is obvious from this understanding. The fabric of reality with which the human being is designed to live in communion is the Word, the God who is love, and loving relationship. Our perfection and immortality is in becoming persons and members of his body, the Church, receiving the Logos himself as food in the Eucharist. Our identity is transformed in Christ from the individual, natural, and mortal to the personal, ecclesial, and supernatural.

I noted earlier that the chief reason nutritional chemistry is a failed food model is that, because calories and nutrients are invisible, it is impossible to use any chemical recommendations in the moment of choice. We simply can’t see vitamins, nutrients, proteins, and calories. You might rightly wonder: if the Eucharist is our best food model, how does anyone use this standard at breakfast, lunch, and dinner? The answer is fairly roundabout, but the good news is that you already use this standard, and, in fact, you are hard-wired for it and almost incapable of escaping it.

St. Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, said that non-believers were “without excuse, because the invisible things of God, from the creation of the world (cosmos) are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” He asserts point-blank that the nature of God, not just his existence, but all that can be known about him, is visible in the order of nature, the cosmos, in everything created. If you are like me, you are saying to yourself, “I don’t see God and know him in everything he has created, and they sure didn’t teach me anything about that in school.”

But St. Paul isn’t being esoteric or even especially obscure in his assertion. We don’t understand him, because we forget the first point of Palamite theology, which St. Paul refers to in the words “even his eternal power and Godhead.” In effect, God is an unknowable essence in his eminent energies. St. Gregory Palamas explained that all that we can know of God is that he is simultaneously transcendent and totally other in his essence and nearer to us than our breath in his creative energies. In this, God is the Father of all, over all, through all, and in all, as Paul writes to the Ephesians—“over all and in all.” In being both transcendent and eminent, God is a polarity without duality. This quality—polarity without duality—is his signature in every created thing and the order of nature, as St. Paul notes in Romans.

Not only is the world and everything in it a set of complementary polarities, but we are designed to perceive them as such. This is why we have a world of male and female, night and day, summer and winter, and our human sense faculties are designed to perceive everything in polar qualities as complementary and antagonistic, as hot and cold, near and far, loud and quiet, hard and soft, sweet and salty, harsh and subtle. As images of God in his time-space creation, we are reflections of his power and Godhead in our bicameral minds, our having front and back, top and bottom, our moving bipedally, left and right, and in having a heart as our physical and spiritual center, an organ of perpetual expansion and contraction, continually resolving and regulating the relations of inside and outside.

We are, in brief, a Palamite icon of God’s essence and energies, as the world is and as we are designed to perceive. What is true in man and nature, of course, is even more pronounced [in] God’s Church. Everything from the organization of Scripture in reflective Old and New Testaments, the Cross itself, the three-barred cross creating mirrored polarities, to the same divine image in Vespers and Matins and the Divine Liturgy. It is most obvious, perhaps, in the architecture of the Church and the drama of worship. Left and right are defined by female and male, two choirs singing antiphonally with ison: melody and chant; the front and back defined by the templon, the circling motions and the responsorial chant of the two deacons around the priest at the center and high place of his Church.

Really, the drama of Orthodox liturgics is Palamite iconography that we enter into as images of God. Just as God’s nature is visible in human design, the order of nature and his Church and its services— I want to stop and say that if you don’t see God’s essence and energy and how this is his signature over all the world, you have to note the three principle events of Christianity: (1) God becomes a man, (2) he does this through a virgin mother, (3) and he rises from the dead. None of those things make any sense except in God’s signature of an impossible contradiction of total transcendence and eminence, simultaneously.

Just as God’s nature is visible in human design, the order of nature and his Church and its services, it is also evident in the Eucharist—the conjunction of his Body and Blood, distinct but conjoined in communion. The separation of the same in Catholic and Protestant worship services speak to their misunderstanding of the Eucharist, God, and his essence and energy. His Word and relation are the fabric of reality, and all human beings are designed for communion with it, hence Tertullian’s “all souls are Christian souls.” We already make our food choices this way and are incapable of doing otherwise.

Now, this might strike you as bizarre, but I think you’ll all see that it’s also common sense. If you are hot, you crave cold foods and vice versa. If you eat things that are salty, you crave sweet things and vice versa. By nature, we seek a balance of tastes, textures, colors and cooking styles in our food—a resolution of contraries reflecting the nature of God who is peace, love and life. We seek a balance in everything that we have, because we are designed as images of God to reflect a God who is totally transcendent and eminent.

The Eucharist becomes our model for day-to-day eating, via the fasting rules of the Church which are extensions or echoes of God’s nature being reflected in his Body and Blood sacrifice. The foods that are restricted during the fasts—meat, alcohol, and olive oil—were the qualitative extremes of early first-millennium Palestine. Without the excessively contractive meat and expansive qualities of alcohol and olive oil, the only foods left were reflections of God’s peace and means to our dispassion.

Traditional cuisines of cultures that are based on a creative principle of relation, most notably the Tao of the Far East and the world of the Mediterranean, reflect the physics or natural sciences springing from their metaphysics. The ying-yang sciences and four-element understanding of the Mediterranean—hot and cold, dry and moist, and the cycle of fire, water, earth, and air.

Traditional day-to-day eating, like fasting, is conscious word observance in obedience to harmonize our meals with our environment, our activities, and the cycle of change reflecting God’s power and Godhead, his essence and energies. Learning how to do this is an art, of course, but because we are designed for it, and it is the nature of the world, despite it being foreign to our conventional, scientistic ideas, it is easy to learn. Not to mention that the meals made from it are more delicious, satisfying, and nourishing than meals made by a chemist or gourmand. Sophia notes here that St. Basil tells us that man is an image of God—not in being a psychosomatic unity, but in man’s being a reflection of the Trinity in his soul’s three powers.

St. Maximus teaches that these powers—the nous or inner heart, the will, and the passions—head, chest, and belly as C.S. Lewis described it, and body, mind, and spirit in common speech—have to be in a specific order or hierarchy for the human person to know God. This is most easily visualized as a three-ball snowman with the passion/desires being the bottom ball, the will/rational mind being the center, and the noetic faculty, soul or heart, being the top.

The right-side-up person’s heart or spiritual faculty directs the will and mind which instructs and restrains the passions. You’ve got three faculties of soul. You’ve got the heart which should be in charge. It’s really an uncreated faculty within you which is almost an aspect of God himself. This should be what calls the shots in the human person. The word for conscience in Greek is syneide. This is your shared vision. This is the eye of the heart. This faculty, according to the Patristic consensus, should direct the will, and that will should then guide the passions of the belly. So with the snowman: you’ve got the heart telling the chest, the will what to do and then the belly is down below taking direction from above. The snowman has to be right side up for it to be a snowman—to be a true human, “Frosty.”

We pray each Sunday that Communion is for “the enlightenment of the eyes of my heart and for the peace of the powers of my soul.” If you wonder why the prayer is “for the peace of the powers of my soul,” it is to the Patristic consensus, and St. Maximus’ teaching specifically, that the powers of the soul be rightly aligned—heart to will, directing passions. The Eucharist, as the Word of God and Light of the World, is the means to a rightly ordered soul, hence its being the medicine of immortality.

The fasting we do during each week and in certain periods of the year, as well as to prepare for Communion and the day-to-day eating of traditional cuisines, are also about the submission of the belly and our individual desires to the direction of our heart and our personal—which is to say our ecclesial—understanding. In contrast, both chemical nutrition and “tastes great, less filling” food decisions foster the upside down desire-driven individual whose belly tells the mind how to justify the Garden of Eden’s “See Food Diet”—see the apple, want the apple, forget the heart and God, eat the apple.

Sophia suggests, in Eating with Wisdom—Cooking with Sophia, and I think she is right, that this is why carnally minded eating is perhaps the primary reason there are no American saints and the American Orthodox Church is in such disarray. To see this, remember the snowman, and think of the three stages of the spiritual life as described by St. Maximus the Confessor: the praktiki, the physiki, and theosis. The praktiki is the right ordering of the soul in worship, participation in the Mysteries, and life in Christ’s mystical Body. St. Maximus repeats again and again throughout the centuries that this is the acquisition of the virtues which are aspects of the Christ.

The physiki, the second stage which is built upon the successful ordering of the soul in the acquisition of the virtues, presumes success in the praktiki. As the name suggests, it is something like spiritual/natural scientist, or enlightened physics. In the second stage, the eye of the heart is able to see God everywhere—not just in his signature on created things—this polarity without duality—but is able to see the logi (the plural of “logos”) or the inner essences of things. This transformed vision leads to seeing and knowing God, per se, and his energies, which is theosis or divinization.

In effect, the three stages of the spiritual life according to St. Maximus and the Fathers is: (1) You acquire the virtues and aspects of Christ in the praktiki. You say your prayers, you receive Communion, you live an ecclesial life and identity. This transforms your vision, your heart. (2) As you identify with the heart—the logos within you—the Light that comes into the world and every man is able then to see the Logos, its reflection in every created thing. This is the physiki. (3) In that transformed vision, we are transformed even further until we can see God and his energies, himself. Theosis is the salvific experience of saints in this life and of others, God allowing, in the next.

The second step, this physiki, this transformed vision, requires the total identification of the human person—heart, soul, mind and strength—with the logos within him or her. So that the Word within us recognizes its reflection in the Word of created things—their inner essences. That union, that identification, however, is impossible for the materialist—to whom everything is matter and energy quantities—to include the mind which is only brain chemistry.

If we believe because of our education, our media, and the way that we eat at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then everything that is in the world is only matter and energy at root. If this is our primary understanding of the fabric of reality, there is no possibility that we can identify entirely with the logos within us as the fabric of reality and in that have a transformed vision and begin our step toward our human perfection and theosis.

Tragically, our culture, our education, and the way we think about food at each meal every day fosters materialist beliefs that are essentially atheism. We are immunized against a traditionally Orthodox understanding of ourselves in light of God’s Logos.

I offer for your consideration the possibility that the reason that there are no native-born American saints that were not martyrs is because the physiki, the necessary transition from our prayer and sacramental lives to theosis is essentially impossible for us as materialists. We are locked into a nominal Orthodox faith and a restricted spiritual accomplishment—not because the graces of God are not available for our transformed vision, but because we do not understand how or even believe that such a transformation is possible.

There are two more points in Sophia’s book: one about the new pseudo-morality about sin and food, and another on food and pleasure in light of St. Maximus’ teachings about pleasure and pain. But I’m already over time, I’m sure, and I need to conclude. I leave out these points and her excellent discussion of the significant dangers when beginning a spiritually-minded way of eating and hope that you will purchase her book.

I conclude by noting why all diets work for a while, why they all fail eventually, and why only a Eucharist model way of eating not only works indefinitely, but works miracles as often as not in personal physical health.

All diets work for a time, because, as different as they may be from one another—and there are thousands—they all recommend that we eat real food, not artificial and processed junk, and that we eat according to a rule of some kind—be it no meat, be it all meat, be it Ding Dongs for breakfast. This rule brings the desires into submission to the mind and will. If the heart is still not in charge, at least the bottom of the snowman is not calling the shots through “tastes great, less filling.” The soul recovers something of its designed alignment.

All diets fail eventually, because the real foods recommended are not reflections of the Logos’ fabric of reality, and the motivation for the belly-submission to the mind is still individual and body-focused—a fear of death, a surfeit of vanity, the desire to be physically attractive. All these ultimately foster the return of the belly to the captain’s seat. Most people for whom my wife and daughter cook come to traditional Word-focused cooking because of serious illness. Few are able to eat this way indefinitely for the same reasons that people fail on other diets. Carnal-mindedness cannot be reconciled with a spiritual-minded way.

The odd thing is that, even when undertaken with a carnal mind—that is, to reverse cancer, heart disease, AIDS, etc.—traditional eating works. I hope by now that why this is true should be obvious. Eating in Word observance is eating in conformity both with human design and the nature of creation. If you want to learn more about this, and you want menus and recipes to test drive this Lent, please write me at john@hogwartsprofessor.com. I will send you what I can and forward your note to Mary and Sophia on their return from Jerusalem.

God left us the Eucharist as our primary means to know him. I urge you to reflect on this sacred meal and God as food, and that you consider making it rather than the TPN IV-drip bag of 44 separate chemical nutrients, or your individual desires of “tastes great, less filling” your guide in choosing what you eat.

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