Every year a group of friends who go to Tymawr Convent on retreat meet up for a weekend. We started doing this at the Millennium – and spent the New Year welcoming in 2000 together. We enjoyed a banquet on New Year’s Eve -it is a Benedictine community after all- and ended with a midnight eucharist and brandy punch provided by the community.
So every year we would plan our “Feast” on New Year’s Eve and open it up to all the community and the guests who might be staying at the convent- not to mention the alongsiders who live locally and help out at the convent.
We now meet in the summer and I have just come back from another weekend together. And the high spot is always “the Feast”. It actually does not really matter what we eat- it is the anticipation, the careful preparation, the amount of time we set aside just to eat and drink and talk which make it so special. I am sure in this edition there will be mention of the film “Babette’s Feast”. The miracle of that film is how it portrays a tight, frugal church community expanding and becoming joyful when offered a real feast- with overflowing abundance and provision without limit. The guests relax, let go, give up control and begin to enjoy the company of family and friends where there had been enmity and mistrust before. That is the essence of the welcome and hospitality that a true Feast can produce.
One of the simplest and yet most profound of George Herbert’s poems “Love Bade me Welcome” uses the imagery of a guest hanging back on the edge of a meal- and uses that imagery of being invited to eat as representing the love and welcome of God. All that is needed is to step over the threshold of fear and self- perceived unworthiness to join the feast.
“My dear, then I will serve You must sit down, says love, and taste my meat: So I did sit and eat”