The Table

candlelight chili and Sparkle Stories

Read. Meditate. Pray. Contemplate.  A process for scriptural study often known as lectio divina.

Jenny Rallens describes lectio divina in the learning process this way:
One of the most prevalent medieval liturgies for learning something is a three-step liturgy expressed in the metaphor of honey-making. . .First, a bee flies around as we know and it collects nectar; second, it digests the nectar; and thirdly, that digestion results in the production of honey.
These three stages of honey-making, the medievals said, correspond to the three stages by which anything is truly learned in a way that it is internalized, in a way that it can shape the heart. . . In other words, first you collect from what you are learning, then you spend time digesting [connecting it to precious knowledge] it, last of all you compose [or create] with it both by creating external things and by living a life that is shaped by what you have been studying.

(See her talk linked in a video included a previous post about liturgy resources, or a similar paper, quoted above, here.)

Inspired by my friend Heidi at Mt Hope Chronicles, I'm gathering my recent reading on the metaphor of the table in classical education (and in life) and pulling it through the form of lectio divina as described by Jenny.  Enjoy.


Looking back, it was Dr. Christopher Perrin's discussion on the definition of classical education that began a wave of references to the table in my liturgy reading and research:

Classical Education is like. . . a table [among other things].
The monasteries were characterized by all three of these analogies [the museum, the cathedral, and the garden] including one more important analogy: the table.  Classical education is like a table, in which we sit down with wonderful people to restfully engage and discuss that which is true, good, and beautiful: the best that's come down to us.  To feast on truth and goodness and beauty.
And then I began reading The Lifegiving Home, by Sally and Sarah Clarkson, and came across this quote from Sarah:

When someone asked me just what it was that my parents did that made me believe in God, without even thinking I said, "I think was the French toast on Saturday mornings and coffee and Celtic music and discussions and candlelight in the evenings. .  ." Because in those moments I tasted and saw the goodness of God in a way I couldn't ignore.


As I've been sitting with those two quotes, one about education and the other more about parenting and discipleship (but are they very different?), and musing over the physical and metaphorical imagery of the table, I have continued gathering connecting ideas.

Particularly timely has been my reading of Shauna Niequist's Bread & Wine.  This is a lovely book with far too many related passages to include here, so I'll settle for this quote:

What's becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God's presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. . . I love the sounds and smells and textures of life at the table, hands passing bowls and forks clinking against plates and bread being torn and the rhythm and energy of feeding and being fed. . .It's not, actually, strictly about food for me.  It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, and look into one another's faces, listen to one another's stories.

From Own Your Life, also by Sally Clarkson:
Jesus held a picnic and satisfied the hunger of thousands of people several times - He didn't just talk truth; He satiated the hunger of  rumbling stomachs. . . People do not long for a philosophy; they long for relationship.

There are numerous instances of the table in hymns and praise songs, including this lovely example:

From The Dinner Table as a Place of Connection, Brokenness, and Blessing, by Barry Jones [The entire article is a must read.]:

Tables are one of the most important places of human connection. We’re often most fully alive to life when sharing a meal around a table. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, to find that throughout the Bible God has a way of showing up at tables. In fact, it’s worth noting that at the center of the spiritual lives of God’s people in both the Old and New Testaments, we find a table: the table of Passover and the table of Communion. . .  I’m convinced that one of the most important spiritual disciplines for us to recover in the kind of world in which we live is the discipline of table fellowship. In the fast-paced, tech-saturated, attention-deficit-disordered culture in which we find ourselves, Christians need to recover the art of a slow meal around a table with people we care about.


Table cloth ironing not required.

Invitation.  This is where it comes together for me.  As a parent educator, I do require and compel certain behaviors and activities from my children, because I love them dearly and I long for good things to be in and around them.  Christ, at his own last supper, commands his disciples, "Do this," because he knows they will need the grounding and the comfort of the communion liturgy in the days ahead.

Clearly there is a place for directives.

And yet, does Jesus not first kneel before his men and wash their feet?  Does he not first have the Passover meal carefully prepared and then invite them through humble service to join him there?  Table fellowship indeed.


What does the table mean for me, as mother and educator? For my children/students, I invite them with welcome and service to partake both joy and knowledge with me.  A few ways I do: special coffee shop trips for treats and schoolwork; morning breakfasts with a few extra touches; poetry tea times (with friends and without); hosting their friends (and mamas!) for Book Detectives, our parent-child book club.

Jones says later in his article, "The table is the place where broken sinners find connection and belonging." Who am I but a broken sinner leaning toward the gospel?  Who are my children but broken sinners needing to see gospel love lived out in a way they can touch and taste and see?  And so, on hard days, in the middle of terrible weeks, I make a treat, light the candles, and invite my little tribe together to read poetry, discuss literature, draw maps with the fancy pencils, or listen to an audio-book we all love.  Their eyes are wide in wonder because they know I could just as easily have to put them all to bed early.

My daughter said to me on one such occasion, "Mom, you must be the best mom in the whole world."  I asked, "Because I give you cookies when you probably should go to bed early?"  She responded, "No!  Although I do like cookies.  It's because you keep trying.  You never stop trying to bring us back together."


From The Life-Giving Home:
I am convinced that feasting can be a form of worship, and acknowledgement of God's desire to create an abundant life to be enjoyed.  The table can provide pleasure for all of our senses, give comfort and rest amidst the weariness of daily life, and carve out a space where we cultivate community and draw closer to one another.  When we choose to feast together - take the trouble to make each meal, however humble, an occasion for mindfulness and gratitude - we acknowledge God's artistry and provision and draw closer to Him as well.


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