Eating Liturgically

This blog is written by Erika Plank Hagan, member of St. Stephen’s, Ridgefield, and was featured in the September edition of the Northeast Region Newsletter. At the bottom of the blog, you can learn more about Erika and Eating Liturgically.

Extra credit: there is a recipe, please comment if you tried out the recipe!

I first started living the liturgical calendar when I was chair of Altar Guild at my home parish of St. Stephens in Ridgefield. Before then I knew what season we were in, of course. The blues and pinks of Advent, the purple starkness of Lent, and the never-ending green of Pentecost were familiar to me. But as Altar Guild chair, I had to anticipate what was coming to be sure we had all we needed. I carried two calendars in my head – the secular one of my work and home, and the liturgical one of my faith. I became fascinated with this calendar – not just Sundays when I needed to set up for Eucharist, but all those in between days of the week too.

As a New Year’s Resolution in 2017, I decided to *eat* liturgically. Our Book of Common Prayer lays out Feast Days and Fast Days. Every Sunday is a Feast Day (so go ahead and enjoy coffee hour!), and every Friday is a Fast Day. There are also Feast Days celebrated throughout the calendar – Holy Days and Saints days of Apostles and Evangelists. They are “red letter” days on your Episcopal Calendar.

I need to eat every day. It’s how God made me. So, when I plan my meals for a day, I do so mindfully around our Episcopal liturgical calendar. Each morning I can reorient my day, my self, to God. This is one way I embrace “Turn” in the Way of Love – by Eating Liturgically, I turn myself towards the liturgical calendar rather than the secular one.One of the keys to making this eating experiment meaningful, I’ve found, is taking carenot to feast on non-Feast Days. By saving my treats for Sunday, I enjoy the treats and the day more. It feels like rejoicing instead of just…eating.

(image credit: Wiki Commons - Icon from the royal gates of the central iconostasis of the Kazan Cathedral in St.-Petersburgh)

And when a Saint’s Day appears in the week, it feels a bit like waking up to a snow day on a day you have a project due in school you’re not quite prepared for. Whoo-hoo! By keeping Feast Days unique and special, when they arrive it is a wonderful feeling.The feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist falls on October 18  every year. Unless it’s on a Sunday, then it’s celebrated on Monday, October 19…but that’s not in the cards this year. This year, it’s on a Friday, which you will recall is usually a Fast Day. Now that I’m many years into this discipline, I am delighted each year at how the same calendar feels new depending on what it bumps up against in the secular calendar. This year, we don’t fast, we feast! Last year, it was a Thursday, and we remembered it fondly as we fasted the next day. Next year, it will be bumped from Sunday to Monday the 19th, and we will think of how Christ and the celebration of His Resurrection on Sundays is the most important focus of who we are in our calendar.

The tradition of eating special or specific foods on Saints Feast Days is old. It’s older than our Anglican church. I’ve found recipes and songs mentioning saint’s day foods going back to the middle ages. I’m sure this kind of tradition is older than Christianity. We humans love to eat, and to remember important things using food.

Saint Luke is the patron saint of, among other things, butchers. In artwork he’s often symbolized by a winged ox or calf. For my household, dinner on the Feast of Saint Luke the Evangelist means Crock Roast. My husband travels for work and is usually gone over this week, so my solo-parenting self appreciates using the crock pot. It’s autumn and getting chilly, and a warm, savory, roast is just the thing. It is ironic that while I enjoy talking about food and planning food, I’m not a great cooker of food.

Here’s my go-to, easy-enough-for-someone-like-me-who-doesn’t-like-to-cook-but-still-wants-delicious-roast recipe from dinnerthendessert.com:

Ingredients

  • 4-5 pound chuck roast
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound carrots peeled and cut into 2″ chunks
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • minced parsley optional, to garnish

Instructions

  1. Season the chuck roast with the Kosher salt, pepper and thyme (if you are sensitive to sodium, adjust to your taste or you can even leave the salt out altogether since you’re adding broth).
  2. Heat your pan (or if you can brown in your slow cooker, do it in that insert to medium high.
  3. Add the canola oil and when it ripples and is hot add in the roast and brown, deeply, for 4-5 minutes on each side.
  4. In your slow cooker add the carrots, potatoes and garlic.
  5. Lay the beef on top, then add the beef broth and cover, cooking on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 5-6 hours.
  6. In the last hour mix your cornstarch and water and add it to the slow cooker to thicken the sauce or you can take the food out when done cooking, and add the leftover liquid to a small saucepan with the cornstarch/water mixture and cook on high for just 2-3 minutes until the liquid is thickened into a gravy.
  7. Pour the gravy over the meat and garnish with parsley if desired.

St. Luke is also the patron saint of stained-glass workers, so I’m considering adding stained glass cookies to the meal plan for dessert. We’ll see what my busy October allows (if not this year, I know I’ll have another chance next year). If you have a good stained glass cookie recipe, do let me know!


About Eating Liturgically, from Erika’s website:

Hi! My name is Erika, and I am an Episcopalian, in formation for ordination to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church in CT.  I’ve been feeling an interesting tug in two directions these past few years, which seem to be in opposite directions.  One, towards monastic, ritualized, grounded ways of prayer and routines – praying at specific times, daily bible study, quiet regular meditation on scripture, a turning away from the mundane chaos of the day-to-day.  The other, fully embracing my work and life – God’s creation, my family, my physical being, with exercise and debates and lively conversation and keeping my household running and serving in lay ministry at my church.

Last year, around New Year’s Resolution time, I was thinking about food (as you do), and it seemed to me the two paths I’ve been drawn to can come together here.  The Episcopal Book of Common Prayer lays out feast days, and fast days.  The Liturgical Calendar lays out seasons of focus, of exploration in Christ.  I’m the main meal planner and dinner prepare-er in my household.  I eat everyday (my daily bread).  This idea of eating liturgically captivated me, and I made my “resolution” to focus on this and see where it led.

I came up with 4 distinct kinds of days – Feasting, Fasting, Fierce, and Fragile. As I plan my eating for each day, I prayerfully set my intention with God – for Joy and Feasting, for Creating Space and Fasting, for Going Forth and Working with Fierce Days, and for Healing and Comfort on Fragile Days.

Please note – I MADE THESE UP.  I know some religions and traditions are very specific on eating rules and what you do on what days at what times, and I think that can be wonderful.  I also think that can be limiting.  The Episcopal Church is encouraging in creating a framework if you choose to explore it, and this is my exploration.  This is not codified on a stone tablet from a mountain kinds of rules.  Please, please, please – explore on your own.

This website is some of what I’ve learned, a lot of recipes and research I’ve found, and my thoughts as I move forward.  I would love if this became a community of others who notice spirituality in the intersection of eating our daily bread and prayer – but even if others just find it interesting, I’m pleased to share.


Erika can be reached @eatingliturgically on Facebook and Instagram, and she blogs about this mindful meal planning journey on www.eatingliturgically.com.

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