Today, as folks would say back home in Tennessee, is a travelin’ day. Today, airports are packed with parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins on their way to visit children and grandchildren and nieces and nephews and cousins, while highways are jammed with college students caravanning home for the extra-long weekend.
Here an obvious analogy could be made: just as today people are making the journey to be with the ones whom they love and who love them, so our very life is a journey towards the One whom we love and who loves us first. This is true and profound, but let’s admit it—the life-as-journey paradigm has become a little cliché.
Now I don’t want to be entirely dismissive here, because much good could be said: God is our final end for whom we strive and towards whom we naturally tend; Scripture is full of walking and traveling imagery which clearly symbolizes our lives; suffering, sin, and various other obstacles seem to stand in our way, but grace enables us to overcome them. Still, these things aside, I quickly become wearied by articulations of spiritual truths that sound as if they were propounded by a teenager who’s listened to too much Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix: “Life . . . it’s a journey, man.”
But today is not just a travelin’ day; today is also a day of preparation. Obedient children are frantically sweeping, dusting, and vacuuming the house to prepare for incoming guests (the disobedient are still deliberating), while turkey chefs are reviewing their recipes to make sure they won’t forget anything tomorrow (I have no doubt that my mother will send my sister to the grocery store at least two or three times today).
Here another analogy can be made: just as today people are preparing their homes for guests, so our very life is a preparation for receiving a divine Guest; just as today people are preparing their kitchens for a feast, so our very life is a preparation for the eternal banquet.
Thanksgiving guests who will arrive today are coming early—the feast isn’t until tomorrow. God, our divine Guest, also comes to us before the eternal feast—he comes to us during this life, now, today. Why? Because for the eternal feast, our own preparations are ultimately insufficient. Only God can make those eternal preparations, so he comes to make our hearts ready. But God does not remain a Guest. He invites us to his heavenly banquet—and there, we are no longer guests, but sons and daughters: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are . . . Beloved, we are God’s children now” (1 Jn 3:1–2).
Over the years, I was scolded by my mother countless times for eating bits of the food before the dinner itself—a piece of turkey here, a spoonful of mashed potatoes there—and rightly so, because the food is for the feast. But it’s different with God. He wants us to taste of the eternal feast prepared for us in heaven, so he gives us a Sacred Banquet here below, in which Christ becomes our food, the memory of his passion is celebrated, the soul is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us. He has given us bread from heaven, having all sweetness within it.
Image: Fra Angelico, Communion of the Apostles