Some tips from the book _How to Live a Holy Life_, by Metropolitan Gregory (Postaikov) of St. Petersburg (1784-1860) (Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY, 2005.)
In this book, there is a chapter entitled "How should We Conduct Ourselves During Meals?" which I thought would be a good follow up to yesterday's post about striving to overcome gluttony.
Metropolitan Gregory starts the chapter by saying that Christians should always begin and end every meal with fervent thanks to God. It is God who gives us food, gives us the ability to digest it and extract nutrients from it, puts the nutrition in it in the first place, and we should thank Him.
Now I will quote the book:
"Our meals should always be moderate. All the saints, who customarily watched strictly after themselves, say with one voice: 1)that very little is needed for satisfaction of our bodies; 2) that our bellies, by themselves, almost never know moderation; 3)that our bellies sometimes demand food even when they have had more than enough, and 4) that therefore to maintain moderation it is best to cease consumption of food when the urge to eat has still not completely subsided. St. John Chrysostom gave an excellent rule for observing moderation in food: "Eat just enough to alleviate your hunger." Another holy teacher said "You should not eat whatever you want, but eat what you have, and in a way that after eating and drinking, you still feel an urge for food."
Speaking of food, the saints very forcefully observed that lay people should consume very little, and that for monks, widowers, and widows it is best to completely avoid foods that are filling, stimulating, indigestible, good-tasting, or sweet. Good tasting or sweet foods because we very easily overindulge in such..." pp. 87-88
These are hard words. But not unfamiliar. I've read them elsewhere in older Christian writings. And each time I've read them I always leap to my own defense with a thousand excuses why surely this could not mean me.
And here are some wise quotes and scripture verses to think about:
Sirach Ch. 31:12 ff. has much to say about being at table, too:
"Do not reach out your hand for everything you see"...."Remember that a greedy eye is a bad thing"..."Eat like a human being what is set before you, and do not chew greedily, lest you be hated."..."Be the first to stop eating"..."How ample a little is for a well-disciplined man. He does not breathe heavily upon his bed."
"Let neither gluttony nor lust overcome me, and do not surrender me to a shameless soul."
Sirach 37: 27-31
"My son, test your soul while you live; see what is bad for it and do not give it that. For not everything is good for everyone, and not every person enjoys everything. Do not have an insatiable appetite for any luxury, and do not give yourself up to food; for overeating brings sickness, and gluttony leads to nausea. Many have died of gluttony, but he who is careful to avoid it prolongs his life." --the way I read this, it's saying that gluttony is not just bad for the body, but bad for the soul as well.
"Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying "Can God spread a table in the wilderness?..."
Oh, God have mercy on me! How often have I done this very thing by not trusting God to be the One who fills me up, who spreads a table before me, who is the bread of life? Instead I say to him: Can YOU spread a table in the wilderness of my heart? while turning my back on Him and choosing gluttonous consumption of food for comfort, or pleasure instead.
How can the Holy Spirit be our comforter if we are turning to comfort food?
And for a close to this collection of sayings, scripture verses and wisdom I offer this as a prayer:
"Two things I ask of thee; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny Thee and say 'Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor, and steal and profane the name of my God."