The Kitchen Table - by Lisa Treacy
One of our greatest treasures in our wee Old Town house is our kitchen table. We used to have one just like it when we lived in Northern Ireland - it sat in a sunlit corner of our kitchen playing chopping, crafting, snacking, feasting surface all in the one week. Like its Irish twin, our current table is round, holding 4 comfortably and 6 if we breath in. We can add a leaf, welcoming 2 more or 4 at a push!
There’s such beauty in a round table - no corners to back someone into; no one left dangling awkwardly on the quiet end; everyone equidistant from the center. Family and friends are ushered to this table that ‘holds’ us - welcoming all into its well worn embrace. It soaks up and serves back all the dreams and tears, laughter and revelations that have been shared at its rim.
It could do with a lick of paint I guess, but there’s something precious in the scratches and the stains and the imprints of words. One day I’m going to take a pencil rubbing of that table top with the careful attention of those lifting a memory of an broken gravestone. It’s a memorial to the ancient truths, a place were we exhort each other to remember the goodness of God.
I love when we come together round that table for a moment or a few hours, then we scatter to our other tables in our various worlds. Coming and going, coming and going, coming and going. The table renews, invigorates and heals then sends us on our way with fullness as our faithful companion. Each meal a Eucharistic offering, a place where all are welcome at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Us Northern Irish people are known for our kitchen tables and our gift of hospitality. Like one of Ireland’s patron saints, St Brigid of Kildare, we can be recklessly generous. Living in 5th century Ireland Brigid was known for her generosity and miracles of abundance. It’s said that one day she gave away all of her butter only to find the butter dish full again. Her prayers for plenty were never for herself but always to meet the needs of others.
That’s the thing about recklessly generous hospitality - it’s not self-indulgence. It’s other centered with the pleasure and satisfaction coming from seeing our guests sustained and refreshed. As we plan the menu and buy the groceries, set the table and prepare the food, we’re engaging in holy, sacramental moments. We’re pouring out ourselves in the service of others and it opens up sacred spaces where heaven and earth are not far apart. On offer around the kitchen table are gifts of love, mercy and grace. There are introductions to Jehovah-Jireh - the Provider who reveals himself unceasingly in that place. So, let us be reckless with those introductions, watching with great delight as the children of God feast in His presence, and let us join with St Brigid and pray:
I should like a great lake of finest ale
For the King of kings.
I should like a table of the choicest food
For the family of heaven.
Let the ale be made of the fruits of faith,
And the food be forgiving love.
I should welcome the poor to my feast,
For they are God’s children.
I should welcome the sick to my feast,
For they are God’s joy.
Let the poor sit with Jesus at the highest place,
And the sick dance with the angels.
God bless the poor,
God bless the sick,
And bless our human race.
God bless our food,
God bless our drink,
All homes, O God, embrace.