February 1, 2012

On Pot Roast and Black Vestments

This post may get me in trouble and I don't care. It's all in fun. Some of it anyway.

Yesterday it was my turn to make supper here at the friary. As I spent the afternoon mashing potatoes and attending to my pot roast simmering away amid onions and carrots, I thought that the brothers were really going to like their meal. And indeed, they ate it all up.

As I was cooking something funny struck me. As generally 'left-of-center,' 'liberal,' or 'progressive' mainstream religious life is about religion and liturgy, it is certainly traddy about what it wants for dinner. Religious might be slightly or not-so-slightly allergic to the traditions of the institute and those of the faith in general, but they sure seem to prefer a traditional meal.

Some real-life examples will bring my point into focus.

One might be scolded or 'corrected' for his failure to adjust the words of the liturgy according to the intuitions of feminism, but he would be in just as much trouble--if not more--if he suggested that feminist theory ought to critique and adjust what we have for dinner. (See the classic treatment, The Sexual Politics of Meat, by Carol J. Adams.)

It would be just as transgressive to wear black vestments, or, God forbid, want to pray in Latin or sing Gregorian Chant (even though these remain norms to this day), as it would be to try to serve a meal that wasn't in accord with the traditional, American, meat-centered diet.

This is amusing to me in part because of one of the doctrines I was taught in my formation in religious life: that of the 'two tables.' It was said that our common life revolved around an axis formed by two tables: the one being the altar of the Eucharist, and the other being the table of the dining room or refectory. Now like a lot of things I was taught early on in my religious life, I have come to critique this teaching. I think it has been to easy a path to certain enervating errors from which we suffer, but that's another post.

I just think it's funny that at one table traditionalism is prized and unorthodox experimentation condemned, while at the other table things tend toward being the other way around.

I guess I would feel a little more at home if things fell the other way, but who knows. But don't mind me, I'm going to put on my black maniple and make some quinoa for lunch.


K T Cat said...

Experimentation at the Altar is only prized by the ones doing it. The rest of us all wish you would just give it a rest and say Mass.


Sara said...

Well I think it's funny.

Also funny is how traditional people's roles are at the dinner table- not sure if that's true in religious life, but certainly out here. It would be almost as bad to have someone different cook (or carve) the turkey, as it would be to eat something other than turkey.

Anonymous said...

There's an old Anglican saw that goes something along the lines of - a bishop can be progressive in his lifestyle or in his theology, but not both.

I suppose the church is a kind of bridge. Somehow, we have to keep both anchorages in place.


Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

I'm with K T Cat on this one.