One hardly hears anyone saying ‘Grace’ and giving thanks before eating their dinner these days! As we enter the Christmas and holiday season, I wonder sometimes just how many folks still say “Thank you, My Lord” before each meal – whatever they consider God to be.

Did you know that the concept of saying Grace at mealtimes goes back a very long way? In the ancient Indian spiritual classic, the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Lord Krishna says to Arjuna : “The Devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (3:13) This statement, which at the outset may seem rather alarming in view of our restaurant culture here in Australia, intimates the importance of remembering where our food came from before we tuck into a hearty meal. Other living beings have had to sacrifice their lives so that we can continue ours.

In the Christian scriptures we learn that St. Paul himself said Grace : “….he gave thanks in the presence of them all” for the food they had before them. [Acts 27:35] In the Catholic Encyclopedia we read that : “This custom is frequently emphasized as an important family ritual to carry over the spirit of the day’s liturgical prayer, especially at morning and evening, as well as to acknowledge God in a prayer of blessing for His providence in offering sustenance for His creatures. This derives largely from the important Jewish domestic ritual custom of offering special prayers at mealtimes, especially the weekly sabbath meal and the annual seder.” – this being the first night of the Jewish Passover.

It is interesting to note that the word is a relic of the old phrase ‘to do graces’, meaning to render thanks from the French ‘rendre graces’ or the Latin ‘gratias agere’and therefore it can be infererred as not relating necessarily to a shallow religious observance only.

For myself, I strongly believe saying Grace is another opportunity we have for reflecting on Life’s questions. By giving thanks outwardly for our food, we thereby pay homage and connect in a limited way with the One Divine Creative Principle and therefore All Life. Saying Grace can assist in leading us to better dietary habits by making us more thoughtful of what we eat and seeing how our sustenance is connected with this, All Life. In particular it should lead us to be less destructive of other life forms in what we routinely consume and realize the sacrifice of other lives to sustain us. By saying Grace, it gives us the opportunity to reflect deeper on the types of food we eat and to develop heightened spiritual sensitivity. We have occasion to remember and empathize with those who are not so fortunate as ourselves to have a wholesome meal to eat and resolve to help them when we can. Saying Grace is just another little way in which we can connect regularly with spiritual realities and realize that we are all One in Spirit and therfore be more sensitive to our opportunities each day to help other sentient beings. I thoroughly recommend everyone to say Grace not just over the Christmas meal, but everyday and ponder on some of these ideas.

The old saying ‘Food for Thought’ takes on a whole new meaning when we look at our daily meal this way!