Another re-post of a popular item from my previous blog, lightly edited:
I’m a bit hardline when it comes to praying before meals. I think we should; every time. Meals are eucharistic; they are a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. Meals mark the most important events of our lives, funerals, weddings, engagements, dates; they all happen at the table. It is so sad when people are too embarrassed to pray together. Every family can begin the habit with their children when they are young and carry on. Children love to ‘say grace’. If it is started young; if it is done every time, even the most hardened teenager will want to pray; and, when they are away from home, miss it. Meals keep us alive; if for nothing else we should thank God for that. Praying before meals in restaurants is one of the last public witnesses to faith that we have. Just do it.
Being a liturgically minded sort of person, and not having any children, I like these two books of graces which provide a structured and rather beautiful way to give thanks before meals.
To Thank and Bless, Dietrich Reinhart, Liturgical Press 2007, comes from the monks of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville. This is the book we use at home most often. The prayers are carefully structured so that an initial opening section has an ending common to the liturgical season which leads into a common response, there then follows a collect. Thus a people’s card can be produced with the common endings and responses on and only the leader needs the book. Here’s the formula for Ascension Day:
Blest are those who are called to feast
with the ascended Lord
and to celebrate his glorious triumph over death.
For behold, Jesus died
and now lives with the Father for evermore. Alleluia.
All: He has gone before us, yet he is with us for all time. Alleluia.
send your blessing upon us and upon this food
as you sent it upon your disciples
at your ascension.
raise us to new life with you,
here at this table and in your heavenly kingdom,
for ever and ever. Amen.
There is also a prayer provided for the end of each meal. I have to say that at home we settle for:
Let us bless the Lord: Thanks be to God.
But here is the prayer for Ascension Day:
God of the heights and depths,
heaven is wedded to earth in your Son, Jesus Christ.
All thanksgiving be yours
for nourishing us with gifts of body and spirit,
through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessings of the Table, Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, Gracewing 2003
Is a nicely produced and illustrated book. However, each person would need a book. An optional Scripture reading is given which would probably be a bit much for most families and the Lord’s Prayer is suggested, very appropriately, with its ‘daily bread’. The prayers are rather more long-winded and, generally, I prefer the Collegeville texts. Here is the prayer for Ascension Day:
Optional Reading: Mark 16:14-20
Leader: O Lord, the angels were amazed at your ascension.
All: they were dazzled as they beheld you rising upon the clouds.
Optional Lord’s Prayer
O Lord, life-giving Christ,
after fulfilling for us your plan of redemption,
from the Mount of Olives you ascended in glory,
in the presence of your disciples.
You are now enthroned at the right hand of God,
and from heaven you sent to us the Holy Spirit,
to enlighten, strengthen and save us.
Send your blessing upon and upon this table today,
as you sent it upon your disciples before your departure,
and may this food nourish us for your service. Amen.
The formula we use most at home is the traditional one, which we know by heart:
Leader: The eyes of all wait upon you Lord.
All: And you give them their food in due season.
Leader: you open wide your hands:
All: And fill all things living with your plenty.
Bless, O Lord, this food for our use and ourselves for your service, making us ever more mindful of the needs of others. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
David Goode also published Food in Due Season, Canterbury Press, 2005, which has excellent seasonal graces. One of the best formulas in it is the initial:
Make a blessing!
repeated by all and which echoes both Jewish prayers and the old liturgical formula: “Pray Father, a blessing.”