Within our collective presence in Gabriola Ecumenical Society, we have been transitioning to our 2022 theme “Nourishing the Spirit in Times Such As These”. Many of us, in conversations, acknowledged the obvious connection to food and how it nourishes our bodies, providing physical sustenance, healthy development and even pleasure. As the month of April unfolds, how are we expressing this nourishment through our spiritual rituals, expressive and communal gatherings and offerings to each other for spiritual nourishment? Several religious communities celebrate holy days in April this year and each of them has a traditional practice that symbolically connects food or physical nourishment with spiritual nourishment.
Islam – (April 2 – May 1st)
Ramadan is practised by abstaining from food and drink (even water) from sunrise till sunset for a full month. Typically, Muslims will eat a meal before dawn, pray, and then gather together at sunset to pray more and eat a festive meal (iftar) communally. Sometimes the celebration lasts until after midnight. The month of fasting, introspection and prayer is celebrated as the month during which Muhammad received the initial revelations of the Quran, the holy book for Muslims.
Sikhism – (April 14th))
Vaisakhi (or Baisakhi) marks the harvest festival and the Sikh New Year. A bountiful array of dishes, from spicy tandoori treats to cool lassi and sweet kheer are created to nourish the body and soul.
Judaism – (April 15th – 23rd)
Passover is shared by Jews all over the world, and observant Jews will strictly adhere to dietary restrictions. No leavened foods can be eaten during this time. Special unleavened flatbread – matzah – is eaten throughout the days of Passover, and is an important part of the ceremony called ‘seder’. Seder, which means ‘order’ in Hebrew, is structured with the help of a book called Haggadah which means “the telling”. The Haggadah provides the order for eating ceremonial foods and wine, the sequence of the story to be told and the presence of special plates with symbolic foods present on the table. The story told is one of redemption of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom.
Christianity – (April 17th)
Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Christian tradition there are many inclusions of or references to food at Easter. These include Roast Lamb (specifically related to Christ as “the Lamb of God”), and Easter breads such as Hot Cross Buns. Eucharist also known as Holy Communion and the Lord’s Supper is received or celebrated in all Christian traditions. This rite was instituted by Jesus during the Last Supper. Giving his disciples bread and wine during a Passover meal he referred to the bread as “my body” and the cup of wine as “the blood of my covenant which is poured out for many” and commanding them to “do this in memory of me.”
Bahá’í – (April 21st)
Ridvan (Paradise), continues for 12 days. It is considered to be the most important of the Bahá’í holy days. It is the day on which Bahá’u’lláh declared his mission as a Messenger of God. Typically, the community gathers outdoors to meet, pray and eat together celebrating the nourishment of the spirit.
As we all journey through the month of April, however you celebrate or share in others’ celebrations, consider these thoughts…
“When we take time to nourish our spirit, we become a stronger version of ourselves and are able to give more to others.” Anonymous
“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” Dorothy Day
When we speak of God, may it be the God of your own understanding, and when we speak of times of great stress, may we find ways of ‘Nourishing the Spirit in Times Such as These’! Happy April, happy Spring!