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"I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them."
In her inimitable style of memoir and personal reflection, Nora Gallagher explores the ...
"I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together. What they made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them."
In her inimitable style of memoir and personal reflection, Nora Gallagher explores the beauty and mystery of this most fascinating of topics. Whether exploring the history of Christian Communion, taking us inside the workings of a soup kitchen or sharing times of joy and sadness with friends, the author reminds us what it means to partake of and be part of the body of Christ.
The Ancient Practices is an eight-book series with staggered releases through February 2010. Though various books have covered some of these spiritual disciplines, there has never been an attempt at a definitive series until now. Immensely compelling and readable, each classic book features a foreword by Phyllis Tickle, the general editor.
Posted January 11, 2013
So I got this book a few years ago from booksneeze. I forgot about it until I got an email from them going if you haven’t reviewed a book your account will be suspended. Here I am, going to write some thoughts about this instead of a review.
To start I really don’t know why I actually requested it. I think I was new to Booksneeze and I just requested the first thing that seemed interesting. But when I got it. I found it completely totally utterly was not my type at all.
I have to say this was a Did not finish for me. I never not finish anything, but this was the first. I think I was more expecting to be sort of kind of factual reasonings and it was more one woman’s journey through various types of communions she’s experienced.
So I’m not going to rate this because it was out of my element and I don’t it is fair to rate something I don’t normally read.
Posted November 2, 2011
The Sacred Meal is a part of the 8 book "The Ancient Practices Series" from Thomas Nelson. It is also now the third one I have read in this series, and I must say that I enjoyed this more than the others(Fasting by Douglas Leblanc and The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister). This is clearly a touchy subject but the approach of this series is not to push for the right answers or argue for the proper interpretation.
In The Sacred Meal, Nora Gallagher gives us a balance of the history of the Eucharist(writing herself from an Episcopalian perspective, although not limited to that)as well as some personal experiences she had in different settings. The poignancy of celebrating it in a soup kitchen is remarkable and is very telling as relates to the idea of getting our fill from Christ.
This book was a quick read and would definitely be recommended for anyone looking for some different examples of celebrating Communion outside of what you're used to.
Posted May 18, 2011
I did however want to blog about the lates book I have read from Book Sneeze. I recieve this books at no charge to read and review. They are only sent to me for review. The latest Book I have read is the Sacred Meal. this book is a very enlightening book about the ritual aspects of Communion and the personal aspects. I don´t know about you but when I took communion in church I always thought of it as the body and blood of Christ and all that He had sacrficed for me. After reading this book I now look at Communion in a semi different way, meaning I still know it represents the body and blood of Christ but it also represents Community. Communnion mean community to bring together people from all walks of life to one place. The place where Jesus brought us all, where he gave all that He had for all of us. I have always cried at Communion as I rememeber what Christ did for me, but now I also experience joy and everlasing peace and love for those around me. This book opened my eyes to not just thik of Christ´s death but to see and bring myself to a place to humble myself to remember his life. What Christ did at Calvary is a part of his life but His love was the greatest gift he coulld give. I now recieve His love with humbleness and grace and long to share Hs love with others around me. This book is a very good read and I hope you will look for it at your local book stores and read it wth an open and willing heart.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 20, 2011
The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher is a book published by Thomas Nelson in 2009. The subject of the book is the taking of communion, or the Eucharist. In the book the author shares various communion experiences that she has had. She mentions the first time she saw communion served, when she served communion, and many other memorable experiences that she saw as communion. While this book was very interesting to me and did make me want to take communion again it did have several faults. First, there were several historical inaccuracies. Second, She went down many rabbit trails about the so called American empire, environmentalism, and anti-capitalism. She seemed to compare running a soup kitchen to saving and endangered animal. Third, while she was writing about an ancient Christian practice, she quoted Buddhist monks, Female Rabis, Muslim leaders, and other people who have not reason being included in a book about a Christian practice. I can hardly understand why she would talk about communion one sentence than in the next she would talk about her yoga class, a Jewish celebration she attended, the feast of Ramadan, or what a Buddhist monk said to her friend. All in all she deviated from her topic very often and i would not recommend this book to anybody. I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2011
I received the book The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher as part of the BookSneeze blogger review program. I was not asked to give a favorable review in exchange for this book.
I won't be giving this book a favorable review.
Mrs. Gallagher is a very good writer and story teller. If it weren't for those two details I wouldn't have been able to finish this book.
Sadly The Sacred Meal is more about experience and very little about Scripture and how it relates to the Lords table, more commonly referred to as Communion. I had hoped for better but was disappointed beyond words.
The title says "sacred" it doesn't seem like the author treats Communion as a sacred event in the spiritual life of a Christian. She even contends that anyone should be able to practice Communion and claims those who prohibit non-believers from receiving communion as belonging to a "special club" (page 90). I was less than impressed.
I'm very sorry but I can't recommend this book. I'll be speaking more about this book and how it relates to scripture on a future What Color is the Sky in Their World podcast.
Posted March 27, 2011
This is the sixth book in the eight-book Ancient Practices series published by Thomas Nelson.
The author shares several personal experiences surrounding her service of Communion as a Lay Eucharistic Minister. Each story unearths another level of community and connection via celebration of the Lord's Supper.
Ultimately, she concludes that the practice of Holy Communion is an important window into experiencing the "ongoing incarnation" of Jesus Christ.
If you are interested in learning about how you, too, can experience the Incarnation via the sacred meal, then I recommend this book.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in return for my unbiased review.
Posted March 26, 2011
The Sacred Meal is an accessibly written book on the sacred practice of Christian communion. The book's author, Nora Gallagher, uses personal story to help us gaze at the wonder of the experience of the Table from many different vantage points. This is not a theological treatise of the Lord's Table nor is it meant to be. Instead we are invited to enter into the understanding of communion as a spiritual practice. Gallagher defines spiritual practice as: "A practice is something that connects us to a world much older than ourselves, something that is re-created and made new by our participation." She challenges any cerebral understanding we have and encourages us to allow the experience of coming to the Table to be a place of meeting with God and others. For those who are expecting more theology, this book will be a disappointment. For those who hold more traditional understandings of communion, this book will confront presuppositions in maybe some tender places. But for those who want to read a book that helps enlarge your practice of communion as you worship each week, this book is a good resource for you. It will help expand your thinking and possibly your ability to enter into the wonder and mystery of what Jesus invites us to as His people.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted March 25, 2011
In her book The Sacred Meal, Nora Gallagher reflects on the Christian practice of Communion, or the Eucharist. She draws from her experiences while training to be an Episcopal priest, as well as from social historical issues. This book is part of The Ancient Practices Series, and I found myself wanting more emphasis on the ancient, Biblical aspects of Communion. I identified with and agreed with many of Gallagher's statements, but felt that the book lacked focus and a clear message. Still, I recommend this book to anyone looking for a thoughtful reflection on the role of Communion in the Christian walk.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 23, 2011
So far, every book I've reviewed from The Ancient Practices series is very explanatory, and easy to understand. This one, by Nora Gallagher, explains communion in thick answers like the rest of the books, which is very nice for those who don't understand the meaning behind the subjects. That's why I've been collecting the book series so I can understand more behind the Christian faith. I grew up Christian, but never paid enough attention as a child to fully understand, so far, this series is helping alot. Its great to see these authors also putting in their own life stories about what they write about to help you understand different reactions about communion, and the Sabbath, ect.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 19, 2011
The Sacred Meal The Ancient Practices Series By Nora Gallagher, Phyllis Tickle Published by Thomas Nelson The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher wasn't quite the work I had expected. Deceptively "light" in it's warm and personal presentation, it is a slim volume filled with deep insights and touching, memorable tales. Rooted in personal memoir and reflection, it takes the reader on an eye opening discovery of Communion and faith. From student protests in Czechoslovakia to the "blessed" dirt of Sanctuario in New Mexico to a Catholic church in a small French village, the story weaves a pathway through differing cultures and religious practices, while keeping the connecting thread of Communion and biblical tradition strongly in hand. Quotes from Heda Kovaly's memoir of Auschwitz survival, to the poet Rilke, as well as the author's own experiences of working in a soup kitchen are represented; and each blend to enrich and embellish the other. In one of my favorite chapters, Magic And Thanksgiving, the reader is reminded that: Eucharist in Greek can be translated "thanksgiving". Holy Communion is a way of saying thanks. It points toward abundance. Its lineage may not be so much The Last Supper with its emphasis on sacrifice and death, but more the feeding of the five thousand with its images of abundance and gratitude. Part of the Ancient Practices Series, Ms. Gallagher's touching, and most of all memorable work, has inspired me to seek out and learn from the other volumes. The Sacred Meal, is, at its heart, an affirmation of the connection of the human spirit. A reminder that each of us are God's children, and all are invited to come together to learn, take joy, and find comfort in Communion, the most sacred of meals. Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Disclosure in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 3, 2011
I thought this was a wonderful book. I would definitely recommend this for any Christian who wants to know more about the Eucharist. The author is Episcopalian, but she does a wonderful job of writing a book that any Christian can enjoy.
This book really made me think about the way I view the Eucharist. There's a chapter on the history of the Eucharist, myths about the Eucharist, and more. It really was a wonderful book.
I recieved this book free from the publisher through BookSneeze in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Posted January 23, 2011
I started reading this book with some ulterior motives - communion felt like just another part of church and I wanted to know what it should feel like. Gallagher explains what reaction communion should elicit in us by showing its impact in our daily lives. She honestly discusses her own challenges, faults, and doubts, fitting them into the communion framework. It is written as a memoir that teaches, giving emotional insight to the process.
Communion is a mysterious ritual, which I always believed had to do with remembrance, nothing more, but Gallagher separates communion into three main elements: the waiting, the receiving, and what comes after. As opposed to just another part of church, she says the practice of communion helps us "stay awake" in our faith and work "the muscle of our soul." (57)
"The Sacred Meal" is a book you can read without having to have a concordance or dictionary close at hand, which makes it great for those who want to understand communion emotionally. Her style is accessible (again, memoir-style) and surprised me with its readability.
However, the chapters are fairly free-associative; I often had to step back and try to remember how the chapter got where it was. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the emotional side of communion and what role we have to play in taking it (contrary to my thinking, it's not just 'sit and think about Jesus dying and be grateful.') It challenges, but doesn't accuse the reader of being wrong or insist that there is only one way to be Christian.
I have mixed feelings about some of her theology, but there are concepts I agree with and enjoyed reading. I do not regret reading it and know that it has caused me to look at some things in a new light.
I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze review bloggers' program. I was not required to write a positive review, and these opinions are mine.
Posted January 14, 2011
Nora Gallagher is a writer who lives in Santa Barbara and she is preacher-in-residence at Trinity Episcopal Church, Santa Barbara, and sits on the advisory board of the Yale Divinity School. Her other books include Changing Light and Practicing Ressurection.
As you could probably surmise from the title, The Sacred Meal is about the Lord's table or communion. To be honest, I was excited to read this book as Communion is one of my favorite forms of worship in church. It's a time in the service when you get to take part in the service through action and eating! (what could be more fun that that?) There is just something eternally sacred about staring into a tiny cup of juice and believing it is the representation of Christ's blood.
Communion is very internal. It's something that we all do together as a collected body, but I think most would agree it's not a "shared experience." Communion is personal, it's private. If I ever look around at other people, it's mostly made up of people like me - people staring into their cups, others with eyes closed, some praying, some crying.
So I think from an editor like Phyllis Tickle, I wasn't expecting a book that discusses the history and grand boredom of all that communion encompasses. As someone who administers communion, rather than is an "expert" at it; Nora Gallagher rather approaches this writing in the only she can and that's by sharing her experiences and feelings concerning it.
One of my favorite quotes that shows this personal tale is on page 64. "As I served (communion) Sunday after Sunday, I stopped being so terrified, but I often felt I was in the middle of a collision between the divine and the human. As I grew more used to it, I began to step out of the way. Like a pane of glass, I was the translucent medium through which light passed."
Jesus taught through the art of story, he wasn't "plain" and direct in his speech and I suppose some could critique Gallagher for trying to teach her readers the same way. Rather than explain communion she dives into a conversation with you and invites you to see the practice though her eyes.
Because let's face it, Communion is mysterious. On the one hand it's a stale cracker that sits in a cupboard for a month behind the church stage, coupled with a tiny drop of welches grapejucie. But ask anyone who has shared in this ancient practice and they will tell you. it's deeply spiritual, it's wholly wonderful, it's beautiful, it's meaningful and it's available to us all.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants something more than a pastor's library book or a seminary textbook. I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates the art of storytelling and the sacred practice of the shared testimony.
Take and drink
Posted January 11, 2011
The body brutally broken for us. The blood mercifully shed for us. This is the heart of Christianity. This is what communion is about. This book is about the author's personal insight and experiences with communion. It is supposed to answer your questions about the Sacred Meal.
The majority of this book is filled with personal experiences "about communion", though almost all of them have nothing to do with communion. Some may be good Christian testimonies, but I don't think they belong in a book about "communion". Further, it scarcely speaks of the first communion, the Last Supper, and slightly more often (though not nearly enough) does it speak of Jesus.
There are many things I disagree with in this book; most are flat-out, hands-down false teachings when placed next to the Bible. Here's a few examples of the poisonous doctrines mixed throughout the text:
TSM: Communion is all about community. P.6,11-13
MR(My Refute): Recall what Jesus said, Luke 22:19 "...This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Remembrance of JESUS, not the community.
TSM: When Jesus turned water to wine at the wedding feast, the wine was "hidden" in the water; Jesus found and restored it. P. 65-66
MR: Really now? Is Dr.Pepper hidden inside a coconut? No. Jesus made (Greek - ginomai: to come into existence) the water into wine.
TSM: Nora speaks about how she "accidentally" ended up participating in an Islamic dance/prayer ritual and how amazing it was. P. 98-100
MR: The God of the Bible is not the some of that of the Quar'an. Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me."
TSM: We make Jesus into our personal savior; but he was half that, half political activist. P.111
MR: I don't know about you, but Jesus is my personal savior Couldn't he have been that and also against political corruption? Against corruption doesn't make him less a savior. I am all novel lover and I still love movies. I'm not half and half.
TSM: When we die, we become part of the earth, the birds, the trees, just like Jesus. P.134-137
MR: I was very disturbed by this choice morsel. While this theology may look dazzling in 3D and bring millions to the box office (Avatar), it is not in line with the Bible. 2Corinthians 5:8 ".we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord."
TSM: And finally, "We are all the ongoing incarnation." P.137
MR: No refute even necessary.
Zero stars. I strongly recommend you DO NOT read this book!
Posted December 14, 2010
As one who throughly enjoys history and is always blessed partaking in the ordinance of Communion, I was excited to read The Sacred Meal by Nora Gallagher. As a follower of Christ, I turn to Scripture, and the words of Jesus for explanation of the reason and method of this remembrance of His death for our sins found in I Corinthians 11:23-34.
I quickly discovered that Nora Gallagher does not believe as I do. I found a few nuggets of truth, but the Gospel message, Christ's life, and death were just made.common. I thought it might be best to just quote from this book to explain my opinion.
On the last night of his life, Jesus said, "Do this to remember me" (Luke 22:19 NLT) Many of us think these words, these last Supper words, mean that we're remembering Jesus when we drink of this cup and eat of this bread. (I sure did.) Well, of course we're remembering Jesus, but that should not be all we're doing. I don't think Jesus was interested in everyone just remembering him. What's the point of that? That puts Jesus in the category with the various celebrities who will do anything to get into the media so we'll remember they're still alive. Instead, I think Jesus wanted his disciples and everyone who came after him to remember what they had together, What they had made together. What it meant to be together. How the things he wanted them to do could not be done alone. How the things he did could not have been done without them. ~ pg. 23-24 (Anything God wants to accomplish, He can do, with or without us. )
Throughout this book, the author weaves The Lord's Supper, or Communion with feasts of other religions as common forms of fellowship. What Christians call fellowship, as in covered dish suppers, she also likens to Communion. This is contrary to I Corinthians 11:34, where Paul admonished those partaking to eat at home. On page 88, the author states, "Communion is so important to me that I don't think there should be rules about who can take it and who cannot."
On page 90, "If you make up a bunch of rules about who gets to take Communion and who doesn't, then Communion is reduced either to a special club with only certain kinds of people who are allowed in, or magic. "
Throughout this book, the Gospel of Jesus is watered down and void of true repentance. The Lord's Supper, Communion, a sacred meal, has been reduced to a common meal.
Posted December 3, 2010
Holy Communion was a web, a web of people being stitched together.
And tomorrow, we would need to be stitched together again.
Communion is not Communion without two or three "gathered in my name" (Matthew 18:20)
The sacred meal is a book that discuss about communion practice in today world, what is the meaning of the communion and its significant in today church. This book also explore the history and practice of communion from early Christian till now. It force us to think what actually communion? Many of us simply get into a routine and didn't give much thought about it.
As for my personal experience, i still remember vividly i got into a fight with my cousin because i think communion is pagan like tradition. I don't understand the significance of it. My cousin also get irritated at me because I am not someone who easily satisfied with an answer. This book definitely help me understand better. Now, i don't think it is pagan origin and its simply a tradition in a church. ( I am not someone who love to follow tradition, I am mostly a rebel and i need reason to believe)
This book definitely humbled me and answered my question. Below is the quote from the book that i love.
Communion is therefore, of necessity, a communal activity. It's unlike every other Christian practice in that sense. Communion is meant to be done together; it has to be done in community. You can pray alone and fast alone. You can even go on pilgrimage alone. But you can't take Communion alone. More than any other practice, taking Communion forces us to be with others, to stand with them in a circle or kneel at the altar rail or pass a tray of grape juice and cubes of bread. We are forced to be with strangers and people we don't like, persons of different colors and those with bad breath or breathing cheap alcohol. (I once served the cup to the last guy in line, who was dressed in rags, and he drained it dry.) It forces "them" to be with "us" and us to be with them. Communion is, more than any other practice, a humbling experience. We are stuck with each other, at that altar, for at least a few minutes.
The writer use easy language to write. It is easily understandable. It is not only about communion but its also about being a Christian. Its relate communion and real life as a Christian beautifully. How we relate the waiting, receiving and partaking of the life of Christian ? Have we given it a thought? Its a beautifully written in 11 chapter and very interesting book. If you feel communion tradition is only a tradition, you got to read this book.
Overall i give this book 5 of 5 star. This book is gratefully received from Thomas Nelson Publisher as part of their booksneeze blogger program. i am not required to write positive review and therefore, the review is 100% opinion of my own.
Posted January 13, 2010
Before reading my review, people should note that I have a particular bias. I am a seminary student who is from the reformed tradition of theology. In my seminary research papers I intentionally try to research and cite various people that span the theological spectrum. This shaped my preconceived expectations for Nora Gallagher's book, The Sacred Meal.
Nora Gallagher is licensed to preach in the Episcopal church and was hired by Thomas Nelson to write the book on Communion for the "The Ancient Practices Series." The Sacred Meal is a collection of life stories from Gallagher's life in relation to the Christian practice of communion.
Gallagher is a good story teller, and this is the essence of her book. The way she tells stories is more than merely hearing a story and relating, but she cues people into the small, seemingly unrelated, details of each story which allows for the reader to know her story on more of an experiential rather than strictly mental level.
With the positive stated, I must admit, it was a very difficult to continue reading. Sense Gallagher is from the Episcopalian tradition, I would love to hear her perspective on The Sacred Meal, what, why, and how do Episcopalians celebrate it, and maybe even give a scriptural and doctrinal apologetic for it. Most books will do this and intertwine life stories in the process. The way Gallagher wrote the book felt like I was only getting the stories, and thus only getting half the book. During my education there have been several times when I forgot about a paper being due. I then pulled an all-nighter to finish the paper on time by filling it with a lot of rambling and life stories to make up for the lack of research done on the subject. This is what the book felt like. Early in the book, Nora actually says that she was surprised that Thomas Nelson asked her to write on The Sacred Meal because she knew little of the subject. When I read this, I assumed that she was moving me through a process of her discovery, but she moved through a process of life stories and memories associated with The Sacred Meal.
If you like short stories, then you may like this book. I even enjoyed reading some of her stories, but as I mentioned earlier, I felt like I was missing half the book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Posted December 27, 2009
"The Sacred Meal" is Nora Gallagher's contribution to the "Ancient Practices Series" by Thomas Nelson. Having only read Nora's book and the overview book "Finding Our Way Again" by Brian McLaren, I can't comment on how the book fits in to the whole of the 6 book series, however, on its own merits, "The Sacred Meal" is a great read and a book I would recommend to anyone studying the Eucharist, or Communion, depending on your language of choice.
I draw the distinction between terms or labels because one of the things I loved about Nora's book was that she did not- she chose not to make issue over the particulars of language, technique, or exactly what happens to the bread and wine under the cloth as the Priest blesses it. Rather, Nora details her experience with Communion- with it, in it, it in her.
Nora makes the case for seeing participating in Communion as a practice- a staple in the (literal) diet of the Believer. Broadly, she then breaks her experience into 3 pieces- "Waiting"- the preparation for and anticipation of the Eucharist, "Receiving"- the act itself and the physical and spiritual implications for taking in the body of Christ, and "Afterward"- realizing a full life as a member of the Body of Christ, the very life of Christ binding us to Himself, each other and His mission for His Kingdom.
One section that particularly resonated with me was in the chapter on "Waiting." Nora drew distinctions between the empire of this world and the present Kingdom of God- a theme central to Jesus' own teaching. She states, "The regular practice of Communion is meant to help move us from being citizens of the empire to the citizens of Heaven.And so, a practice, among other things, is the art of noticing: .It's almost imperceptible, but when I do remember to look, to shift my gaze from the mall to the Kingdom, I feel as if I have discovered an antidote to poison. And what do I see when I see the Kingdom of Heaven? .I see God's beautiful and extraordinary creation. I see people who live with restraint. I see poets and painters, unsung and unpaid, who bring me a dose of freedom and beauty. " Amen to that. While Christ comes to each of us as individuals, it is exactly that type of writing that made me enjoy the book and those types of experiences that make me look forward to my next encounter with Him at His table.
When I received my copy of The Sacred Meal in the mail I couldn't wait to get started reading it. After all, I have always held a deep reverence for the Communion service and I was hoping this book would give me a more thorough understanding of the historical context of the Last Supper and why we Christians honor it by taking Communion. In the end, I was a bit disappointed.
The author is an engaging writer, and she tells the story of why she personally enjoys taking Communion extremely well. While that topic does indeed make for an interesting and entertaining read, it is a far cry from what the reader is led to expect when deciding whether to purchase the book or not.
I opened The Sacred Meal expecting to find plenty of Biblical references and commentary on the Last Supper, but what I found instead was how the Communion service seems like an evening at the country club for the author. There is plenty of talk about the "togetherness" one feels when taking part in the service, but precious little substance about the history and meaning of the service itself.
This review is in no way meant to be a slam against Mrs. Gallagher personally. In fact, I believe her intentions were good when she sat down to write the book. And as stated before, it is indeed interesting and rather entertaining. But for it's implied purpose, it really misses the mark in my opinion.
My recommendation: If you're looking for a good read filled with insight into one person's love for the Communion service, this book will certainly fit the bill. But if you're desiring a thorough discussion on the historical and Biblical significance of The Lord's Supper, you'll be better served by looking elsewhere.
Posted December 14, 2009
The Sacred Meal, by Nora Gallagher.
I remember when chicken tasted like chicken. It has been so long that I can barely remember the taste, but I miss it. In the same way, I miss books about faith that are truly books about faith. Usually, books billed as being about faith are really books about belief overly seasoned with worn out words and phrases that conjure memories I have of litmus tests and classes of Christians. Through that wall of earned (for the most part) cynicism, I reluctantly dared to engage the pages of Nora Gallagher's The Sacred Meal.
What Nora presents is a refreshing alternative to platitudes and words that have no edge. Instead, she breaks apart the objective religionism with fixed dogmatic beliefs that so many of us have grown to detest by granting us entry into the personal dialogue she experiences in the sacraments. (A sacrament is the outward and visible sign and an inward and spiritual grace). She mixes history with her story and how her story and history engage with the other faithful (but not so faithful) informs her own faith experience. As a person whose faith type is clearly ontological sacramental (experiencing the Holy through symbols and rituals), she gives a perfectly valid and balanced description of the sacrament of the Eucharist. She understands and articulates practice of communion in the context originally instituted, as the last of many meals Jesus had with his disciples. Then she calls us to practice this meal with the gathered Body of Christ that is the very members, seen and unseen, of the Church.
What Nora has done in the book for the sacred meal of communion is to free it from the bondage of being an objective institution that it was never intended to be. Like religion in its original meaning, the practice of Eucharist is supposed to be a verb, "giving thanks". The Eucharist is a "doing" in which the Incarnation of God is reenacted and celebrated as history, as the very present, and as the hope for the promised age to come.
I would recommend this book as one that promotes a healthy dialogue of the internal and external aspects of faith. Her approach is blended, symbolic, and subjective. like the sacrament she successfully portrays.
The Rev. Dr. Bude VanDyke, Chaplain
St Andrew's-Sewanee School