How good, how delightful it is to live as brothers in unity!
It is like a fine oil on the head, running down the beard,
running down Aaron's beard, onto the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon falling on the heights of Zion;
for there Yahweh bestows his blessing, everlasting life.
The psalm is beautiful, profound. And yet there is a more distinctive meaning to this poetic exclamation than what is represented in our current English translations. 'To live as brothers in unity', in the original language, is achim yashab yachad, namely, to 'sit down at meal as brothers in unity.' When one puts this meaning to the first line, the following four lines take on whole new purport.
Is eating together so blissful and important as what this psalm communicates? Certainly in our culture the age-old tradition of sitting down together at a homemade meal as a family has been mostly forgotten.
Yet in the Bible, we find that the concept of the Meal is attended to in something of a sacred light. In the Old Testament records eating together was often symbolic of the spiritual. The very earliest chapters of the history of the world deals with food, and expostulates that before the Fall the fruit of the earth was a spiritual substance as well as a material substance. With the eating of forbidden fruit, Adam and Hevah knew good and evil, and were expelled to be prevented from eating of the fruit of the Tree of Life, and thus living forever.
This treatment of food as both spiritual and material continues. Abraham, when visited by Yahweh, feeds him a meal, and is given in return a blessing and a prophesy. When visited later by Melchizedek, the first High Priest, whose name means, literally, 'King of Righteousness', Abraham gives him the first documented tithe––ten percent of all he has; then Melchizedek, in return, feeds him bread and wine, thus showing forth the Eucharist which Jesus, the 'High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek' (Hebrews 5), will institute.
Afterwards, in the establishing of the Mosaic Law, Yahweh uses food as an integral part of His people's worship. He ordained His Temple to be a place that had fresh bread forever in His presence. The people's sins were to be paid for, their diseases to be healed, through the sacrificing of animals, through the burning of meat, and through grain offerings. The priests were to eat the acceptable parts of each offering. The congregation was to offer all the first fruits of their land as a sacred offering to Yahweh. Their years were to be filled with feasts and fasts which celebrated and recalled the sacred history of God. Their diet was to be one of purity and health, forbearing from unclean animals and vulgar substances rigidly, at risk of being expelled from God's favor if they disobeyed. God promised to reward their faithfulness with abounding harvests and to punish their spiritual adultery with devastating famines.
When the Christ came into the world, He also spoke of the spirit integrated in food. He proclaimed Himself the Bread of Life, and the One who gives Living Water. He established the Eucharist as the central sacrament in the Way, in which we partake of bread and wine that He pronounced His body and His blood. This eating of His flesh and blood is the action that He said would give us life in this world, and would make us 'live forever'. (John 6)
After Jesus' resurrection and flight into the sky, the apostles, as part of their constant worship of Him, practiced communion together at every gathering. They fasted twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, in order to draw closer to Jesus. They kept the feasts, in remembrance of the miracles that Elohim had done for them. They instituted new feasts and fasts, to celebrate and recall the new wonders that Jesus had worked in and for them. They looked forward to the Heavenly Feast, the Supper of the Lamb, where we are to commune with the Creator of all, as is bespoken in John's revelation.
Such regard for the spiritual heart of the Meal has been lost to our society. Eating is a substance used for pleasure and sustenance, but not for spiritual benefit or the building of relationship. We call ourselves followers of the Way, and yet we have lost belief in the sacredness of the Eucharist, we have deserted the celebrating of the Holy-Days and the feasts and fasts of the Church in favor of secular holidays and traditions, and we have even deserted the delight that is found daily when 'brothers eat together in unity'.
Let us once again vow to recognize the weight of glory in even the most ordinary things of life. For there is life in communion.