Eating & Drinking

It is amazing to hear and read Christian people spending so much time talking about Nutrition, which has become an idol of modern society.  It’s a giant mystery, endlessly made darker and more complex by the scientists who act as if they actually have things figured out.

Why don’t Christians listen to St. Benedict’s teaching about what to eat and drink, and when?  Why are the scientists given more attention than the saints?

It’s easy to see why once we read what he taught.  That is the reason no one wants to listen to him!  He taught that, for most of the year, Christians should eat one meal per day.  He taught that a pound of bread and a selection of several dishes at that meal, with about 10 oz. of wine was satisfactory for health and work.  Of course, if heavy manual labor was being done (i.e., agriculture, not office work) a second “supper” might be added if needed.  He said that whenever the gardens provided fresh vegetables or fruits, they could be added to the table.  He said that the meat of four footed animals should be abstained from.

There, that’s that.  His recommendations became the norm for Christian society for the next 1000 years–until the scientists set out to correct his silly, uninformed errors.  500 years later, we are plagued with obesity, overeating diseases, and sexual immorality–all of which St. Benedict explained how to avoid.

The automatic answer from modern Christians is: “He was recommending a rule for monks”, but this is misleading.  Today, the word “monk” refers to a member of a formal religious order.  In 500 AD, there were no formal religious orders, but simply communities made up of Christians who volunteered to live according to a rule of life.  The 17th century French bishop Bossuet said it was, “an epitome of Christianity, a learned and mysterious abridgement of all the doctrines of the Gospel, all the institutions of the Church Fathers, and all the Counsels of Perfection.”.  It was not, therefore, meant to be a rule for men who were living in established religious orders, but for men–and women–who wanted to begin living according to the Gospel.

I say “begin” because St. Benedict’s rule was not intended to raise the bar of Christian self-discipline.  St. Benedict’s rules were lenient and generous, intended, as he says:

“Whoever you are, therefore, who are hastening to the heavenly homeland, fulfill with the help of Christ this minimum Rule which we have written for beginners.”

Therefore, let us not kid ourselves with excuses about how impossibly strict the rule of St. Benedict is, but accuse ourselves of how ridiculously loose our lives have become.  What is necessary for us in regard to food and drink is not mysterious, but simple.  St. Benedict has assured us of such and calls us to give our attention to “the one thing necessary”.


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5 Responses to Eating & Drinking

  1. Ziggy says:

    Well I had my 10 oz of wine today. Just finished 8 ounces but when I read this I decided to have another 2 ounce before I went to bed. Have to get up early to milk the goats…

  2. Fiona says:

    Wow,where can I read more about this?
    Such as ,when was this meal taken ( I have heard it said that saint Hildegard suggested not eating first thing in morning I.e breakfast) how do we apply this to our families especially children?

  3. wmclaa says:

    Easter to Pentecost: Dinner at 6th hour (noon), Supper before sunset.
    Pentecost to Autumn: Dinner at 6th hour (noon)
    Autumn to Lent: Dinner at 9th hour (3pm)
    Lent to Easter: Dinner before sunset.

    “Fasting” then meant eating one meal later in the day than the body naturally desires it. St. Thomas explained why the body desires to eat at the 6th hour (noon), and that making it wait until the 9th (3pm) or until the evening (before sunset) is the means of disciplining the flesh and keeping all things in order–SPIRITUALLY. Notice that, in St. Benedict’s opinion, Christians should almost ALWAYS be fasting save for the Easter season and laborious summer work season. From fall to Lent, they ate at the 9th hour, and in Lent at the end of the day.

    Remember, if heavy MANUAL labor was done, as second meal was added, as the leader of the community judged fit. However, this was the norm.


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