Updated: Oct 17
"Man is what he eats." With this statement the German materialistic philosopher Feuerbach thought he had put an end to all "idealistic" speculations about human nature. In fact, however, he was expressing, without knowing it, the most religious idea of man. But what does man eat and why?
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
For long before Feuerbach the same definition of man was given by the Bible. In the biblical story of creation man is presented, first of all, as a hungry being, and the whole world as his food. Second, only to the direction to propagate and have dominion over the earth, according to the author of the first chapter of Genesis, is God's instruction to men to eat of the earth:
Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed... and every tree, which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat...".
Man must eat in order to live. He must take the world into his body and transform it into himself, into flesh and blood. He is indeed that which he eats, and the whole world is presented as one all-embracing banquet table for man. And this image of banquet remains, throughout the whole Bible, the central image of life. It is the image of life at its creation and also the image of life at its fulfillment:
"...that you eat and drink at My Table in My Kingdom."
The narrative of creation begins with man who is formed in the image and likeness of God, and is created hungry. In the Bible the food that man eats, the world of which he must partake in order to live, is given to him by God as gift, and it is given as communion with God. The world as man's food is not something "material" and "limited" to material functions, thus different from, and opposed to, the specifically 'spiritual' functions by which man is related to God.
All that exists is God's gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man's life communion with God.
It is divine love made food, made life for man. God blesses everything He creates, and, in biblical language, this means that He makes all creation the sign and means of His presence and wisdom, love and revelation.
O taste and see that the Lord is good.