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The Grace of Coming Home

  • Posted on Sep 14, 2011

A Meditation for Homecoming Sunday:
The Sacrament of Home

When I think of coming home, I think of our dining room table. Whatever age I was growing up, I came home to supper around the family dining room table. This has been true throughout my life—when I came home from grade school, high school or college or when I married or became a mother. When I think of family, I think of the dining room table.

My dining room table is made of cherry wood. It is a large, round table—probably 6 feet in diameter. Since my mother bought the table, I know it is an antique—a Queen Anne dining room table—but beyond that I know little of its past history.

But it’s recent history—say for the past 53 years, I know well.

Eight people can sit around the table. During most of my life, there have been four people. When I was a little girl, there was my mother, my father, my grandmother and me. The table came to my home as an adult and soon there were four around the table once again—my husband, my son, my daughter and me. During certain periods of my life, we have used the table as a sideboard, its leaves down. That’s where it is now—since there are only two people at our table. Empty nesters both.

But back when the table was opened in all its glory, it was a central feature of our home life. As a family, we generally only ate supper at the table—or perhaps a special meal such as Thanksgiving, a birthday celebration or an Easter lunch. Growing up, breakfast and lunch took place at the kitchen table. As a child, I spent a good deal of time under the dining room table—communing with our dog and reading books. But the very best part of the dining table was this—it was the place where we would catch up with each other. At dinner—when I was a child and as an adult—we would review our days around the table. We would recount the good and not so good, our challenges and victories, what made us sad and what made us happy.

So, for me, when I think of homecoming, I imagine a darkened evening, walking up to the house, seeing a warm light in the window. I come in the door, smelling something good from the kitchen (unless it was sauerkraut and liver night). I see the dinner table set—with a place set just for me. A place of inclusion, sustenance and love.

But it is more than just a place set for me on a certain day. That symbol of Homecoming—my dining room table—has multiple layers of meaning. It is the place that I have been fed and nourished since I was a baby. It is also a place that my soul felt nourished by family support night after night for years. It is the place that I remember family members that I see no longer…and as my own children sit around the table in the place of my parents and grandmother, I realize from a place deep inside that at that table, my whole family, living and past, is gathered in some mysterious way. That even though I no longer can call up my father and say, “Guess what happened today?” or ask my mother “What I should wear?” to a special event, when my day is recounted around the table to my present family, they know too. Somehow they know. All my dearly beloved know my children and in time, perhaps, my grandchildren. Every time I sit down at that table, everyone is there.

We all have symbols that instantly bring us home. The church has a name for these symbols. The church calls them sacraments: outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace. And the church’s table brings us home week and week. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we come home to Christ at that holy table, the altar. And, likewise, in that symbol of the Eucharistic table, earthly time falls away and eternity shines. Like our dining table at home, at the Eucharistic table, everyone is there.