In America, we like to start and end our events “on time”, and whenever things don’t strictly correspond to the clock, guests and hosts alike can get pretty disturbed. In Russia and especially here in Sochi, we follow a different kind of clock and feast in a very different way.
Today is Sunday, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, which is by default always a feast day. After going to morning Liturgy, we return to our aunt’s home to a table laden with delights befitting the day, but as I posted earlier the point is not the delicious food, but the company gathered, which for Sochi allows the largest amount of family not only to gather for a single meal but to live for a while in close proximity to one another.
“Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity…”
This pleasant dwelling together is the dream of every Russian family, more powerful than any dream of worldly success or status attainment. While this dream is not quite the same as the Kingdom of Heaven, I think it is at least a step in that direction.
The Ents of Tolkien’s invented world of Middle Earth never bother to speak until they have something to say, and they never say anything briefly. For if something is worth saying, it is worth saying for quite a long time. Similarly Russians don’t believe in grabbing bites to eat or drinking alone. When people sit down to feast, it is for a long time, or why bother?
I am convinced that our aunt’s table is magical. Once a meal is set at the beginning of the day for breakfast, it never seems to be without food, ALL DAY LONG. How one kitchen could produce such continuous nourishment defies the laws of science; therefore, it must be the table which magically replenishes itself, course after course, gathering after gathering.
In the Church, we speak of the “never ending day of Thy Kingdom.” This image begs for me a further question of what we will be doing in the Kingdom. Some have rightly answered, “Liturgizing and receiving Holy Communion.” However, what is communion but a holy meal, a never-ending feast of which our earthly feasts are only poor but important icons? Such summer family reunions which used to be the way of spending summers in America still exist in Russia, and they offer a picture of the family reunion the saints enjoy forever in the Kingdom of Heaven.