Animals at the Table

I was reading the other day, when I came across this statement;

Creation, too, is implicated in our sacramental participation, because when we encounter the presence of Christ in the bread and cup, we witness to the possibility that not just these gifts but all of God’s created order will one day bear the presence of the divine.

Not just people but animals too will share in those last days, according to Isaiah- and the animal table partners will be as odd as the human ones:

          The wolf shall live with the lamb,

         the leopard shall lie down with the kid,

        the calf and the lion and the fatling together,

        and a little child shall lead them.

       The cow and the bear shall graze,

      their young shall lie down together;

     and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

     The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,

    and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.

    They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;

    for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD

    as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:6-9)

What does it mean to eat in the kingdom of God? For people, it will mean encountering those we never expected to meet across the table from us. For animals, it will mean changing eating habits so much that what used to be dinner is now a dinner companion. For all creation, it means utter transformation into God’ original purpose: manifesting the glory of God.

    Martha L. Moore-Keish “Eucharist ~Eschatology” in A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony, Leanne Van Dyk, Ed.  (125,126).

This image of animals at the heavenly banquet might be surprizing or even a little disturbing to you. I had never thought about what it would be like to have animal table partners in the kingdom of  God. The idea surprized me.

To imagine myself sitting at table with my cats required some effort on my part.The idea caught me off guard, although as I thought about it, I found the idea hopeful and intriguing.  

 I wonder if some faint memory of this  future doesn’t fuel our love of stories where humans and animals live together, talk with each other, and eat together. From the talking animals of Narnia to the old fable of animals speaking at midnight Christmas eve, to favorite childhood stories, we long to talk with the animals.

Sometimes humans and animals enter into a close relationship, commonly refered to as “domestication”.  Normally we mean that humans have  over time “tamed”  an animal species. Of course, cats have changed little over the millenium and one could argue that the relationship between people and cats was the cat’s idea.  And as any dog trainer will tell you, obedience training is more about training the humans than it is about training dogs. However it happened, people and animals have been companions for a very long time.

We also long for relationship with animals that are not domesticated, those with whom we don’t normally have a close relationship. City folks sit on benches and feed the birds and squirrels. Suburbanites take great care with their bird feeders. Despite the sad lives of animals in zoos and game parks, we almost can’t help our desire to go to them, simply to be close to elephants and whales. We thrill at the sight of an elk, or wolf, or dolphin.  Remember how you felt after reading Rascal?  Ring of Bright Water? Born Free?  The Black Stallion?

We have a deep desire to be in relationship with animals. I wonder if we don’t have a distant memory, a faint recollection of  what was intended, what was supposed to be. An echo of paradise. 

Who will sit at the table at the heavenly banquet? God only knows. It might be a very, very big table.

I’d like to know, what do you think?

 

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2 Responses to “Animals at the Table”

  1. John Edward Harris Says:

    Yes, Isaiah offers us a vision of a multi-species table. Why have humans thought that Christ came to redeem only humanity? He came to redeem all creation. While other species do not need to repent, as humans do, they will be redeemed. In addition to Isaiah, the other great vision of such a multi-species redemption is C. S. Lewis’s Narnia. I would rather sit at table in God’s kindom with the courageous mouse Reepacheep than with some humans I have known.

  2. castaway5555 Says:

    Thanks Nancy … a new heaven and a new earth … all of God’s creatures, great and small.

    I’m going to share this with the folks of Canines @ Covenant.

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