Matt D’Antuono is a physics teacher in New Jersey, where he lives with his wife and seven children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in physics and philosophy, a master’s degree in special education, and is working on a master’s degree in philosophy at Holy Apostles in Cromwell, Connecticut. He returned to the Catholic Church in 2008. He is the author of A Fool’s Errand: A Brief, Informal Introduction to Philosophy for Young Catholics and The Wiseguy and the Fool. On YouTube you can find him at DonecRequiescat and his family at MisterD418.
I do not feel comfortable in fancy restaurants. I wasn’t brought to them often, if at all, as a kid, and I don’t get the impression that I am in the same economic class with most of the other people there. I am sure I would eventually learn the etiquette and see the beauty of fancy restaurants if I went more frequently or could appreciate the culinary experience, but that is just not how my wife and I choose to spend our money.
Friends have given my wife and me gift certificates to upscale restaurants from time to time. First of all, we make sure we dress nicely. I was once kicked out of a country club’s driving range for not wearing a shirt with a collar, and I don’t want that to happen again, especially while trying to take my wife out to a fancy restaurant. (By the way, I am not a golfer. If I hadn’t been kicked out for my too-casual-dress, I probably would have been kicked out for endangering the lives of the real golfers). Dressing really nicely is not my strong suit. I resented the teaching job I had where I was required to wear a tie every day. Then, I get the sense that the waiters can smell the people who won’t be spending a lot of money and therefore won’t be leaving a big tip. I always get the sense, too, that there are certain ceremonies and etiquette that I am getting wrong. My wife and I order water to drink, which is further confirmation that we are not big spenders. We order water instead of something else only because we try to stay within the budget of the gift card; in other words, because we are not big spenders. This effort to remain within monetary boundaries is not easy at these restaurants since even the cheapest dishes are often more than what the two of us would spend together at an establishment of our own choice. The waiter senses all of this, I am sure. When I hand him the gift certificate to pay the bill, he is only confirmed in what he and we already knew: we don’t really belong there any more than a non-golfer guy wearing a collarless shirt belongs at a country club’s driving range.
So it is a paradox to think that I am more than cordially invited to the most expensive feast of all: the Mass. The food of which I partake at that table is literally priceless since it is God Himself Who gives Himself for consumption. The miraculous manna in the desert, the miraculous meal of the fishes and the loaves, and even ordinary, everyday food and drink all point to and are surpassed by the host placed on my tongue.
All of this is offered to me without price. “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what does not satisfy? Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare” (Isaiah 55:1-2).
Do I get dressed up for this? Yes.
Do I mind the ceremony and ritual? No. The dress and the ceremony are appropriate; this is more than just physical food.
Am I there because someone gave me a gift certificate? No. I am a beggar who is invited by God to the wedding feast of the Lamb to feed on Bread I could not afford.
Do I belong there? Yes, because I am a sinner receiving Divine Help. I belong there as a sick person belongs in a hospital, not because I have paid the entrance fee and belong to a certain social class.
The Bread beyond price comes freely from the same source as every other good and perfect gift: the heart of God.