What Does Love Taste Like?
It might sound like a crazy question to ask what love tastes like, but the question is based on the assumption that you can actually taste love. It might sound crazy to say that, but what I want to say is this: you can. We just finished our parish’s annual Middle Eastern Dinner and in just over three hours more than 1200 meals were served. I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math and share that this is one meal being served about every nine seconds, of each and every minute, for three hours, non stop. It was a feat of efficiency that was a sight to behold. As impressive as that efficiency was, it was not most impressive aspect of our Dinner. Most impressive was that each one of those 1200 meals tasted like love. I went home from the dinner with the taste of sweetened layers of phyllo dough lingering on my tongue, which crunched in concert with the complement of nuts in the betlawa (the forebearer of Greek Baklava). This was the finale of a meal begun with the taste of savory seasoned meat in the delicate dough of the meat pies. Perfectly fluffy rice was the perfect companion to the flavored green beans in tomato sauce with meatballs that sat atop it. And this is not to mention anything about the cheese bread, the hummus and pita bread or the salad. I could write a paragraph about each!
Some might say it just tasted delicious, but I know better. There were many mornings in the past several months that I arrived at church to find a dozen or more parishioners huddled around tables mixing dough, measuring cheese, spicing meat. This was not done out of goal of personal enrichment or to show off one’s talent to anyone. It was a communal act of love offered graciously, even if there were the occasional so-called “discussions” on what was the proper amount of meat in the meat pie. It wasn’t just delicious. It was delicious because the unseen ingredient was love.
I know it was love because I saw it being added as the “secret” ingredient to every food item that I witnessed being carefully prepared and served. But I also know it was love by the faces of our guests who emerged from our hall with smiles on their faces and gratitude on their lips. They had been loved, by those who made the food, those who served the food and even those who cleaned the tables and washed the dishes, and they knew it. They knew it because they had tasted it. They knew it because they had seen it, both in the efforts put out by our parishioners and in our beautiful church which we offered to be seen and toured, built lovingly by our parishioners for the Glory of God. They even smelled love before they sat down to eat when they got a whiff of the aromas wafting out from the kitchen.
You see, that’s how love is: it is expressed. It can be seen, touched, tasted, heard, yes, and even smelled. And this is all because love is not an idea and it is not a feeling. Love is a gift–a gift that is always expressed–and therefore sensed–by one or all of our five senses. The beloved can sense the love of the one who loves them. Some might say what a trivial idea it is, that love can be tasted, but they could not be further from the truth. The idea that love can be sensed is at the very heart of our Christian faith.
From my earliest religious questioning and investigation, I had one burning question: why did Jesus have to die on the cross? I thought about it, I asked about it, and only now do I find that I’m getting closer to the answer. With all due respect to my Western Christian brothers and sisters, it has nothing to do with a payment for sin. Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross was not a quantity of currency in some supernaturally divine transaction. Jesus’ suffering and death on the Cross was something that was intended to be seen, heard, touched, and even as unspeakable as it may seem it was even smelled as His spilt blood ran down the wood exposed to the sun on that warm Judean afternoon. And I am convinced more than ever that while the reason of His death was the conquering of death itself, the manner in which it happened was because God would spare no expense–even the life of his Son–to demonstrate and express His love for me and His love for you, in the strongest possible way. Yes, countless billions of humans have heard the story of Jesus and disregarded it has foolishness, legend or even a conspiracy of disinformation. But for countless others, the pure love of God that was seen on the Cross changed those same lives to the point that we will never be the same again. Having beheld the love of God in the dying eyes of Jesus on the Cross, we can never accept any idea of God that is not born out of pure love. God chose to show his love in ways that we could perceive, powerfully, and with all of our senses.
Maybe you and I weren’t there at in Jerusalem on that first Great and Holy Friday, to witness it ourselves. Does this mean we haven’t experienced it because I wasn’t there? Well, neither was I there when the Declaration of Independence was signed and neither was I there when the tide of fascism was turned on the blood-stained beaches of Normandy. But I can tell you by my acceptance that those events actually happened, their meaning has been engraved into my mind, and more importantly, in my heart. In the same way, the love that Jesus powerfully expressed from the Cross can be as powerful now as it was then, and with the eyes and ears of faith, we witness the love of God just as powerfully as any eyewitness who was there. God has poured out His Spirit to unite us to the saving acts of Christ, and if we allow ourselves to receive the love He expressed–and continues to express–we will never be the same again.
So, yes, love can be seen, heard, and even tasted. “Oh taste and see that the Lord is Good,” says the Psalmist (Psalms 34:8), and we sing these words during Lent as we receive Christ in the Presanctified Gifts of the Lenten Liturgy. And because we can “taste and see” that the Lord is good, we can express that same love ourselves to others. It was seen, heard, tasted, touched and smelled when we invited the community to our parish to receive our love at the parish Dinner, and we sensed the same in the guests who came to lovingly support our church and her ministries. And now that we have once more witnessed the power of expressed love, let’s not waste the many moments we have each and every day to continue to express not only our own love, but the love of God, whose love we are blessed and privileged to pass on to everyone around us.