The most intimate of the mystical experiences, seems to be taste, in which we receive, so to speak, the kiss of God in our inmost being. Spirit which is the most sweet kiss … pours into our inmost being, the fire, the light, the life, and the love … unconditional and infinite love, which is the ultimate source of creation and the universe.—Fr. Thomas Keating
In the previous articles, I introduced you to the sense of smell and touch as inlets of spiritual knowledge—to experiencing God. Yet an even more profound communication is through the spiritual sense of taste. Many know the Psalmist used this very word to describe the intense exultation in knowing Spirit, “O taste and see the goodness of God!”
Think of all the words we have to describe “taste.” Amazing, appetizing, delightful, enticing, exquisite, divine, luscious, delicious, sweet, savory, yummy, scrumptious, lip-smacking, distinctive, spicy … to name a FEW. Yet how often do we use words to describe an experience of God?
Taste is a way in which the presence of God, Spirit, the Divine, whatever you call it, becomes a reality to us, through us and by us. For Catholics and some Protestants, it can be known sacramentally through the bread and wine of communion, but for others it's the coffee and donuts or casserole served during fellowship time at church functions. In other faith traditions, it is the Charoset at the Passover Seder, perhaps simply a sweet date eaten at the meal to break Ramadan, or the Hindu sacred food of the Devas, ghee.
When we taste something, we take nourishment into our bodies and it literally becomes part of us. We transform it into our own being and our own flesh, thereby making it a part of our ordinary consciousness.
Prayer is consenting to the presence and activity of God in and as me. Just like the food and drink that I take in and literally make a part of myself, delightfully tasting it as it transforms me, so, too, does prayer infuse me with Spirit in the same way—making the extraordinary an ordinary part of my everyday life.
Too often we move through eating, drinking, and tasting, in quick, unconscious, and rote ways. And I believe we do this too in our yearning to know God. Taste can be a vehicle for knowing God through our bodies because taste is literally to perceive something by experiencing it. It requires us to consciously choose to be involved, and often our cravings will not be satiated until we decide to be fully present and taste our food. The key, though, is to slow down.
When I rest in the stillness of prayer, when I rest in my heart and am no longer seeking anything, I begin to taste what I have been looking for. I begin to know the sweet nectar of profound peace and silence.
Just as the external senses are mechanisms for experiencing and describing my human life, the spiritual senses open me to the awareness of a divine world. While the five senses can never adequately describe or be a vehicle for encountering what is invisible, behind each awakened sense is an invitation for me to consent to a deeper knowing of my spiritual world—my wholeness. And my R.S.V.P. to that invitation is the activity of prayer. Prayer is tasting Spirit with the heart.
The sense of taste is given to me for the sheer enjoyment of life; it brings me closer to what I am craving than anything else can. Cravings, or passions, seem to come out of nowhere, and are persistent, individual, and relentless. This is exactly like the calling of Spirit, or my higher self. We feed our passion and craving for Spirit through prayer, a sacramental tool that allows me to taste the divine, to experience the reality of God within myself.
The divine presence infuses all its “flavors” whenever I consciously choose to slow down and pray. In other words, taste symbolizes the most intimate experience of knowing the divine—here in our human form. Only then is our whole being rooted in God.
Reflections this week:
- What are some tastes that you have experienced in the last few days? How would you describe them?
- Can you describe the experience of God in similar ways? Why or why not?
- What spiritual cravings do you have? How do you taste the goodness of God?
- What flavors do you experience in your faith community?
- Notice the words you use when talking with others. What do your words taste like? Sweet or bitter?
- With every deep breath in today, let it be a reminder of being more open and alive, to knowing God as real, authentic, and attentive.
NEXT WEEK: The spiritual sense of hearing, of listening for the divine presence, is our next spiritual sense heightened through our prayer practice.