Grace is a name for any of a number of short prayers said or an unvoiced intention held prior to partaking of a meal, thanking deity and/or the entities that have given of themselves to furnish nutrients to those partaking in the meal. Some traditions hold that grace and thanksgiving imparts a blessing which in some traditions is held to sanctify or make sacred the meal. In the English language tradition, reciting a prayer prior to eating is traditionally referred to as “saying grace”.
A prayer of Grace is said to be an act of offering thanks to God for granting humans dominion over the earth and the right and ability to sacrifice the lives of divine creations for sustenance; this thanks is the “saying of Grace” prior to and/or after eating of any meal.
If one is not religious and the rest of the table is saying grace, it is considered to be polite and culturally appropriate to quietly observe or just bow one’s head. It is often considered impolite or incorrect to start eating before grace has been said and completed.
The saying of grace as a meme and religious practice may have entered into the English language Judeo-Christian cultures with the Jewish mealtime prayer Birkat Hamazon, though any number of cultures may have informed the practice or it may have arisen spontaneously by individuals and then perpetuated in family traditions and social institutions.
The transignification, transubstantiation, ganachakra and agape feasts may have informed the practice of grace.
The American tradition of Thanksgiving
In American Christianity the head of the household often ad libs a special grace on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter while the others observe a moment of silence. In some households it is customary for all at the table to hold hands during the grace.
Typical Christian grace prayers
* Ecumenical. “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.”
* Protestant. “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
* Catholic. “Let us pray! Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy/Your gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy/Your bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
* Catholic (Latin). “Nos oremus! Benedic, Domine, nos et hæc Tua dona, quæ de Tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.”
* Catholic (German). “Lass’t uns beten! Segne, Herr, uns und diese deine Gaben, die wir von deiner Großmut essen werden. Durch Christus, unseren Herr’n. Amen.”
* Eastern Orthodox. “O Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for holy art Thou, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” The one saying the prayer may make the Sign of the Cross over the food with his right hand. After the meal, all stand and sing: “We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly gifts; deprive us not of Thy heavenly kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come unto us and save us.” syrup.” Hence only bread made of wheat (which embraces spelt) or of barley (which for this purpose includes rye and oats) is deemed worthy of the blessing commanded in verse 10.
After the meal, a series of four (originally three) benedictions are said, or a single benediction if bread was not eaten
Other pre-meal sayings
In Japan it is customary to put one’s hands together and say “Itadakimasu” (‘receive’ humble) before a meal.
Muslims say Bismillah ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem.
* from The Prayer Guide.
* aricle from “The Catholic Encyclopedia”.
* article from “The Catholic Encyclopedia”.
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