Culture At Large

Advent All Around: Silent dinners, silent nights

Jes Kast

This is the first installment in Advent All Around, a Think Christian series that sees reflections of Advent in the culture at large.

You’ve probably heard of the seven-minute lull – the theory that every seven minutes, each conversation experiences a potentially awkward silence. I am not particularly fond of these moments. I feel uncomfortable as I wait for a new and exciting topic to arise. So imagine my anxiety when I visited a restaurant last week to have dinner with 25 strangers, all of us in complete silence.

Located in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Eat is a restaurant like any other during the week, but on Sunday nights strangers gather together for a four-course, silent meal. My friend and I arrived at Eat and were seated at a community table with four other people. When you initially arrive, you have a few moments to talk and get to know your table partners. Our tablemates brought two bottles of wine that they generously shared with us. Bread, broken for us, was placed on the table prior to our meal. The gifts of wine and bread shared were Eucharistic, a communion between strangers. A small candle, familiar of the Christ candle, lit the table. Our plates were made from handmade pottery.

The owner greeted us all (out loud) and then the lights dimmed and our dinner commenced. We waited in silence for our first course of butternut soup, the first taste of this two-hour-long, seven-minute lull. How many times in life do you wait expectantly with strangers in silence? It is something that takes practice, which is probably why I found it to be uncomfortable at first. I’m not used to waiting, let alone waiting in silence with a room full of strangers.

We hope in active periods of silence.

As I got into my groove of sitting, wishing and waiting in silence with my table partners, I was reminded of Advent. Advent is the time we wait. We wait and yearn for Christ, who is our hope.

At dinner I found ways to wait expectantly. Sometimes I would look my tablemates in the eyes and be present with them. Sometimes I would lay my head on my friend’s shoulder and find comfort in his presence. And sometimes I would close my eyes and pray. I knew I could trust that what I hoped for - in this case the cuisine for the night - would arrive and we would enjoy its deliciousness together. Hope is choosing to believe that what is promised is coming. Hope is found at a table of strangers and the Eucharist of sharing bread and wine.

Our meal ended and there was an eruption of cheers. Our shared silence had filled us with joy. And perhaps this is part of the mystery of Advent. We hope in active periods of silence. It is in these awkward-yet-delightful, seven-minute lulls of hope-filled waiting that we come know the presence of the One we are waiting for.

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Christmas & Easter