“Like Life to Man”: The Glory of Wine

On the list of “Things I Don’t Understand,” Pittsburgh traffic tops the list. Bruce Jenner comes in as a close second. Third, I think, is a dry dinner party. Or, more specifically, a dry Catholic dinner party—a dinner party with plenty of Catholics, but no wine (or beer or booze as the case may be).

Such sad affairs are a uniquely American phenomenon—a weird social tick that American Catholics picked up from living alongside tee-totaling Protestants. Elsewhere, they simply don’t exist. Not in Italy. Not in France. Not in Germany or Austria or Spain. Really, not anywhere in Western Civilization that has more than a passing connection to Catholicism. There, if you find food and people, you’ll also find adult beverages.

And that, especially when it comes to wine, is exactly how it should be.

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Wine, as the Bible tells us, is a gift from God, given to gladden the heart of man (Ps 105:15). It is “like life to man if you drink it in moderation” and it brings “rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul” (Sir 31:27-28). Wine was so central to the culture of ancient Israel that it played a part in Christ’s first earthly miracle—turning water into wine. Likewise, wine was such a powerful metaphor—for love, life, virtue and vice—that the Scriptures, from Genesis right through to Revelation, are shot through with allusions to the stuff.

Of course, wine is more than metaphor in Scripture. It also served as the vehicle for Christ imparting his Divine Life to the Apostles at the Last Supper. In the Upper Room, wine became blood—Christ’s blood—for the first time. But the miracle didn’t stop there. That work of grace has continued, unceasingly, every day since, on every altar, in every Catholic parish in the world.

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That’s why something of the sacred lingers about every grape and every glass. There’s the potential for holiness in wine, a hint of something more to come, of some greater possibility, of some future transformation imaginable only through the sheer, gratuitous gift of God. In that sense, wine is a bit like us—made for more, longing to be transformed, waiting for grace to do what grace does.

And yes, of course, wine can be misused and abused. For all of us, wine, if drunk past “the point of hilarity,” becomes (at the very least) an occasion of sin and confessable matter. For some—the young, the sick, the addiction-inclined—even a mere sip is too much. But none of that makes wine itself bad. It’s us—fallen, weak creatures, prone to sickness and death—that are the problem, not the wine. Nothing that God preordained from the dawn of time to play such a pivotal role in our sanctification can be anything other than good. Especially a fine Bordeaux.

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And wine is good—very, very good. It livens a party, elevates a conversation, soothes the weary, relaxes the stressed, and does it all while complementing a meal and tasting oh so lovely. Our God is a loving God indeed.

So, next time you throw a party, whether for two or for 200, don’t stint on the wine. It doesn’t have to be Chateau Petrus that you’re serving up. $10-16 can fetch you plenty of respectable table wines, i.e….

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Likewise, if money is what’s keeping your dinner parties dry, when guests ask what they can bring, don’t hesitate to say, “Wine.” That’s the expected offering at just about any dinner I host. It keeps the costs down for me and keeps the guests (and the hostess!) happy.

Lastly, if you’re not sure where to start when it comes to wine buying, take a class, talk to people at the wine store, or just keep buying bottles yourself and making notes about what you like. It’s not rocket science; it’s just human—deeply and wonderfully human.

So, drink. Live. Love. Be Catholic, embracing the graced nature of this world of ours, where every mountain, every sunrise, and every glass of wine gives glory to God.

Ain’t it a grand world?

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14 thoughts on ““Like Life to Man”: The Glory of Wine

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with all of this…but I don’t like the taste of wine. I grew up in a dry household (my parents were very sensitive to never putting someone in an awkward position where they felt pressured to accept alcohol, due to my grandfather’s alcoholism), and although the rest of my family enjoys an occasional drink at this point, I have never learned to enjoy the taste of alcohol. Which is fine, I know, except it makes me feel like I’m missing out on an enjoyable grown-up experience, somehow. I will occasionally have a glass of something very sweet and not at all dry, but even that I’d just as soon forego. I feel like my tastebuds need to grow up, and am not sure how to make it happen.

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    • Emily says:

      Wine was actually an acquired taste for me too, Elizabeth. And I never have acquired a taste for beer. That makes me so sad! I feel like I’m missing out on some great gift of God’s. As for wine, I didn’t really set out to acquire a taste. It started when a friend recommended a white wine that I liked. I started drinking that from time to time, then would try different things when they were offered to me. Before I knew it, I was a regular drinker of the driest reds. If you really do want to “grow up” your tastebuds, just be open to trying new things a little at a time. A wine tasting class might actually be fun for you, as it would help you to identify the underlying notes of different wines that you do and don’t like.

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      • Elizabeth says:

        Maybe I’ll give a wine-tasting course a try. I had a mental block, thinking I should learn to drink the stuff before I learn to appreciate the nuances, but you may be right!

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    • Heather Ricco says:

      I don’t like the taste of wine either. There are other alcoholic beverages I do enjoy, but not wine or beer. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. God made some people with a dislike of the taste of wine or beer or whatever. Some people hate broccoli, should they be told to “grow up”. Of course not, there are plenty of other things to eat that are just as good for you. As long as you’re not preventing other people from enjoying it, then go ahead and have your soda. It’s not a bad idea though, when having a party to ensure that all your guests are free to imbibe what they like. That’s just being polite.

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      • Emily says:

        I don’t think anyone was telling Elizabeth to grow up. I certainly wasn’t. The “grow up” her taste buds phrase was hers, not mine, I was just repeating it. I understand her desire to like wine, though. It’s the same desire I have to like beer. It’s a good that God made, which I can’t appreciate. And believe me, I have tried to appreciate it! But it’s just not happening, and that makes me sad. There’s nothing objectively wrong with not liking beer, of course, or wine. But there’s also nothing wrong with trying to come to appreciate something that you don’t naturally appreciate. There’s actually great virtue in the trying. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. So goes life in a fallen world. But wanting to love the things that God made, and keeping an open mind about them and trying things we’re not naturally inclined to like is always a good thing. Hence why every six months or so, I try a beer or eat a beet. I keep hoping that one of these days, I’ll actually like the taste of those things. So far, no dice. But maybe next time…

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      • Elizabeth says:

        Thanks for your thoughts. 🙂 I don’t think there’s anything “wrong” with me, either, it’s just that I would *like* to be able to enjoy wine. I dislike beer and coffee as well, and don’t feel any desire to overcome those dislikes, but with wine I really do feel that I’m missing out on a good thing. Emily’s post helped me to crystallize my thoughts as to why it is a good thing.

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  2. Kathleen says:

    As a Protestant that grew up in an (unspoken) dry Protestant church, I love this. Thank you. This is the way my family is heading, and I’m thankful to see the deeper love and appreciation for the gifts of God. Also, I have to say, you basically created my dream blog right before I did. Is The Protestant Table too close? 😉
    Thanks for the good stuff you crank out! Keep it coming!

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  3. Margo, Thrift at Home says:

    I honestly never met a wine I didn’t like – maybe that means I have no taste buds? Heh. I love wine and beer. We always have a box of red on the go here – not Franzia, okay, but something nicer.
    It’s the hard liquor I’m not fond of, and my husband likes it neat so he keeps trying to coax me to taste something he especially likes and I just can’t abide the stuff.

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  4. Linda says:

    As Hilaire Belloc famously stated “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, there’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so.” At my parish, whenever there’s a parish dinner of any kind held in the church hall, everyone brings wine. A friend, who is a convert from the Methodist & Baptist traditions, found that astonishing.

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  5. rebeccaswann says:

    I totally agree with the Catholic/wine tradition. I grew up in a very Catholic family, and I cannot ever remember a time when there was no wine in our household. There was always wine served at any family/friend gatherings. My protestant friends always thought it was so wild that my whole family drank wine, but I loved being raised to appreciate everything that God created and not to restrict myself from enjoying this wonderful world.

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  6. Karen says:

    This is great! Thank you Emily! And thank God for my methodist grandfather who always began each family dinner with a story about where the selected wine came from and how it came to our table.
    When all else fails, wine, and whatever’s in the fridge makes dinner a super meal!

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