Babbet’s Feast – The Incarnation


This is an extraordinary artistic production. It is not about culinary art. It is graphic presentation of the Incarnation of the Son of God Who has become one of us and has stayed with us as the Bread of Life [ζωη]. It is the movie of a celebrated female Parisian chef serving the two (now) elderly daughters of a Lutheran minister in a god-forsaken fishing village in the northern reaches of Norway. After  14 years of service, Babbet wins the French national lottery and decides to put her all into preparing and serving a meal for the anniversay celebration of the dead  minister-father of the two sisters.

The sisters and the town folk, suffering from the heretical  spiritualism of gnosticism [the material world is a bad place, and God is a dreadful examiner, feared contamination from such a meal, and were determined not to show any sign of moral collapse or collusion with the Evil One by showing delight or giving praise for the culinary delight that was before them. During the meal, however, and little by little, the pleasure they were experiencing began to take effect and the relationships among them slowly became amicable and ultimately hearty. [One could not avoid recalling Irenaeus remark, “the glory of God is man alive,” as well as St. Josemaria’s Escriva’s magna charta, “Passionately Loving the World” since God Himself had become man and ensconced Himself at its very center as alpha and omega].

Babbet, of course, is the protagonist – as “Ipse Christus” [Christ Himself] – who has been the chief chef at the premiere Parisian restaurant, and who squandors her winnings at the national lottery of 10,000 francs in a single meal which is an icon of the Eucharist in which Christ makes the total gift of Himself to death for the life of the others. Babbet’s feast is the icon of that kenosis of the Son of God -leaving the trappings of God to become Son of  man – for the sake of man. When Babbets is asked if she will now return to Paris with the remainder of the money, she explains that she has nothing left and will continue to stay with the two sisters and continue to serve them. She has given it all, which is an icon of herself. The military general who appeared at the beginning of the film – now worldly wise after years in Paris and in love with one of the sisters (the great singer) – now becomes the major interpretive voice of who Babbet is and of the depth and quality of the meal. He becomes the lens that opens the eyes of the guests at the meal and the scale that weighs the metaphysics density of what is taking place. It is not otiose to add that the conviviality that begins to stir among all present is not simply the contentment of a five star meal, but the interior dynamic of a self-gift donated by another and  received from  within.

This is a movie that is a profound work of art that could be the center-piece for a course on the meaning of the Incarnation,  Christology of Chalcedon (451) and Gaudium et spes #22, the anthropology of Gaudium et spes #24, the ontological realism of the Eucharist, the meaning of the human person as self-gift, the deep metaphysic of the social doctrine of the Church, a visualization of the heresy of gnosticism as present-day reductionism…