"For this wonderful food, we are going to partake. We are truly grateful...."
This is a part of short prayer called grace before meal. For a long time, we, Jodo shu ministers, have used it. However, I've just realized this might be not good because it says "food is to partake."
In other words, the action of having meal is expressed as "partake/take" in this prayer in English, whereas we intend food is a gift or blessing to receive. In fact, Japanese including myself, always say "Itadakimasu" before meal. "Itadakimasu" in Japanese, means not to take but "to humbly receive." So I thought the verb "to partake " was not good. It should be "to receive".
Interestingly, this is same as Christianity. "Food is not to take. It's a gift to receive. According to the typical Christian prayers, they all use the word "gift" or "to receive" in the prayers.
Catholic. (before eating) Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Common in British and Australian religious schools. For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.
Lutheran. (before eating) Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let Thy/these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
Anglican. Bless, O Father, Thy gifts to our use and us to Thy service; for Christ’s sake. Amen.
etc. (from Wikipedia)
Then, what is the difference?
The difference between "Itadakimasu" and "Grace before meal in Christianity" is very simple. It's just the difference of who is the giver.
Needless to say, it's God (the Lord) who gives the food according to Christianity. On the other hand, the giver of the food in the word "Itadakimasu" is not mentioned. But we can tell it could be blessing of the nature. Or it could be mountain which is the symbol of something higher, too, since the word "Itadaki" literally means "the summit of the mountain." I think because there could be countless reasons or givers of the food, Japanese doesn't mention clearly who was the giver. But that's a good thing about no specific name of the giver. Because the word "Itadakimasu" doesn't have the specific subject, everybody can use this word without having arguments about who was the giver of the food.
The giver could be anybody and anything. It could be "God" or "Heaven" or "Amida Buddha". It's all up to use.
What a wonderful word "Itadakimasu" is.
P.S. After talking about love and peace at the mother's day service, uncle Jim was kidding me and said, "I don't cook. I always receive food and itadakimasu." This inspired me to write about this article. Uncle Jim-san, Arigato gozaimashita.