As an author on pious bartending, you know that you’ve drunk too deep of your own product when your first reaction to a new prayer is, “That would make a really good toast!” Such is the experience I had as I was combing through the old Raccolta (the pre-Vatican-II collection of indulgenced prayers and deeds) and came upon the following:
Joy and peace, amendment of life, room for sincere repentance,
the grace and comfort of the Holy Spirit, perseverance in good works,
be given to us by the almighty and merciful Lord.
What a beautiful prayer! And yes, provided that it is offered in the right spirit, I see nothing wrong with using it (and others like it) as a toast.
My reasoning is this: when a Christian disciple makes a toast, he is already saying an implicit prayer. When we say “To your health!” we are expressing a wish that the drink about to be consumed is conducive to someone’s health. And when we express a wish, we are basically asking that the wish be granted. But whom are we asking? Does an adopted son of God trust in fortune or chance? In princes or in his own might? Obviously, a Christian puts his trust in the Lord, and so his every wish, if his heart is properly oriented, is directed to God in loving supplication.
And so, when Christians drink to someone’s health or longevity or prosperity, they are essentially asking the good Lord to grant health or longevity or prosperity. Similarly, when they say “Here’s to friendship or family!” they are essentially thanking God for the gift of friendship or family.
I believe that these ideas are present in the traditional Roman Rite’s blessing for beer:
Let us pray.
Lord, bless this creature beer, which by your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain, and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant that whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to your holy name may find it a help in body and in soul. Through Christ our Lord.
Notice that this blessing expands upon the basic “To your health” toast by explicitly directing this wish to God. And it also includes the notion of thanksgiving, which is implied in every “Here’s to X” toast.
Now of course, toasting should not substitute for other forms of prayer, but it can have its place in a well-ordered Christian life. Perhaps it is even one of the ways that we can live up to St. Paul’s admonition: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31).
So here’s to toasting! Or rather, may our toasts be one of many prayers that rise like incense before the almighty and merciful Lord, and the lifting up of our glasses like an evening sacrifice.