In our home we like to dissect words. One day it occurred to us that if disgruntled is a word then gruntled must have been a word at some point. We figured it likely meant the opposite of disgruntled, i.e., it must have meant “to be well satisfied.” It turns out that gruntled was indeed a word, though its use was not as straightforward as we had expected.

The New York Times published an article in 1999, in which they picked up on the onomatopoeiatic sense of gruntled:

“…short, deep, guttural sounds made by hogs, especially when eating. The word seeks to imitate the sound; a Roman farmer was probably responsible for the Latin grunire, ‘to grunt; to sound like a rooting pig or sickly cow.’

Gruntle is what lexicographers call a frequentive, a verb that describes repeated or recurrent action… The frequentive of wrest is wrestle; of prate, prattle; of spark, sparkle; and the frequentive of grunt is gruntle.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines gruntle as ‘to grumble, murmur, complain,’ and cites a 1589 sermon by Robert Bruce: ‘It becomes us not to have our hearts here gruntling upon this earth.'”

The article continues:

“However, thanks to a comic writer, gruntled — having died as obsolete — has indeed made it back into the dictionaries. P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves, wrote in his 1938 Code of the Woosters, ‘If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.’ The Oxford English and Merriam-Webster Dictionaries list that play on a word as a back-formation from disgruntle, and the word gruntle is born again — meaning ‘to put in a good humor.'”

Fasting may seem to be about as far from this happy sense of gruntling as one can get, but I find fasting can be a way to a deeper gruntling, to soul satisfaction, to indeconstructible joy.

I find that fasting needs to be coupled with prayer; otherwise, I’m simply taking something good away and creating an emptiness. On the other hand, if I take the times that I would be eating and spend them feeding my soul in prayer, and if I take the yearning that hunger creates and turn it towards God’s Spirit, then fasting becomes the means to a deeper sustenance and a foretaste of the deepest, ultimate satisfaction.

I find that fasting is a way of story reset. Fasting brings to the surface questions of where I go to find joy, where I go to find life, where I locate satisfaction. And when I couple fasting with prayer then I am able to re-orient joy, satisfaction, and desire towards God and new life.

Honestly, I love food. I do not look forward to fasting. But, after fasting I am always glad to have done it, for the renewal it has brought to me.

In John 4, Jesus and his disciples are walking from Judea through Galilee, making their way to Samaria. They are tired—we are told that Jesus is weary—so they stop by a well outside a small town. When the disciples go to get food, a Samaritan woman comes to the well and Jesus has a powerful interaction with her that leads to one of the rare moments in the Gospels when Jesus, before his Passion, openly tells who he is: the Messiah. The disciples come back with food and urge Jesus to eat, but he tells them, “I have food to eat you know nothing about.” The disciples are befuddled. Then Jesus adds, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me.”

Fasting, with prayer, resets my appetite for the Kingdom of God.

So this Lent, friends, let us be gruntled, of soul.

May Jesus Christ be praised,
Fr. Tim