As I enter into the celebration of another Thanksgiving, I have been led to ask this question: “To what degree do I live out of a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude?”
Let me explore the challenge contained in this question. I am grateful/thankful for a number of things. The list is huge. I don’t think the challenge is to be thankful. Rather, I believe the challenge is whether or not, on a practical basis, that gratitude is the soil that creates, nourishes and strengthens my thought life and actions.
There is a difference between “knowing” something in my head (and I mean even really being convinced) and having what I “know” be the real genesis of my thoughts and actions. What I may end up doing is allowing gratitude to have a voice or inform me in some relatively peripheral way, but not really be the basis of my life.
St. Paul puts it this way:
“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 5.3-5)
“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)
The saint is not advising me to allow thanksgiving to have somewhat of a voice or some input, but to be the very environment and raw material, when properly received and integrated, that generates and shapes my patterns of thought and thus all my actions.
As all of you know, I am certain, the Greek word for thanksgiving is εὐχάριστος “eucharistos.” The ramifications are obvious. The Lord desires for me to live a “Eucharistic life.” I am supposed to be continually abiding in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus (the fertile soil), which is not only the very environment that sustains my life, but becomes my very food and drink. As I digest Him spiritually He infuses every fiber of my inner life – my thoughts, emotions, will, desires, and consciousness with His life. Actions that witness to the Lord Jesus not just as Savior but reigning Lord are the fruit of this nourishment. It is no longer I who live but the Great Thanksgiver – Christ Jesus – who lives in and through me.
Eucharist – thanksgiving – is a celebration of the essential and dynamic operation of prayer. Abbot Meletios Webber of the Monastery of St. John says that three phrases “are indispensible and all-encompassing”:
- Thank you.
- Lord, have mercy.
- Thy will be done.
By receiving and offering thanks in an appropriately repentant and surrendered way, I live and grow. I flourish.