The Holy Eucharist – Fullness of Life in the Midst of Life

Gratitude — Really?? Am I??

Ecclesiastes 1.12
[12] And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Psalm 116
[12] What shall I render to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
[13] I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
[14] I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
[15] Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.
[16] O LORD, I am thy servant;
I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast loosed my bonds.
[17] I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the LORD.
[18] I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
[19] in the courts of the house of the LORD,
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!

I have been blessed over the last several months in my ongoing reflection – ruminatio – on passages from Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. She says, early on, in what proves to be a/the key chapter of the book, “a word to live … and die by”:

“Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy.’ Joy. Ah…yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about, that which Augustine claimed, “Without exception…all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is joy.’ … ‘The greatest thing is to give thanks for everything. He who has learned this knows what it means to live…. He has penetrated the whole mystery of life: giving thanks for everything.’ … Eucharisteo – whenever: now. Joy – wherever: here… ‘The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.”

Really, the only way to appreciate this all too brief quote is to read the whole chapter and the whole book ! !

Now, of course, I am not going to leave it at that. I must place it in the context of the Church Fathers (and Mothers). Transformation often happens in my life in this way (among others): My independent lines of reading intersect, affect one another, work transformation in my life or the life of someone with whom I share life, and reorient my course and focus in those lines of reading. Well, it just so happens that my reading of the chapter mentioned above coincided with a book of daily readings from the Church Fathers. Here is the text of that reading.

From the Detailed Rules for Monks by Saint Basil the Great
Love of God is not something that we can be taught. We did not learn from someone else how to rejoice in light or want to live, or to love our parents or guardians. It is the same, perhaps even more so, with our love for God: it does not come by another’s teaching. As soon as the living creature (that is, man) comes to be, a power of reason is implanted in us like a seed, containing within it the ability and the need to love. When the school of God’s law admits this power of reason, it cultivates it diligently, skillfully nurtures it, and with God’s help brings it to perfection.

For this reason, as by God’s gift, I find you with the zeal necessary to attain this end, and you on your part help me with your prayers. I will try to fan into flame the spark of divine love that is hidden within you, as far as I am able through the power of the Holy Spirit.

First, let me say that we have already received from God the ability to fulfill all his commands. We have then no reason to resent them, as if something beyond our capacity were being asked of us. We have no reason either to be angry, as if we had to pay back more than we had received. When we use this ability in a right and fitting way, we lead a life of virtue and holiness. But if we misuse it, we fall into sin.
This is the definition of sin: the misuse of powers given us by God for doing good, a use contrary to God’s commandments. On the other hand, the virtue that God asks of us is the use of the same powers based on a good conscience in accordance with God’s command.

Since this is so, we can say the same about love. Since we received a command to love God, we possess from the first moment of our existence and innate power and ability to love. The proof of this is not to be sought outside ourselves, but each one can learn this from himself and in himself. It is natural for us to want things that are good and pleasing to the eye, even though at first different things seem beautiful and good to different people. In the same way, we love what is related to us or near to us, though we have not been taught to do so, and we spontaneously feel well disposed to our benefactors.
What, I ask, is more wonderful than the beauty of God? What thought is more pleasing and satisfying than God’s majesty? What desire is as urgent and overpowering as the desire implanted by God in a soul that is completely purified of sin and cries out in its love: I am wounded by love? The radiance of the divine beauty is altogether beyond the power of words to describe.

… What words can adequately describe God’s gifts? They are so numerous that they defy enumeration. They are so great that any one of them demands our total gratitude in response.

Yet even though we cannot speak of it worthily, there is one gift which no thoughtful man can pass over in silence. God fashioned man in his own image and likeness; he gave him knowledge of himself; he endowed him with the ability to think which raised him above all living creatures; he permitted him to delight in the unimaginable beauties of paradise, and gave him dominion over everything upon earth.

Then, when man was deceived by the serpent and fell into sin, which led to death and to all the sufferings associated with death, God still did not forsake him. He first gave man the law to help him; he set angels over him to guard him; he sent the prophets to denounce vice and to teach virtue; he restrained man’s evil impulses by warnings and roused his desire for virtue by promises. Frequently, by way of warning, God showed him the respective ends of virtue and of vice in the lives of other men. Moreover, when man continued in disobedience even after he had done all this, God did not desert him.

No, we were not abandoned by the goodness of the Lord. Even the insult we offered to our Benefactor by despising his gifts did not destroy his love for us. On the contrary, although we were dead, our Lord Jesus Christ restored us to life again, and in a way even more amazing than the fact itself, for his state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.

He bore our infirmities and endured our sorrows. He was wounded for our sake so that by his wounds we might be healed. He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for our sake, and he submitted to the most ignominious death in order to exalt us to the life of glory. Nor was he content merely to summon us back from death to life; he also bestowed on us the dignity of his own divine nature and prepared for us a place of eternal rest where there will be joy so intense as to surpass all human imagination.

How, then, shall we repay the Lord for all his goodness to us? He is so good that he asks no recompense except our love: that is the only payment he desires. To confess my personal feelings, when I reflect on all these blessings I am overcome by a kind of dread and numbness at the very possibility of ceasing to love God and of bringing shame upon Christ because of my lack of recollection and my preoccupation with trivialities.

—————
Do you detect the interplay between these texts ? ! I did… What makes them transformative is not the profundity of the information contained in them, although it is profound. What makes them transformation is meeting and communing with Christ Jesus in and through them. The course of my life has changed because the Lord Jesus Christ, the “One Who has come,” “the One Who is present,” and “the coming One” encountered me and I Him, via these texts.

Fr. Thomas

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One thought on “The Holy Eucharist – Fullness of Life in the Midst of Life

  1. Indeed! I have recently come through a long, several-month crisis in which one of the major learnings has been this key – thanksgiving in all things (not that I am as yet proficient at it, but I am practicing!). And perhaps not surprisingly, I have also become a recent fan of Ann Voskamp’s wonderful blog, which always makes me catch my breath. One thousand gifts, to be sure – and a thousand thousand.

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