A slightly belated Thanksgiving greeting to you all.
Over our Quaker history there has been a reluctance to highlight and focus on holiday celebrations, especially as they relate to faith. So Christmas and Easter, for example, are to be treated not as uniquely sacred days because we believe all are sacred days deserving reverence and gratitude to God for our continual reliance on the miracle of life. Those familiar with the Celtic tradition will recognize a similarity with Celtic spirituality that fills each day with the constant practice of prayer.
But we live in a much more complex world now than the Celts or traditional Quakers. Because of the secularization of the holidays and established family and societal traditions, it is difficult to avoid being caught up in the secular holiday spirit, and even to forget - or minimize - a holiday’s original spiritual connections. And, of course, we all enjoy the shared camaraderie of a holiday season of song and traditions, so we easily accept the compromise and focus on family, friends and food.
But we Quakers have a good point. Even if we no longer faithfully observe our intention of making every day a sacred day hit is a worthy aspiration. Thanksgiving would then become celebrated not as just a particular day but more of an "attitude of gratitude" that pervades much of our life. Yes, it is good to have a special holiday, I guess, that emphasizes traditions of family and food, but each and every day of life might well include a gratitude for our family and friend relationships and the food and other necessities that sustain us and nurtures our lives with meaning and health. When each moment of the day is a life of prayerful gratitude, we recognize that gratitude is the heart of prayer.
My own daily prayer life begins always with a litany of gratitudes. I pray in gratitude for another day of the gift of life and my ability to be conscious and present to it. I give thanks for my faith that grounds me ethically in humility and wonder. I give thanks for food, shelter, warmth and my comforts which I am blessed to receive. I give thanks for Cathy’s love, for my family, and for my circle of precious friends and community which hold me in care and accountability. I give thanks for my relative mental and physical health.I give thanks for my physical, financial, and social security. I give thanks for the beauty all around me and the animals and birds that feed my soul with delight. And I give thanks for my work and purposefulness of my life. Yes, that’s a lot, I know, but this litany serves to remind me of my very blessed and privileged life.
After recognizing my own blessings it always follows that I am aware of the majority of people across the globe who do not have access to most of these blessings that I can all too easily take for granted, and I consider the struggles many have to simply survive. I ask that I will have some capacity out of all my blessings to be able to recognize opportunities to share my blessings with others and have the ability and capacity to do so.
I often end my prayer with the Spanish word for thanks, “gracias.” The word is rooted in the Latin gratus meaning pleasing or thankful. For me the sound of gracias itself evokes a more heartfelt sense than the Germanic based word “thanks.” My life, indeed, is “gracias a Dios.” Thanks be to God. And may your deep gratitude for life also be an ongoing blessing for yourself and others.