While on retreat last week I read a book called One Thousand Gifts, in which the author makes the argument that it is only through giving God thanks for all things that allows us to relearn to see the presence of God all around us. She is not an Episcopalian, but she stumbles upon the word eucharisteo, the Greek word for thanksgiving. We are obviously familiar with this word through our service of Holy Eucharist. Throughout the book she makes use of this word as the foundation and centrality of giving God thanks in all things.
“What if,” she says, “the Fall wasn't a result of eating the forbidden fruit and blaming the other (Adam blames Eve who blames the serpent), but what if the Fall was a result of our ingratitude to God?” In other words, the serpent said if we ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil our eyes would be opened and we would be like God. What really happened, though, is that the serpent caused us to doubt God's goodness that we could see all around us, and eating the fruit opened our eyes to see what we had NOT been given. We went from being grateful and able to see all of God's gifts, to being ungrateful and focused on what we did not have, or on what we were missing. It was with that new vision of ingratitude or ungratefulness which left its mark on us and with which we now see.
As you all know by now, I am scheduled for my third back surgery next week. I am hopeful that this one will eliminate, or at least relieve, the ever-present pain that makes daily living difficult and Sundays almost unbearable. But in that pain, I'm not sure I have ever given thanks.
After reading this book, I have found a way to be thankful. I am thankful for a new understanding and empathy toward people with chronic pain. I am thankful to have eyes to see things in a new way. I am thankful for moments of painlessness. I am thankful for support. I am thankful I am still walking.
The worship service that begins on pages 323 and 355 of the BCP is titled: The Holy Eucharist. It can also be called The Holy Thanksgiving. The second half of the complete service, the rite of Holy Communion, is sub-titled The Great Thanksgiving. Eucharist, Thanksgiving, is the name of the entirety of the service, with a great thanksgiving occurring in the rite of Holy Communion.
What if we saw this service not as something we do on Sunday, but as preparing us to give thanks in the week to come? What if we saw it as a way of opening our eyes to the goodness of God all around us? What if we saw it as setting the tone for the upcoming week rather than as a brief respite from a fallen world?
This is the call of all God's children: to give thanks and praise in all things, learning to be thankful for all our gifts in all circumstances. In learning to do that, in learning to give thanks in all things, in making a daily practice of giving thanks and praise, it just might lead to a transformation of our selves that relearns to see the world as God created it – very good.