Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

This Thanksgiving, I am of course thankful for all of the beautiful, wonderful, exceptional, blessed things in my life. There is the family—wife, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws. There are the friends and acquaintances, old and new. There is the roof over our heads, large enough to house not only the two of us but family and friends, as well. The amazing variety of foods and drinks in this world, and the infinite variety of ways to prepare them. The transportation vehicles that take us from here to there and back again. The giant flying machines that whisk us from city to city, state to state, and country to country, over mountains and oceans, all while we eat, sleep, and watch the latest movies or sporting events. The form of government that, at least for the moment, still allows us to make many of our own choices and lead lives relatively free of tyranny.

As I pondered the very idea of thanks and what it means to give thanks, I saw how the idea of thanks so exemplifies the reality of our interconnectedness, as beings. Giving thanks always requires another, one separate from ourselves, another being, whether human or divine. We have explored in times past how various languages imply various shades and subtleties of thanksgiving ( The gratias/gracias/grazie stream of thanksgiving reflects thanks for grace, the grace of God or the gracious, full of grace, full of kindness acts of our fellow human beings. The merci folks of Gallia reflect gratitude (there’s that grace again) for mercy received. The obrigado form indicates that an act worthy of thanksgiving creates an obligation, but one that must be freely realized and returned. Nihonjin speakers also acknowledge an indebtedness whenever they offer arigato. That and the xie xie ni of the “Middle Kingdom” contain a tinge of apology along with the thanks, perhaps reflecting an Asian attitude of humility in language directed toward another. The xie character seems to indicate that the physical act of speaking thanks is itself an act justly required. The spasebo speakers of the frozen north declare “God saves” whenever they give thanks. The Hellenists remember good gifts when eucharistically giving thanks. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob reflect their thanks with hands, lifted up and out, in blessing. Todah Rabah. A whole lot of thanks and blessing.

All of these things are obvious between people. Grace, kindness, mercy given, obligation and indebtedness from charitable acts. Giving, receiving, speaking and doing good things. But what of the thanks we give for being, for the creation, for the blood coursing through our veins, for the life-giving breath we breathe, for thought, for speech, for awaking every morning. To whom do we give thanks for these acts of grace, kindness, goodness? To and for whom do we apply our hands in worshipful thanksgiving? To the ultimate You.
On this Thanksgiving, I give grace-and-mercy-received-obligation-indebtedness-creating,-slightly-apologetic-acknowledging-the-good-gifts-of-salvation-received-hands-uplifted-and-offered-in-service THANKS to you and you and ultimate You.
Modeh ani lifanekha...

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