This simple maxim goes to the heart of the Christian life. If I steal your money and burn down your house, I cannot offer thanks for what I have done. It was not given to me from God.
Anything that is not a gift has the nature of sin.
I can give thanks to God that He meets me in the midst of my sin and saves me, but I cannot give thanks for the sin itself for God is not the author of sin.
What I am describing here are the simple parameters of a eucharistic existence. We were created to give thanks. This is the paramount vocation of human beings, the meaning of the assertion that we are “kings and priests.”
We learn in the Eucharist itself that the giving of thanks is the primary means of communion with God. Communion with God is the ground of all being. It is the true means of our existence and eternal life. The Elder Zacharias of Essex has said that worship should be understood as an “exchange.” God gives to us, and we give to God. But what can we give to God? We give Him thanks. The Scriptures refer to this as the “sacrifice of praise.”
For You are the Offerer and the Offered, the Receiver and the Received, O Christ our God, and to You we ascribe glory…
From the moment of our conception we are living a gift. Our biology represents an inheritance that reaches to the very beginning of life. It comes as the fruit of every story that participated in that miraculous chain. Our culture comes as inheritance. The words of our language are themselves similar to our biology. They carry a linguistic DNA that extends to the very first word ever spoken.
The Church has a simple word for this gifting: tradition. Tradition does not mean “the way things have always been done.” Rather, it means “that which has been handed down.” Existence is itself a tradition, and the most precious. We must understand that tradition is not a choice; it is a given. Indeed, it is THE given. All existence is a tradition. There can only be the grateful acceptance of the gift or the refusal to acknowledge it. But we cannot forego the gift.
Those who destroy life and parade their “power of choice,” are simply ungrateful. But they speak with words that were gifted to them and breathe air that is not their own. They eat food they did not create and enjoy the light of day while refusing others the chance to see it. They live as the anti-eucharist, and, as such, they refuse to live. They have made an alliance with the darkness of non-being and the idolatry of self. Evil has grasped their souls.
Every thought or action that is not, finally, an offering of thanksgiving, participates in the drunken and stumbling journey towards death. We are not only creatures who can give thanks, we are creatures whose sole purpose is marked by the offering of thanks.
Every act of love participates in thanksgiving. Love is the emptying of self towards the other. It is a gift of what has been given to us. When fear enters our minds we draw back from such giving, thinking that if we risk such an offering we will somehow disappear into the emptiness. But, perfect love, true and complete love, casts out fear. Fear is the voice of the void, the cry of a false existence.
The teaching of Christ consistently draws us away from fear. We are told:
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against the love of plenty; life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” (Luk 12:15)
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luk 6:38)
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” (Luk 6:35 )
Such statements are not mere encouragements towards morality. They are statements about the very nature of true existence. Our lives move towards non-being when they become mired in fear and driven by acquisition. That movement is marked by death, decay and corruption.
The same fear moves us towards pride (“love of self”) and the need to dominate.
Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves ‘Benefactors.’ But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luk 22:25-26)
The psychological drive to control is the product of fear. Every organization has witnessed such personalities. Local parishes are often terrorized by them. They stifle joy and set in motion the dance of death as fear breeds fear and violence begets violence. You cannot achieve good things through evil means. You cannot control a situation into goodness. Only giving and generosity have a share in the fruitful abundance that is the tradition of life.
If your life is riddled with fear, give something away. Perfect love casts out fear.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1Jo 4:18-1)
In St. John’s words we see the true flow of tradition. We love God because He first loved us. We give because all that we have has been given to us. This is the Great Tradition without which no other action can be called “traditional.”
This Great Tradition is the hymn of the Church and the song of the universe. Live like you mean it.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.