983: The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving thanks we give ourselves.
Day 983: Thursday, November 24, 2022
The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves.
—Brother David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer
At his Last Supper, Jesus gave us an action, a mime, a sacred, communal ritual that would summarize his core and lasting message for the world—one to keep repeating until his return.
It’s significant that the meal and the metaphor are based in physicality; the incarnation continued in the elements of the universe.
But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die.51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” - John
Good stuff, and yet it has always been a scandal to overly spiritual people, starting at the very beginning: “This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?” (see John 6:60).
The Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving,” has four main aspects.
In our conscious participation, we become more like the one we follow:
First, we take our whole lives in our hands, as Jesus did.
In very physical and scandalously incarnational language, table bread is daringly called “my body” and wine is called “my blood.” We are saying a radical “yes” to both the physical universe itself and the bloody suffering of our own lives and all the world.
Second, we thank God (eucharisteo in Greek), who is the Origin of all that life and who allows and uses even death.
We are making a choice for gratitude, abundance, and appreciation for Another, which has the power to radically de-center us. Our lives and deaths are pure gift, and must be given away in trust, just as they were given to us as gift.
Third, we break it.
We allow our lives to be broken and given away. We don’t need to protect them. The sharing of the small self will be the discovery of the True Self in God. “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat” (John 12:24); the crushed grain becomes the broken bread, the whole and newly connected “Body of Christ.”
Finally, we chew on this mystery!
This truth is known by participation and practice, not by more thinking or discussing. “Take this,” “eat and drink this”—not alone, but together, “until I return.” There we have the heart of the message, a “new covenant” of indwelling love that is not grounded in worthiness in any form, but merely in a willingness to participate and trust. Our drinking and eating are our agreement to “do what I can to make up in my own body all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body the church” (see Colossians 1:24). Eucharist is a risky and demanding act of radical gratitude for, solidarity with, and responsibility to the work of God—much more than a reward for good behavior or any “prize for the perfect,” as Pope Francis says.
Thank you, Spirit, for life. Thank you for shared joy.
Thank you for beauty. Amen
- Richard Rohr