Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, 2007

Jonathan Edwards distinquishes between a "grateful good will" (the root of religious feeling, as he understood it) and the kind of gratitude that depends on being loved and appreciated--the kind of gratitude, in other words, that people might feel toward a creator presumed to have their interests at heart. "True virtue," Edwards wrote, "consists, not in love of any particular beings nor in gratitude because they love us, but in a union of heart to being in general." Man has no claim to God's favor, and a "grateful good will" has to be conceieved, accordingly, not as an acknowledgement of the answer to our prayers, so to speak, but as the acknowledgment of God's life-giving power to order things as he [sic] pleases, without "giving any account of his doings."
(Nicholas Lasch, The Revolt of the Elites, quoted in Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001, 117)

Our first gratitude, in other words, is to the God who gave us life. Not the God who gave us comfort, security, and power; not the God who made us wonderful, marvelous, unique, and individual. Not the God who made us, and us alone, valuable first, and everyone else valuable as they value us and value as we value. Not the God who made us special, or who answers our prayers, who heals our wounds, who stops our troubles and lets us relax and simply enjoy ourselves. Our first gratitude, like the first fruits of the harvest, the first yield of the land, is to the God who made it possible, who gave these gifts to us. A gift is something you can only receive, and cannot repay. But it is one which, contra Derrida, can, and should be acknowledged. Because the possibility of re-payment, of exchange, is, in this case, simply impossible.

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who died for me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In love and desire.

Pour down upon us from heaven
The rich blessing of Thy forgiveness;
Thou who art uppermost in the City,
Be Thou patient with us.

Grant to us, Thou Saviour of Glory,
The fear of God, the love of God, and His affection,
And the will of God to do on earth at all times
As angels and saints do in heaven;
Each day and night give us Thy peace.
Each day and night give us Thy peace.

(Link to Carmina Gadelica courtesy of Wounded Bird)

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