Giving thanks

Saint_Cecilia_Wymondley.jpgReading from the Commemoration of Cecelia

Then the three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace:

‘Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and to be praised and highly exalted for ever;

And blessed is your glorious, holy name,

and to be highly praised and highly exalted for ever.

Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,

and to be extolled and highly glorified for ever.

Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne on the cherubim,

and to be praised and highly exalted for ever.

Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,

and to be extolled and highly exalted for ever.

Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,

and to be sung and glorified for ever.

‘Let the earth bless the Lord;

let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, you springs;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;

sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever.

All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,

sing praise to him and give thanks to him,

for his mercy endures for ever.’ – Azariah 1:28-34, 52-59, 68

When I first became an Episcopalian, we were using the 1928 prayer book. It was one of the things that drew me to the church in the first place. Another was the corporate chanting the canticles for Morning Prayer, including one called Benedictus es, Domine which was one our parish used after the reading of the first lesson. Standing in the little church, built in 1697, it was like being surrounded by all those who had stood where I did, chanting the same words. It was a feeling of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.

We only chanted verses 28-34 of this morning’s reading. but then, we didn’t hear a lot about the apocryphal writings. It has been a joy to discover the origins of one of my favorite chants and find that there is so much more there.

The Song of the Three Young Men was an addition to the book of Daniel, and was said to be praises to God as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood in the fiery furnace where they had been thrown by Nebuchadrezzar for refusal to worship an idol. Instead of seeing them die horribly, those who witnessed saw not three who had gone in but also a fourth, and none of them had so much as a hair singed. The song reported here was sung by Abednego (Azariah) and was a catalogue of creation, animate and inanimate, and which blessed or conferred on God a part of their own beings and not just mere words. In the concluding verse, Azariah calls for those who worship God to bless, praise and thank God. That part about thanking is particularly important this week when we celebrate the holiday we call Thanksgiving.

Think of Thanksgiving and most folks will visualize a big, golden-brown baked turkey on a platter surrounded by dishes of various sorts from mashed potatoes to green bean casserole to jewel-like cranberry sauce. A few will be industriously making lists and checking newspaper ads for Black Friday sales the next day. The intent of Thanksgiving, however, is focused in the word itself — giving thanks for all the blessings we enjoy (and maybe some we don’t really consider joyous but for which we feel we should give thanks anyway). We are encouraged to stop and give thanks not only to God but for those who surround us daily: our families and friends, a roof over our heads when so many go without, clean air and water (which again, so many do without), the ability to go to church (or not) at the church of one’s own choosing, the ability to disagree and debate without fear of imprisonment or death, and so many other things. Once a year we are reminded to be thankful for what we have, and encouraged to not just sit down to a long table surrounded by family and great quantities of food but to also remember the homeless and hungry by volunteering at soup kitchens and food banks.

It is also a time to bless God and be thankful for the gifts we have received over the past year — or even years. Among the things I am grateful for are health which, even if not perfect, is still far more than so many deal with. I am grateful for friends who love, support and accept me, even when I’m cranky. I am grateful for the four furry kids I call my boys (even though one’s a girl) who give me a reason to get up in the morning (a demand, really), and for the roof we have over our heads, the food on our plates and bowls, a furnace that works in the winter and an air conditioner in the summer. I’m grateful for the Episcopal Church of the Nativity which feeds and supports me spiritually.

Included in my thanksgiving this year is gratitude for Episcopal Café, Daily Episcopalian, and especially Speaking to the Soul where I have been able to share my reflections on scripture and other topics. I am grateful to Jim Naughton, who allowed me to share in this unique and respected site, and for Ann Fontaine who encouraged, questioned, edited and illustrated what I wrote. I am thankful for Jon White, our new chief, and for those exceptionally talented people with whom I work and who have offered so many “AHA!” moments. Most of all, I am thankful for the people who read and have read what I’ve written, whether or not they comment or “like” what I’ve said. It is a feeling of awe that comes knowing that my words are heard beyond the front door of my house and that perhaps someone might find something of value in them.

May all of you have a blessed Thanksgiving next week, and may we all remember to join all of creation in blessing, honoring and thanking God for our many blessings.

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter . She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.

“Saint Cecilia Wymondley” by Shaggy359 – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons

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Giving Thanks

EllenFrancisPoissonTheLastSupper_500.jpg

Drink your tea slowly and reverently,

as if it is the axis

on which the world earth revolves

– slowly, evenly, without

rushing toward the future;

Live the actual moment.

Only this moment is life.

Image above (and on front-page mastheads):

“The Last Supper” by Ellen Francis Poisson, OSH.

Words above: “Drink Your Tea” by Thich Nhat Hahn.

Category : Art Blog
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Comment Policy
Our comment policy requires that you use your real name and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted

4 Comments
  1. Ann Fontaine

    I love this. Thanks Robin.

  2. billydinpvd

    I love the painting’s textures and colors.

    The poem, in the context of the painting, reminds me of the theory that the Japanese tea ceremony (which I realize has nothing to do with the poem, except Camellia sinensis) was heavily influenced by exposure to the Mass in the 16th century.

    Bill Dilworth

  3. snowbird

    The pairing of these truths opens our hearts to see greater things. Many thanks.

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