Limitless Gratitude

Today’s we have the happy coincidence to be celebrating the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple, and at the same time we Americans are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow. This is a wonderful opportunity to focus on a very particular aspect of our giving of thanks, or the lack thereof.

We all have our struggles in life. Most of us have had our moments when it seems like things are so bad there’s nothing to be thankful for. Of course when we have these moments void of all gratitude, we’re usually not looking very far–no further than our immediate surroundings–and we almost certainly only look at our present circumstances, rarely looking forward or looking into the past for reasons to be thankful. Sure, we can sometimes remember good things in the past, but then in our cynicism we say to God, “What have you done for me lately?”

With the present convergence of these two celebrations (the Entrance of the Theotokos and American Thanksgiving) we can begin to correct our short-sightedness. I know that at any given moment and at any given place, there are countless things to be thankful for: right there and then. But let’s leave that aside for the moment.  Let’s assume, hypothetically, there is nothing here and now to be grateful for. So what if we look a bit further out from these islands of desperation? And what if we open ourselves up to things that happened in the past, maybe even the distant past, or things that are happening, just not right where we happen to be?

One of those far away, long ago happenings was the moment in which a young three-year-old girl named Mary was presented to the Temple in Jerusalem. She herself would become God’s Temple when she carried God’s Son in her womb, and on this day she enters the Temple to be presented to God. In other words, the Temple entered the Temple. Is this not a reason to rejoice and be thankful? Is not the coming of the one who will give birth to the Savior worthy of joyous gratitude?  Is there any reason this is less worthy of our gratitude because it happened long ago and far away?

Once we open ourselves up to this new perspective, we find that expanding our search beyond the immediate presence for things worthy of thanksgiving yields limitless things to appreciate, engendering fathomless depths and boundless heights of gratitude. We could literally be overwhelmed with the amount of gratitude for all that exists and has existed in time and space that grow thanksgiving in our hearts.

And if that sounds good to you, then let’s ask ourselves: why don’t we do it? Why do we deal with so much depression, anxiety, fear, emptiness, loneliness, helplessness? Why do so many have such a hard time just getting through the day? How can life seem so bad that suicide rates are increasing in every age group? Simply put, too often we just don’t see all there is to be grateful for. But maybe expanding our “range” on where we look for those things will help. Maybe including distant events and situations will open us up to the immensity of all the reasons that exist for our sincere giving of thanks. And maybe, just maybe, if we get better at seeing those distant reasons for gratitude, we’ll begin to see that the here and now is not quite as devoid of goodness as we imagined. Maybe we can get better as seeing such goodness far away and come to realize it resembles the goodness we’ve missed right here, all around us, right now. God has always been at work, bringing goodness and light to all He touches. And He will continue to do so into all eternity. And if He’s always done it in the past, and always will in the future, maybe, just maybe He’s doing it right now, right here.

Let’s contemplate the Entrance of the Theotokos to the Temple, and let’s celebrate a great Thanksgiving. And in doing both together, let’s be open to a life that is, first a foremost, a life of eternal gratitude, where every day is Thanksgiving Day.

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