Thanksgiving

Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing
By James Weldon Johnson

Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

Fruits of the earth

Tuesday’s Vespers hymn at the Community of Jesus reminds us of the third day of Creation, where God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:9, 11).

Clothed in poetic imagery, this hymn reminds us that all the beauty that surrounds us came from the hand of God, and was always His intent to bless us. The texts to these hymns can easily be used as prayers of gratitude and repentance!

O great creator of the earth, you who delivering the land from the troublesome beating of the water, have given the immovable earth,

That, bringing forth suitable bud, beautiful things in golden-colored flowers, it might present rich things as fruit, and render pleasant food.

Cleanse the wounds of a scorched soul with the freshness of grace, that it may wash away its deeds with tears, and destroy wrong impulses.

Let it comply with your commands; may it approach no evil; let it rejoice to be filled with good things, and never know the work of death.

Grant this, O most loving Father, and you, the only One equal to the Father, with the Spirit, the Paraclete, who reigns through every age. Amen.
The Community of Jesus

Room to Wander

By Sr. Nun Other

A few years ago, I tried writing a folk song recounting the story of Jonah. While my song had several (now forgotten) verses, I do remember the first one:

Old Jonah looking for a ship to sail,
Ended up in the belly of a whale.
When the wind blew, he drew a lot,
And a hungry fish was the best he got!

Jonah’s testimony is a fascinating one. His four brief chapters of fame are a case study in vacillation between faithlessness and faithfulness. The cowardly man who “fled from the presence of the Lord,” is the same who later insists that the sailors, to save themselves, throw him into the midst of the sea. Swallowed by a whale and incarcerated in an unknown environment, his earnest prayer is one of  thanksgiving to God. His gratitude quickly turns to indignation when Ninevah is spared, and he’s inconsolable when a worm eats his shade tree. Perhaps the greatest thing about this story is God’s love for and infinite patience with His wayward child. He uses everything at His disposal — from a whale to a worm — to accomplish His will in both Jonah and 120,000 Ninevites.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

Back to Heaven

By Melodious Monk

“Back to Heaven”
I’ll go back to heaven again. Hand in hand with the dew That melts at a touch of the dawning day,
I’ll go back to heaven again. With the dusk, together, just we two, at a sign from a cloud after playing on the slopes
I’ll go back to heaven again. At the end of my outing to this beautiful world I’ll go back and say: It was beautiful…
By Ch’ôn Sang Pyong

I wonder what I will say when I arrive at heaven’s door — will it be words of thanks? Ch’ôn was a Korean poet who suffered greatly in his life from brutal torture as a prisoner, and from alcoholism. But Ch’ôn was said to be a very happy man despite all of his hardships. There’s a reassuring simplicity to his words and his poetry reflects a hope that grew out of him through his struggles.

This Easter season, through the power and miracle of the resurrection, God has given us a perpetual chance to live, repent, and keep living, with-in and as His creation.  As the weather warms, and the earth starts to grow again, we should take time to notice and appreciate what he has given us—for all creation is beautiful!

The Community of Jesus

 

Interior About-Face

By Melodious Monk

Have you ever asked yourself honestly, does God love me? While the answer YES! comes quickly to mind, I know many times today I’ll ask myself this question and doubt. Over small worries, unfairness, fears — and over situations I don’t know how to handle, or am powerless to change — I’ll ask this question and doubt.

These words from Henri Nouwen’s well-known meditations on the story of the Prodigal Son are hopeful in bridging the gap of faith between knowing about God’s love, and allowing oneself to live inside of this love. Nouwen shares: ‘For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life–pray always, work for others, read the scriptures–and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.  Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?”

I’m certain I put forth much extra work to answer the wrong questions; extra efforts to “find God,” and to “know God” rather than simply allowing myself to be loved by him.  Nouwen continues: “But if I am able to look at the world with the eyes of God’s love and discover that God’s vision is not that of a stereotypical landowner or patriarch, but rather that of an all-giving and forgiving father who does not measure out his love to his children according to how well they behave, then I quickly see that my only true response can be deep gratitude.”

I have so much to be grateful for, all the time, every day.

The Community of Jesus

 

In All Circumstances

by Sr. Nun Other

I was thinking about praising the Lord. Obviously, it’s not something I do on a regular basis, or I wouldn’t be considering it! I find it curious that it’s so much easier for me to complain and express negativity than to praise. Psalm 118 instructs us to “give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” Its writer found himself in an unthinkable situation: enemies swarmed around like bees; he was pushed to the brink and beyond. Not to worry. He cried to the Lord and was rescued from his enemies. Perhaps a more accurate phrase would be freed from his enemies, especially the inner ones of fear, doubt, and mistrust.  I want to make the distinction that we praise because He loves. It isn’t always love as I wish it to be, but it’s a thorough love that addresses my deepest needs.

The Community of Jesus

 

Discipline of Gratitude

By Melodious Monk

One November many years ago, our first president proclaimed: 

“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country…” 

Following in Washington’s footsteps during a difficult time for our nation, Abraham Lincoln said this:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.” 

Fast forwarding to our generation, the late Henri Nouwen, a man who seemed to know and cherish man’s universal purpose to glorify and give thanks to God, left us this advice. “In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy. Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint…the choice for gratitude rarely comes without some real effort. But each time I make it, the next choice is a little easier, a little freer, a little less self-conscious.”

Each day, and especially today, we can continue the generations-old tradition of choosing to place our thanks and trust in the loving “great disposer of events” as president Lincoln affectionately worded our creator.  I hope that in some way, my small offering of thanks today, together with yours, can join myriad legions of angels to help guide all of us to taste some inestimable blessings.

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit:  Artist’s depiction of George Washington praying at Valley Forge. (Public Domain)

Assume The Best

By Sr. Nun Other

It’s so easy to assume the worst, at least if you’re anxious by nature. I think of the Pilgrims, who, for the sake of their children and love of God, surrendered their fear of the unknown. They embarked on a rigorous journey of sacrifice, to establish one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  Facing fast and furious seas, starvation, disease, and desolate wilderness, they pressed on. Then, in thanksgiving, joined hands in a symbolic feast of community. May we all be thankful, assume the best, and rest in God’s love this Thanksgiving!

THe Community of Jesus

Give Thanks in all Things

By Renaissance Girl

I logged on to Amazon.com the other day and was startled to see, staring back at me, a “countdown to Black Friday” (which, as it turns out, now begins for many stores at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day).

The one day a year that we are actually encouraged as a nation to express gratitude for what we have, is fast becoming another day we are encouraged to aggressively go after what we want.

I felt myself self-righteously puffing up with a rant about lack of gratitude and “where are our values” and then ground to a halt. How often do I live this way myself? Not grateful in the moment for the blessings in my life, but clocking my own personal countdown to the next thing on the horizon that I am sure will make my life perfect.

Perhaps “Thanksgiving Day” could be every day.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

A Willing Spirit

While chanting Psalm 51 this morning at Lauds, this phrase caught my attention:

“…et spiritu promptissimo confirma me” (…and give me a willing spirit).

What struck me was the word translated as “willing” is “promptissimo,” and from which is derived our word “prompt.” I ran home and looked up the Latin translation which reads “The most eager.” So, that phrase from Psalm 51 could be read in English as “…and give me the most eager spirit.”

The response to the first half of the verse is: ‘Restore to me the joy of my salvation.” I asked the Lord to tell me what he wanted to be said today. When I saw the word “promptissimo,” I knew instantly that I had my answer. I gave a prompt and resounding “thank you” to God for having answered me so readily! In that word, he told me he was listening to my prayer and that my joy would return in quick response of thanks to him! Amazing — all within one word in the middle of a chant recitation!

The Community of Jesus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Credit: Gregorian Chant Splash Page
www.gregorianchant.org.uk