Well, if I understand correctly, today would have been a second class feast for James Otis Sargent Huntington.  Except that today is Thanksgiving Day, which takes precedence, so the feast is transferred to tomorrow.  He is the founder of the Order of the Holy Cross, the first permanent monastic community in the Episcopal Church (and very concerned with putting the spiritual life into action in daily life — one of the reasons the Episcopal Church has been so involved in stuff happening in the world).  But what caught my eye is a reading from his “Bargainers and Beggars,” on gifts and giving (Grace), which connects in my mind (though it feels a bit archaic to me) with my last piece (“Free In Christ“).  Here is what he said:

It belongs to God to give; it is our part to receive.  That is a very simple and primary truth.  Let us not on that account despise it.  It is the truth which our Lord began in teaching his disciples, that is, in teaching the world, including ourselves. Let us not think that we know better than he what we need to learn.  “It belongs to God to give; it is ours to receive.”  Plain people, the poor, little children, know that, and are happy in knowing it.  They make no secret of their weakness, their dependence, their need.  They breathe, instinctively as it were, the universal prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  They find it good to “hold fast by God,” to “put their trust in the Lord God.”

But what is clear as the light to the simple-hearted may be dim and obscure to the sophisticated and world-beguiled.  How can it be otherwise when we find intelligent men, trained in habits of scientific accuracy, talking about the “gifts of Nature”?  A moment’s reflection ought to disclose the absurdity of the phrase, if taken as anything but a highly poetical expression.  The gifts of Nature!  But not only is it true that “the gift without the giver is bare,” there can be no “gift” at all without a “giver.”  For giving is a moral act.  It implies a will to impart — a “will to love,” not merely a “will to live.”  If behind “Nature” is the personal will of God, the we can speak of the sunshine and the rain, the revolving seasons, and the fruits of the earth that they bring with them as “gifts.”  Otherwise the word has no real significance.  One does not take off one’s hat to a penny-in-the-slot machine, or express gratitude to an automat.

But if God gives us all we have, then he is giving continually.  He is, in very deed, the giver.  In him alone do we find the full realization of bestowal, of donation.  for only his own love prompts him to give existence to his creatures, and to continue to endow them with what they have, or are, or ever can become.  The very nature and being of a God as the only possessor and dispenser of any life there is in the universe imply that he must every moment communicate to every creature the power by which it exists.  and jus as this is the  very place and nature of God, to be unceasingly the supplier of every want in the creature, so the very place and nature of the creature is nothing but this — to wait upon God, and receive from him what he alone can give, what he delights to give.  the more distinct and clear-cut is our sense that what we have and are is a gift, the more vivid will be our sense of a direct and abiding relation with God, a consciousness that we are only because he is.

This fits pretty well with my thinking about the place of gratitude in our lives too.

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