Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving Season

I think the subject of Thanks should be on our minds and hearts daily.  In many ways Thanks is another word for the Via Positiva.  It is a realization that whatever pains and losses and disappointments life throws at us, the bottom line is that we are here.  That being here is a gratuitous gift.  That there are trillions of potential humans never born who never were here and never will be here.  That existence is a gift and life is a privilege in spite of whatever struggles accompany it. 

Gathering together remotely for the holidays. Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Distancing during a pandemic is less than ideal; it may prove less than fun.  It upends our favorite habits and practices we most like doing.  But the bottom line is that we do want to survive and be with loved ones and play in the future—and for that reason we learn some discipline, move beyond instant gratification, and look forward to a more celebrative future.  And learn what lessons there are to learn now.

One of those important lessons is that of Thanks.  So much of true religion is about Thanks.  In fact, Thomas Aquinas actually defines authentic religion as Gratitude or Thankfulness:  “Religion is supreme thankfulness or gratitude.” It is essentially about the goodness and blessing we have inherited and our grateful response. It is primarily about the Via Positiva.

A moment of gratitude to creation. Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

Where does this gratitude derive from? “The debt of gratitude flows from charity” says Aquinas. A certain reverence derives from the acknowledgment of the goodness of our existence and all that makes that possible by way of the goodness of all creatures. It is religion’s task to make that reverence live. “It belongs to religion to show reverence to One God under a single aspect, namely, as the first principle of the creation and government of things.”

Notice he is not saying that religion is primarily about redemption—rather it is primarily about gratitude and reverence. Thankfulness is not coerced, and neither is true religion. “Gratitude is paid spontaneously. Thanking is less thankful when it is compelled.”

The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – Greetings to the Natural World. Uploaded to YouTube by Dan Abrahamsson

It follows that religion is primarily a matter of the heart, for “gratitude depends chiefly on the heart.” The primary purpose of the sabbath, as we are told in scripture, is to give thanks for creation. The “seventh day” described in Genesis implies that the command to “remember to keep holy the sabbath day” is about giving thanks.

But religion is not any gratitude—it is a supreme gratitude according to Aquinas. What makes it so “supreme”? Is it that we have an ultimate act of gratitude to give the Creator? Is this the bottom line for gratitude—our existence? And gratitude therefore for so many other beings that are beautiful in their own right and also necessary for our survival?  

Within Aquinas’s teaching about gratitude we can see the origins of Meister Eckhart’s teaching that “if the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘Thank You’ that would suffice.”

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 41-43.

See also Matthew Fox, Meditations with Meister Eckhart.

Banner Image: Let us give thanks for the gifts of the earth. Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

Do you agree with Eckhart that a life of “Thank You” and Gratitude is prayer itself?  And with Aquinas that the essence of authentic religion is a “supreme thankfulness?”  What follows from that?

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

Meditations with Meister Eckhart: A Centering Book

A centering book by Matthew Fox. This book of simple but rich meditations exemplifies the deep yet playful creation-centered spirituality of Meister Eckhart, Meister Eckhart was a 13th-century Dominican preacher who was a mystic, prophet, feminist, activist, defender of the poor, and advocate of creation-centered spirituality, who was condemned shortly after he died.
“These quiet presentations of spirituality are remarkable for their immediacy and clarity.” –Publishers Weekly.  

Upcoming Events

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3 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Thanksgiving Season”

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    This meditation has spoken to my heart. I must admit that sometimes I don’t watch all the videos that go along with the words. But this video, The Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address – Greetings to the Natural World. Uploaded to YouTube by Dan Abrahamsson, is so beautiful and powerful. I looked it up on You Tube and shared the link with my family and friends.

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