In my recent book, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, one of my names for God—number 3 of 89 such names—is this: “God is the One to whom we give our thanks.”
This is not so different from psychologist Otto Rank saying that “God is the one to whom we give our gift” of art and creativity. Rank worked as a therapist in Paris during the 1930’s and did therapy with many artists including Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller.
If we are surrounded by goodness and take goodness in so as to praise it where we find it, then we are urged to give thanks for life, for existence, for the goodness tasted therein.
When Dorothy Day, an atheist and communist at the time, became pregnant she was so overcome by the beauty of bearing a new living being inside her that she converted to Christianity. Why? “Because I had to give thanks to someone,” she said. God is the One to whom we render our Thanks.
Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart says we need to make a simple return “to that original apprehension of the gratuity of all things”—a deep response that is not neutral but that is grateful to
…the limitless beauty of being, which is to say, upon the beauty of being seen as a gift that comes from beyond all possible beings.
One is never half-full of thanks—one is thank-full, Grate-full.
Julian of Norwich elaborates on the role of thanksgiving in our spiritual life:
Giving thanks is also part of prayer. Thanksgiving is a true, inner awareness. Charged with the quality of reverence and loving awe, we turn ourselves with all our might toward the actions [we are steered to by God] rejoicing and thanking him inwardly.
Sometimes the soul is so filled with gratitude that it overflows and breaks into song: ‘Good Lord, thanks be to you! Blessed are you, O God, and blessed may you always be.’
Our loving actions, our work, follow from Thanksgiving. We arise from undergoing goodness, joy, and awe to share it with—and educe it from—others. Shaping a world where all can share in the via positiva is good work indeed. It is enough to make us break into song
This is why Christians call their worship in which they remember Jesus in the Last Supper “Eucharist.” Because the word eucharist comes from the Greek word for giving thanks. The heart of Christian worship is Thanks therefore. And remembering the good the Jesus was and brought and taught—ceremony is then not just about remembering but about remembering the good. The “original goodness” (Aquinas) that creation is and the Earth is; and the “original blessing” that the cosmos is and has been for 13.8 billion years (see Genesis 1). And this is what it means to “make holy the Sabbath Day,”—to remember the good and to be grateful for it.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God…Including the Unnameable God, p. 4;
And Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, p. 33.
Banner Image: Eucharist window, Leicester Cathedral, Saint Martin, Leicester, UK. Photo by Lawrence OP on Flickr
Do you agree with Julian that the Via Positiva and gratitude for it charges us to do the work we do? What follows from that?
Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God …Including the Unnameable God
Too often, notions of God have been used as a means to control and to promote a narrow worldview. In Naming the Unnameable, renowned theologian and author Matthew Fox ignites our imaginations by offering a colorful range of Divine Names gathered from scientists and poets and mystics past and present, inviting us to always begin where true spirituality begins: from experience.
“This book is timely, important and admirably brief; it is also open ended—there are always more names to come, and none can exhaust God’s nature.” -Rupert Sheldrake, PhD, author of Science Set Free and The Presence of the Past
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.