Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving, mercy, and the Advent of the Lord

It was my plan to post something yesterday for Thanksgiving Day. Instead, I wound up spending the day in a much better way. I prayed Morning Prayer, read from the little book The Crusade of Fàtima (the centenary of the apparitions is next year), served at Mass, came home and cleaned the kitchen, helped prepare our Thanksgiving meal, cleaned up again, fixed a pretty healthy relish tray for snacking (olives, carrots, hummus, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, ham, pita bread), took a breather, during which I read out loud to my wife about Nathan Hale from Eric Metaxas' book If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty, went for a long walk (after the snowstorm Wednesday evening, it was a beautiful day here along the Wasatch Front) with my wife, during which we prayed the Rosary together, played with my boys in the snow for a few minutes at the end of our walk, came in and played board games with my boys, ate, took on the task of cleaning the kitchen, had pie, cleaned again, prayed Evening Prayer, then watched a couple of episodes of the old British television show 'Allo, 'Allo, which is even racier than I remember, but in a sly, certainly not subtle, way.

In his homily yesterday our pastor referenced Common Preface IV of the Eucharistic Prayer;
It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation
always and everywhere to give you thanks
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God.

For, although you have no need of our praise,
yet our thanksgiving is itself your gift,
since our praises add nothing to your greatness
but profit us for salvation,
through Christ our Lord
Even our ability to give thanks to God is a gift from God, a grace. Our Thanksgiving feast is not turkey, but Jesus Christ. He is our Eucharist. I am glad the United States of America dedicates a day once a year to giving thanks to God for the abundant blessings we enjoy. This should not puff us up. It should humble us. Our humility should focus us on our need to perfect our national unity as well as on being a blessing to other nations.

As we were coming to the end our walk, I told my wife that I am glad I've somehow maintained the tradition that was handed on to me growing up, which is to observe Thanksgiving as mainly a religious day, like a Sunday. It is not a boast on my part, but a humble acknowledgement, made with gratitude, to my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I long for a return to the days when practically all businesses are closed on Thanksgiving. It's not likely to happen, but that doesn't have to impact how I observe the day. I very much like being counter-cultural in this way.

KBYU FM- Classical 89 had what I can only describe as magnificent programming on Thanksgiving Day. It's what we listened to and, at times, talked and worked over, as we cleaned, cooked, cleaned, cooked, and then cleaned. In inverse order here are the programs: Giving Thanks to Music, A Thanksgiving of American Folk Hymns, A Feast for the Ears, and Giving Thanks: A Celebration of Fall, Food, and Gratitude. I particularly enjoyed Giving Thanks: A Celebration... (you can still listen here). In the second hour of Giving Thanks between music by Mendelssohn and a choral arrangement of "We Gather Together," in succession, were readings from Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, Chartres Cathedral story; Psalm 104 — read by Charles Laughton.

St Olaf Parish (my parish), Bountiful, UT, getting ready for the ... getting ready (Advent)

It's hard to believe we are at the threshold of another Year of Grace. Most of the current liturgical year consisted of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which concluded last Sunday. Inaugurated by Pope Francis, it began on 8 December 2015, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which struck me then as it does now as wholly fitting.

This week I read Pope Francis' Apostolic Letter Misericordia et misera, which he promulgated to conclude the Extraordinary Jubilee. It is a remarkable document, one that every Catholic as well as Christians of good will should read. The title is a phrase taken from Tractate XXXIII, Chapter 5 of St Augustine's On the Gospel of John. The great bishop of Hippo Regius penned the phrase while commenting on the episode in which Jesus encounters the woman taken in adultery. As the Holy Father wrote: "It would be difficult to imagine a more beautiful or apt way of expressing the mystery of God’s love when it touches the sinner: 'the two of them alone remained: mercy with misery'" (par 1). Our prayer should always include some variation of the Jesus Prayer: "Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me a sinner."

My lovely wife serves as music director at our parish. When I awoke this morning she was in the kitchen planning music for the First Sunday of Advent, which is this Sunday. She was contemplating a new take on an old hymn: "The King Shall Come," by Trevor Thomson. I don't mind saying that hearing this song was a nice way to begin my day. Because it was nice for me, I want to hand it on to you. Hence, it will be our traditio for this final Friday of the current liturgical year:

In my mind, Advent is best understood and observed as a season of hope. Hope is the flower of faith and its fruit is caritas, charity, or, if you prefer, love.

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