We bless thee for our creation … (General Thanksgiving – Book of Common Prayer)
Sitting comfortably in the cafe where I always write, I am filled with gratitude. Such a warm atmosphere, friendly people and a lovely baby that keeps making overtures. Life presents itself at its best.
Gratitude. A delicate subject. The very helpful book: “Complex PTSD, from surviving to thriving” reminded me of its importance in spite of the pain caused when the words “be grateful” accompany serious neglect. The book also frequently mentions that life is a gift.
Life is a gift. These words then remind me of the general thanksgiving at the end of Morning Prayer, where we thank God for our creation. Wonderful to ponder this. In one stroke it gives me self-esteem and new hope. We wouldn’t thank God for something worthless, would we? And a gift is meant to be used, isn’t it? The receiver is free to enjoy what was given, precisely this will bring joy to the giver.
The full sentence in the general thanksgiving is: “We bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.” This latter part, on redemption, begins to touch on some of the pain that I mentioned. Difficult to shed the impression that we have become indebted, imprisoned, by this great gift that we can never repay. Think for example on what Saint Paul says in 1 Cor 6:19-20, that we are not our own, but have been bought by the blood of Jesus. I don’t like this line of thought at all.
We are bought. An unfortunate choice of words. Thankfully, other parts of Scripture use the word ‘ransomed’ or ‘redeemed’ for the same transaction, and these words convey far better the essential worth of what is thus recovered: our life. At other places Saint Paul stresses our freedom, so I suppose he did not mean to force us in a dysfunctional, servile, whimpering acknowledgement of our indebtedness, which is a far cry from gratitude that restores1.
I pray that God will give me the grace to believe that my life is mine to live2 and that he set me free for that reason. He has done so, of course, but it is an ongoing struggle to grasp it, and feel safe to express my gratitude by fully embracing this gift of life.
- See also very nice video by Kallistos Ware where he explains other common misunderstandings of biblical imagery about the redemption https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWuu215jPh0
- See also Who lives my life