In these trying times, physically separated from one another, unable to participate in common worship, it is very tempting to lose heart and hope. Yet for the sake of our unity in Christ, we must resist this temptation.
I am lately reminded of an incredible prayer by Dag Hammarskjöld, a Swedish diplomat and the second Secretary General of the United Nations, who died at the age of 56 in an airplane crash as he travelled to a warring region of Africa. These stirring words were discovered after his death in his journals (later published under the English title Markings): “For all that has been, THANKS, for all that is to be, YES!”
In this prayer of affirmation and hope, Hammarskjöld points to the essence of our common life in Christ: the offering of gratitude and thanks. We read in the Letter to the Colossians, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The Apostle Paul writes in the First Letter to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Even though tried by the world’s misunderstanding, by hardship, persecution, and martyrdom, our ancestors in faith sought to live in continual thanksgiving to God—in everything! Their firm conviction did not seek to deny the troubles and sorrows of their present suffering. Rather, by the continual offering of thanks, they learned that they could undergo and pass through trials, even blessing the “goodness and loving-kindness” of the God who created and preserved them with the gift of life and being. These faithful men and women humbly affirmed their gratitude for, in the words of the Prayer Book’s “General Thanksgiving,” God’s “immeasurable love in the redemption of the world,” and “for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory” which were theirs in Christ. Their lives of prayer and action were thoroughly “eucharistic” (to use the Greek word for “thanksgiving”): characterized by mutual support and encouragement in their offering of gratitude to God. A eucharistic people, they were ready to say “THANKS” for all that had been, and empowered to say “YES” for all that was to be, in God’s providence.
Like those before us, we now live in a world of individual and corporate pain and loss. And we God’s children are also called – even from in the midst of pandemic and death, economic uncertainty and inequality, social and racial injustice, and destructive climate change – to be a eucharistic people. United in our intense longing to be together, we are joined in one Body by baptism into Christ’s salvific dying and rising. Our prayer and actions of gratitude, even offered in isolation, bring us together as a living sacrament of Christ for the sake of one another and of the world. Through giving thanks in all things, we together partake of Jesus Christ, the Bread of Heaven, at his table set in our hearts. Giving thanks in all things, we are becoming ever more and more a eucharistic people, together.
This week, even in these very trying times, we invite you to lift up your hearts in prayer, giving thanks to God: “For all that has been, THANKS, for all that is to be, YES!”
Br. Jonathan Maury