Tag Archives: thanksgiving

A gratitude-filled New Year

Last night, New Year’s Eve on December 31, 2017, I celebrated the festivities in an entirely new way: at church. While I am a regular church goer, and consider myself a devout Episcopalian, I never had really thought about celebrating such a holiday at church. But the opportunity presented itself for me to assist with the celebration in a small yet meaningful capacity, and so I accepted. My plans were set.

The church I attend, St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, has hosted a New Year’s Eve labyrinth walk for almost 20 years. They open the doors of the church to the community for anyone to come and meditate on one of several labyrinths. This year, the walk began at 6pm and ended at midnight, when Holy Eucharist was celebrated in the center of the large labyrinth, ringing in the new year and celebrating the Feast of the Holy Name (which celebrates the Christchild being brought to the temple 8 days after his birth and being named Jesus). Also, it so happened that the weekly Compline service (which has happened every Sunday evening at 9:30pm since 1957) occurred in the middle of the evening.

I attended this year’s celebration at first just to fulfill my duty I committed to (assisting with the set up of the altar for Holy Eucharist). I ensured to arrive early enough to be able to enjoy the Compline service as well. As i settled into one of the few remaining open seats in the cathedral, I was surrounded by people slowly walking around the cathedral, making their way from one labyrinth to another; finding a seat for the Compline service; or wandering without seeming to have a purpose at all…perhaps just absorbing the sacredness of the space, illuminated partly by candlelight and dim lamps.

Shortly after I settled into my seat, the Compline choir entered the cathedral, carefully making their way through the crowds of people to the corner where they perform the service. As the service began, I let the music and chant calm my soul and transport me to a place of sacred peace. If you’ve never heard the St. Mark’s Compline Choir, be sure and check out their website: http://www.complinechoir.org. Listen to one of their recordings. You’ll be glad you did.

After the Compline choir completed their singing, a moment of silence fell on the very full cathedral before another musical performer stepped up. (There were numerous different musicians who took turns providing calming/sacred music during the labyrinth walk). I stayed put in my chair, and connected with the faces of several other people sitting along the floor in front of me (there were so many people, there weren’t any seats left). I wasn’t the only one who had been transported that evening into a place of peace.

After doing a bit of reading and praying the rosary, I decided I would begin a walk of the labyrinth. I chose a smaller one that was close to where I was sitting in the rear corner of the cathedral. Not being that regular of a labyrinth walker, and someone who finds it difficult to focus my prayer without a rubric, I didn’t want to walk the larger labyrinth that was filled with people in the center.

I removed my shoes, walked to the entrance, and slowly began to walk. I found myself instead of praying simply meditating on all of the blessings of my life: my family, my friends, my fluffy puppy Fritz, this beautiful city that I now call home. My thoughts became flooded with gratitude. And the face of my mother, who died 2 years ago on Christmas Eve, continued to enter my mind. I thought about all that she went through in her life and what she taught me about faith and love. My heart was overflowing with gratitude. As I slowly approached the center, I began to have puddles of tears form in my eyes. Overwhelming gratitude and love. It’s a powerful and awe-inspiring thing.

I noticed as I walked that the outline of the labyrinth had been retraced. There were spots where the old line had been removed and replaced elsewhere, kind of like a ghost image. Like when you’re driving down the road and you can see someone has re-lined the road, but you still see the old lines. It was a bit disorienting in the dim light to be able to make sure I was following the right path. I found myself seeing this experience as a metaphor for life…how often do we think we are following the right path, but aren’t sure we’re following the right one?

Upon reaching the center of the labyrinth, I paused. The center was surrounded by small tea light candles. I felt myself being held in a place of peace and love. I imagined a photo of myself as a baby where my mom has me in her arms, perched on her shoulders. Gratitude.

When I completed my labyrinth walk, it was time to begin preparations for our midnight Holy Eucharist. I proceeded to the sacristy, where I prepared the bread and the wine (though we were using champagne since it was New Year’s), and performed the tasks that have become a part of my offering to God, where I in turn give gratitude for Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for redeeming our world. Preparing the holy gifts for the altar warms my heart each and every time. And this night, I was especially filled with gratitude. Gratitude that was perfectly summed up in the Prayer of Thanksgiving which we read during the service:

Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have
done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole
creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life,
and for the mystery of love.

We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for
the loving care which surrounds us on every side.

We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best
efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy
and delight us.

We thank you also for those disappointments and failures
that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.

Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the
truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast
obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying,
through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life
again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.

Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and
make him known; and through him, at all times and in all
places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.

As I write this post nearly 24 hours later, I still find my heart and mind overflowing with gratitude. It’s a beautiful way to begin the New Year!

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Colossians 1:11-14

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. God has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Continue reading here.

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Come, ye thankful people, come

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God’s own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
give his angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come,
to thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

Words: Henry Alford, 1844
Music: St. George’s Windsor (George Job Elvey: 1816-1893)

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In thanksgiving for the ordination of women…

Forty years ago today, the first 11 women in The Episcopal Church were ordained to the priesthood. It is my belief that our church, and the wider Christian Church, has been strengthened and enriched by this brave act forty years ago.

“May God bless the harvest of this moment, so that it will be not be a high moment in the history of the Episcopal Church but a holy moment in time,” prayed Charles Willie, the Vice-President of the House of Deputies, in his sermon on July 29, 1974. On that remarkable day, eleven female deacons were called, “to make no peace with oppression,” and were ordained to the priesthood in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia.

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Above Images: 1) Women priests celebrating the Holy Eucharist, from the Records of the Episcopal News Service. 2) The Philadelphia Eleven kneeling at the altar during their ordination to the priesthood, located in the Records of the Communications Office (DFMS). 3) Image of Bishop Edward Welles leading the ceremony of laying on of hands, part of the rite of ordination, located in the Records of the Communications Office (DFMS).

Portions of the above were excerpted from Facebook posts of The Archives of The Episcopal Church.

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A Prayer of Thanks

Loving God,
we give you thanks
for restoring us in your image
and nourishing us with spiritual food
in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.
Now send us forth
a people, forgiven, healed, renewed;
that we may proclaim your love to the world
and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.

–Postcommunion prayer from Enriching Our Worship, according to the use of The Episcopal Church.

books-of-common-prayer

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Gloria in Excelsis Deo (William Mathias)

The Gloria in Excelsis is one of the oldest hymns in Christian tradition. Also known as the “Greater Doxology,” its beginnings go back to the 2nd century. Many Christians around the world still recite these words as part of weekly worship, prayer, and devotionals, including Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, Lutherans, and many others. Its text has been translated from the original Greek of the New Testament (the opening words are the words spoken by the Angels in Luke 2:14), and many different variants exist. Among all versions, the joyful message is clear: God is to be glorified, Christ died for our sins, and God alone is holy and in unity with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

The version I share here (composed by William Mathias) was recorded at Washington National Cathedral on May 5, 2013 during the 11:15 Holy Eucharist.

Click here to listen to the Gloria.

Glory to God in the highest,
And peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father:
We worship you,
We give you thanks,
We praise you for your glory.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God:
You take away the sin of the world,
Have mercy on us.
You are seated at the right hand of the Father,
Receive our prayer.

For you alone are the Holy One,
You alone are the Lord,
You alone are the most High:
Jesus Christ with the Holy Spirit,
In the glory of God the Father.
Amen.

A medieval icon depicting the Trinity, painted by Andre Rublev c. 1400.

A medieval icon depicting the Trinity, painted by Andre Rublev c. 1400.

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Now thank we all our God

Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things hath done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mother’s arms
hath blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God
through all our life be near us,
with ever-joyful hearts
and blessèd peace to cheer us;
and keep us in his grace,
and guide us when perplexed,
and free us from all ills
in this world and the next.

All praise and thanks to God
the Father now be given,
the Son, and Holy Ghost,
supreme in highest heaven,
the one eternal God,
whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now,
and shall be evermore.

Words: Martin Rinkart (1586-1649), 1636
trans. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878), 1858
Tune: Nun danket alle Gott (later form of melody by Johann Crüger, 1598-1662), harmony. William Henry Monk (1823-1889), after Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

–From the album Complete New English Hymnal, Vol 4, sung by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir.

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