students and teachers of St. John's Orthodox Academy turn our eyes to
our Creator in a week dedicated to the virtue of gratitude.
Without gratitude, we could not be human. Indeed, no other virtue
makes us more human, which is just another way of saying that no other
virtue makes us more Godlike, since God is the measure of our
humanity. The better we become at giving thanks through the blessed
labour of prayer and acts of charity, the more thoroughly do we adopt
the "mind of Christ" (1 Cor. 2:16).
But gratitude does not act alone. At the heart of gratitude abides
that supreme virtue of human consciousness: humility (which is our
next virtue of the week). Since gratitude is nothing but a kind of
humility in action, gratitude and humility serve to work out our
salvation together. Humility is potency; gratitude is actuality. By
humbly and gratefully realizing, and then acting upon the realization
of, the derivative nature of all that we have and all that that we
are, we express our utter, absolute, and total dependence on God for
everything! Thus do humility and gratitude become the systole and
diastole of a heart consecrated to a life in Christ.
When, in thankless forgetfulness, I choose to live my life other than
gratefully (that is, in my usual ridiculous and arrogant manner, like
some drunken tyrant who burns through his most precious possessions
with blind ingratitude) I only set myself upon a destructive path that
eventuates in the moment of death, where I will stand bereft of grace
and spiritually bankrupt when it comes time to pay back the life I
have been loaned to live. Gratitude is the robust and consistent
acknowledgement that I am living on borrowed time, with a borrowed
body - seeing with borrowed eyesight, thinking borrowed thoughts,
speaking with a borrowed tongue, hearing the laughter of children, the
ecstasy of music, and the cry of my neighbour with borrowed ears - and
that I am beholden to the Creator of "my" life, body, "my" eyesight,
"my" thoughts, and "my" language to do everything in my power to use
these borrowed talents for the Glory of God.
As we prepare to turn the calendrical corner of the iniquitous day of
thanklessness (Halloween) in order to set our course for that great
American holiday (yea, the only true American holy-day) of
Thanksgiving, let us prepare our hearts, and the hearts of our
students, to be lifted up in gratitude for everything we have been
May your week be graced with thankfulness to God!