Of Your Own Have We Given You

If I were to paint you one picture that I hoped you would carry through your life, it would be this:

The golden November light slants through a large, elegantly curved window onto a small wooden table. Behind the table is a person facing the window, their entire being lit up by the dancing rays. Arms lifted, they raise their cupped hands to the heavens in offering. And inside their hands is the entirety of the world.

Alexander Schmemann writes that “The only real fall of man is his noneucharistic life in a noneucharistic world.”

“The first, the basic definition of man is that he is the priest. He stands in the center of the world and unifies it in his act of blessing God, of both receiving the world from God and offering it to God—and by filling the world with this eucharist, he transforms his life, the one that he receives from the world, into life in God, into communion with Him.”

In my church we have a a beautiful prayer each week that is said before we receive Eucharist together. The bread and the wine are lifted up as we pray, “We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, and we offer you these gifts.” This, I believe, is a picture of what our entire lives should be aiming at: offering to God, in praise and thanksgiving, the gifts he has given us back to him. Or, as a prayer of David in 1 Chronicles beautifully puts it, “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.”

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This week, as many of us celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I keep returning in my mind to this image of the world, lifted up in gratitude and thanksgiving. I keep returning to the words of Schmemann, “All that exists is God’s gift to man, and it all exists to make God known to man, to make man’s life communion with God.”

This is the beginning of what it means to live a life that is fully and richly human. This is the beginning of true worship as well as sacrificial service – a life that can love God through the world, rather than fearing or separating from it. And this is the beginning of joy, because it is the beginning of abundance: recognizing that we can offer everything we have, because we have received it as a gift.

“The world then truly becomes the sacrament of Christ’s presence, the growth of the Kingdom and of life eternal.”

As we enter the Advent season, I pray you find moments to live into the fullness of what it means to be richly human in body, mind, and soul. May you recognize the world thick with the grandeur of God, and may you allow that knowledge to lead you into the posture of offering, the certainty of abundance.

May we acknowledge the many gifts we have been richly given, and gather them together to be raised in gratitude to the Light.

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