The surest way to suppress our ability to understand the meaning of God and the importance of worship is to take things for granted. Indifference to the sublime wonder of living is the root of sin. - A.J. Heschel
Ah yes, Gratitude, Thanksgiving or better known as Eucharist to us Catholics.
I didn’t know the Eucharist was tied into gratitude or thanksgiving. Can you provide a little more detail?
Thanks. I didn’t know that.
No worries. I’m glad I could teach you something for a change
Amen, Valke2. Heschel is one of our favorites around here. The heart of faith is a grateful heart. Gratitude is the groundsoil of humility. Humility is the seat of joy.
I once wrote a drash on gratitude, touching on Leah and Jonah and a few other things. If I can find it I’ll post it later. I’d like to know what you guys think of it.
Gotta love Heschel. As you may know, he lost his family in the holocaust. I always think about how much we really lost when I read him. All the unwritten wisdom that was sent to the showers.
Valke, I know this is a little off-topic, but the thread doesn’t seem to be expanding very much, so I’ll risk it and ask you what you think of Max I. Dimont. About ten years ago I read his Jews, God, and History, but need to read it again. What brings it to current mind is another book by him that I recently started: The Indestructible Jews.
I really am enjoying this book. I got about halfway through it, and then decided to go back and start over to burn in what Dimont is getting at, and that’s where I am now.
Are you familiar with Dimont and his books? I’d appreciate any opinions you have about him, as my knowledge of Judaism and history is very weak; I’d like to learn more, but don’t want to waste time with suspect sources.
Are We Still Creatures?
Has humanity reached a level of independence from God? Do we still need God to live? We have achieved scientific breakthroughs, technological feats, and our world has never been so convenient. Communication technology and computer science has made our planet inter-connected and unified. We have defeated many diseases through modern medicine and humans are living longer. In the West, everything we need is at our disposal and everything we desire has become accessible to some degree. But are we truly independent or is this an illusion? To answer this lets consider some of the fruits of our “independence”. We are constantly at war with each other. We have lost our respect for pre-born human life. We are still dying. We still have pain and suffering. We have a void in our hearts that we try to fill with material wealth, promiscuous sex, pornography, alcohol, and drugs.
None of these can satisfy our emptiness. Instead, they make that emptiness more vast and more painful. In this so called enlightened and advanced civilization we have an illusion of independence which has only submerged us in an ocean of the profane.
Sure we still call ourselves Catholic. We still identify with those cultural ties that we inherit in birth. Every once in a while we have to we go to church to satisfy those familial obligations. If we can squeeze it into our schedule we may even go with the intent to worship God. Maybe we figure we should stop by to visit our Creator at least once a week.
So we will stop by in our shorts and flip flops. We’ll watch as the people around us talk, chew gum and yawn through the Mass. We’ll listen in agony to the choir who never seem to know when to stop. When it’s time we’ll saunter up to receive the Eucharist in our hands and casually pop it into our mouths. After this we hurry to the parking lot to be the first one out. We drive home with a sense of great pride that we have accommodated God with our presence. As if God were an aging grandparent desperate for our company, we see it as an act of mercy on our part to pay our respects to this obscure, semi-senile old man.
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In contrast to our times, lets look at the tremendous perspective that Abraham had long ago When he dared to plead for the lives of the innocence in Sodom. He said, “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord., which am but dust and ashes” (Gn 18:27).
Abraham had a serious case of what Rudolph Otto called ‘creature consciousness’, “that emotion of a creature, submerged and overwhelmed by its own nothingness in contrast to that which is supreme and above all creatures” . God aroused this creature consciousness for the first time in Adam after the Fall when He said, “You are dirt and to dirt you shall return”(Gn 3:19).
Recognizing our status first as creatures and secondly as fallen creatures is the key to understanding the just disposition that every person should have in their hearts: that of gratitude and awe. We should be thankful for all life but especially human life. We alone are made in God’s image. This great dignity demands a response of thanks even when that response cannot be adequate.
We owe God everything. Ever since the sons of Adam and Eve humans have offered God repayment. Even without the full revelation of God they could recognize that they owed their existence to a greater power. They also knew that their existence depended on the providence of that higher power. This is the basic level, the starting point for understanding our relationship with God. Since the key to our existence is food; either crops or animals. These ancient people offered their greatest resource, their first fruits, on the altar to God.
Some of these gifts were offered out of fear. They feared that they would be cut off from their only source of life through a famine, drought or some other natural disaster. Sometimes they offered sacrifices to thank God. Other times they offered atonement sacrifices to cover over their sin. In any case they offered these sacrifices not because God needed them, but because they needed them. The food they offered and the blood of the animals represented the gift of life.
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In offering these gifts, they also offered the labor they put into raising the animals and growing the crops. The “work of human hands”, in other words, the suffering and effort that it took to produce these gifts was also offered to God. These offerings were not just a sign of their gratitude but also of their happiness for the many gifts that God had given to them.
Ultimately, it was God who offered to us the greatest gift, the gift of redemption and eternal life. He gave his only Son for our reconciliation with Him. Jesus, as both High Priest and Victim, fulfilled all of the ancient sacrificial offerings. His was a sin offering, thanksgiving offering and first fruits offering. Unlike those offerings of the old covenant that were an insufficient repayment, Jesus’s offering is superabundant. “He entered once and for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption”(Heb 9:12).
He made that timeless sacrifice present on the table of the Last Supper before his death. Today, acting through our priests, he makes it present on our altars at Mass even after his death. Just like he pre-presented it through his historical body as he did on that night, today he re-presents it through his mystical body when his priest acts in his place and “in his person”. That perfect offering, that perfect gift of love on the cross was the Father’s gift to us. It is the source and summit of our spiritual life.
Now, this gift of the Eucharist is a better offering than the people of the old covenant. “For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God”(Heb 9:14). **We can finally offer something that satisfies God completely and something strong enough to destroy the barrier of sin.**Every time we re-present the offering at Mass, God the Father offers his Son back to us in communion. This is a clear sign that the barrier is indeed broken. Not only does the great mystery of the Eucharist break the barrier of sin but it breaks the barrier of time and space as well. We should not take this intimate access to God for granted. In Moses’ time access to God’s presence was not taken lightly. Consider the fate of Nadab and Abihu the nephews of Moses. The entered the sanctuary of the Lord and “offered up before the Lord profane fire, such as he had not authorized. Fire therefore came from the Lord’s presence and consumed them., so that they died in his presence”(Ex 10:1-2). This act of God was only a “manifestation of his sacredness” as he says in Ex 10:3.
When we approach the priest in communion we should be cognizant of the sacred. We should consider that we are about to receive the all powerful, majestic God into our body and soul. We should beware of a casual familiarity when receiving the Eucharist. We must remember, that though we are his sons and daughters through Christ we are still creatures, still dependent on God for our every breath.
Thank God for this. Really, thank him during the Mass because the Eucharist actually means ‘gratitude’. To offer it and consume it with anything less than total gratitude in our hearts would be a sort of profanity not unlike Nadab and Abihu’s offering. God will respond to our gratitude by granting us happier, longer and more fulfilling lives.
I haven’t read his stuff but he’s not a suspect source. Jews, God and History is a popular book. I haven’t heard any real negative reviews on it.
Thanks. Anyone who wants a great overview of how God has worked to save mankind through the Jews should read this book, The Indestructible Jews. Next time I run across an atheist, I’m going to suggest this book for him.
“The essence of faith is an awareness of the vastness of infinity”