Spiritual Focus on Gratitude
Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time.”
These words are from Annie Dillard’s slim jewel of a book, Holy the Firm. This image as the day itself as a god reminds me of the spiritual practice I return to most faithfully. It is the practice of gratitude.
Gratitude: I practice it faithfully because I am not very good at it. The very idea of practice implies that we need to improve. “Practice makes perfect” my mother used to say, as I toiled away at cursive handwriting or drooped dejectedly onto the piano stool. The very word reminded me that there was something else I’d rather be doing. Climbing a tree; reading a book; conversing with the cat; daydreaming. These were the things I was already very good at. I didn’t need to practice.
In the spiritual life it seems the same. Gratitude is the heart of prayer. What to do if it is not my natural bent? I am prone to worry. I feel too much compassion for the suffering of others. I rail at God about injustice. The thoughts that assail me are a long list of things that need repair. Anyone who knows me even a little knows this about me. I am a blur of activity. I have my finger in too many pies. I feel responsible for the whole world.
When I practice gratitude, these proclivities do not disappear. But they are filtered through a different lens. The overarching theme of the created world is good. Love threads itself through the warp and weave of life, even on the weariest days. There are tiny sparks everywhere that kindle wonder. Blessings surround me.If I can start out that way in the morning, I can circle back to that place of gratitude like a touchstone as the day wears on.
At Holy Cross Monastery, the Great Silence lasts all night until the morning office at 7. The first word out of the monk’s mouth is the invitatory: “Lord, open our lips/ and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.” I watch Brother Randy make the sign of the cross over his own mouth as he chants these words. God is opening his mouth each morning with prayer. The day is born and bathed in God. I try to emulate this practice when I return home. I drag myself from sleep and say “thank you. ” Before my eyelids open. Before emails or Facebook messages or breaking news on my I-phone. Before coffee or the demands of the day. I don;t always remember. I am far from perfect. But I’m practicing, every day.