Sunday, November 25, 2007

End of the season

It's been a quiet and restful Thanksgiving weekend, considering we're nine nuns living together. We had few guests for dinner Thanksgiving day, not like in the "old days" when preparations started at Oh-dark-thirty, as one of our sisters calls the crack of dawn. I was up to pop the birds in the oven at 6:30, but that was very reasonable, since my only responsibilities this year were turkey and gravy. (And nut pie.)

Our celebrant at mass gave a fascinating history of how the fourth Thursday of November had evolved from its early beginnings. He spoke of the anomaly that Thanksgiving is, a day of solemn prayer dictated by the state, not the church... that our own prayer book was twelve years behind the eight ball in including a collect for Thanksgiving Day.

He explored the theme of a state-dictated day of thanksgiving by asking, "if all are to give thanks, then to whom and for what?" Good question for a country finally looking recession straight in the face, grappling with the price of fuel, a shrinking economy, high unemployment, soaring medical costs, and the looming unpredictability of climate change. Denial no longer works for anyone but the wealthy, and their numbers shrink as the gap between rich and poor widens.

One of the readings appointed for Thanksgiving talked about "first fruits," the income-tax-like offering to God for the harvest. It was not a thank offering, it was 10% of whatever you harvested, whether the year was lean or abundant. In lean years there may not have been much thanks to spare, especially when 10% of very little left your family in debt with nothing to eat. The point was, of course, the belief that everything belonged to God to begin with. Nothing was ours by right. He wondered aloud that if we really believed that, and behaved as though we did, would we take better care of the Earth than we do? My answering thought was "Probably not."

I thought of how hard we are as a group on our belongings here in the convent. Everything is communal property, no personal possessions, and we chip bowls and wear out vacuum cleaners and take little heed about stuffing the washing machine to overload capacity. If these things were ours, would we treat them better? I know how I took care of my own things before I came... and the fact that I had bought and paid for them with money I earned meant they had to last. We have lost that element here, as I think we lost it in the larger sense in our dealings with Earth and her resources.

In his final final wrap up, he asked the question: what are blessings? It was an excellent theme to ponder on Friday as the community went into a day of silent retreat. No flurry of Christmas shopping... we stayed home and prayed, rested, and ate turkey sandwiches.

As I pondered all of my other blessings, I learned that both of my sons will be present for my life profession. What a gift. What a wonderful way to celebrate the last Sunday in Pentecost, the end of the season, the doorway to the next steps.

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