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Gratitude

The spir­i­tu­al per­son is the one who is grate­ful for every­thing. He is the one who receives every­thing with thanks­giv­ing, and who knows that he has noth­ing except what he has received from God. (Cf. John 3:27)

And from His full­ness have we all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:16)

In the Old Tes­ta­ment, thanks­giv­ing was cen­tral in the life of God’s peo­ple. The tem­ple litur­gy offered sac­ri­fices of thanks­giv­ing and praise, and psalms sang con­tin­u­al­ly of thanks­giv­ing to God.

Sing prais­es to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy name.

Let us come into His pres­ence with thanks­giv­ing. Let us enter His gates with thanks­giv­ing, and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name!

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing prais­es to Thy name, O Most High; to declare Thy stead­fast love in the morn­ing, and Thy faith­ful­ness by night.

0 give thanks unto the Lord, for He is gra­cious, for His mer­cy endures for­ev­er. (The Psalms)

In the New Tes­ta­ment, thanks­giv­ing is the very essence of the Church’s life. The word eucharist means thanks­giv­ing, and the very cen­ter of the Church’s litur­gi­cal wor­ship of God is when, in remem­brance of all His sav­ing acts in Christ, the faith­ful “lift up their hearts” and “give thanks unto the Lord.”

The apos­tolic scrip­tures and the lives of the saints abound with thanks­giv­ing to God for all things.

Let there be no filth­i­ness, nor sil­ly talk, nor lev­i­ty, which are not fit­ting; but instead let there be thanks­giv­ing… always and for every­thing giv­ing thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father. (Eph­esians 5:4,20)

Rejoice always, pray con­stant­ly, give thanks in all cir­cum­stances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 5:16–18).

Rejoice always in the Lord; again I say, Rejoice! (…) Have no anx­i­ety about any­thing, but in every­thing by prayer and sup­pli­ca­tion with thanks­giv­ing let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which pass­es all under­stand­ing, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philip­pi­ans 4:4–7)

The spir­i­tu­al per­son has thanks­giv­ing and grat­i­tude in all cir­cum­stances, in every­thing and for every­thing. This thanks­giv­ing is root­ed in the firm con­vic­tion of God’s mer­ci­ful prov­i­dence and care in all things, in the stead­fast faith that “God works in every­thing for good with those who love Him” or, as the pas­sage may also be ren­dered, “every­thing works togeth­er for good with those who love God.” (Romans 8:28)

The spir­i­tu­al teach­ers, espe­cial­ly Saint John Chrysos­tom (4th c), are very strict in this teach­ing. The spir­i­tu­al man does not thank God only for what he con­sid­ers to be good. Rather, he thanks God for every­thing, even for what appears to be bad, know­ing that God’s ten­der care is over all, and that the evil in this world — which is always present and inevitable (Cf. John 17) — can itself be the vehi­cle for spir­i­tu­al growth and sal­va­tion if right­ly under­stood and over­come by the grace of God.

The oppo­site of grat­i­tude is bit­ter­ness and com­plain­ing; it is bemoan­ing one’s lot in life because of pride and cov­etous­ness. It is caused by the absence of hum­ble trust in the Lord. It is root­ed in an atti­tude of life which does not allow the per­son to exclaim with the right­eous Job:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has tak­en away; blessed be the name of the Lord. (Job 1:21)

To thank God in every­thing and for every­thing is the result of faith and faith­ful­ness in God. It is the result of absolute trust in the Lord who knows best what we need for our sal­va­tion and does all that He can with­in the evil con­di­tions of the world to bring us to eter­nal life, to peace and to joy. It is the prod­uct of believ­ing, with Isa­iah, the Word of the Redeemer who says:

For a brief moment I for­sook you, but with great com­pas­sion I will gath­er you. In over­flow­ing wrath for a moment I hid my face from you, but with ever­last­ing love will I have com­pas­sion on you.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nei­ther your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heav­ens are high­er than the earth, so are my ways high­er than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…

And you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the moun­tains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing…

Keep jus­tice and do right­eous­ness, for soon my sal­va­tion will come… (Isa­iah 54:7–8, 55:8–9, 56:1)

A per­son is grate­ful to the extent that he trusts in the Lord and has love for God and man.