November 25, 2005

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Thanksgiving and Advent remind us how much we need God

I have happy memories when I think of Thanksgiving dinner in our family home of many years ago. We were not a large family, but our meal was bounteous.

Mom always denied that she was a good cook. My dad and brother and I begged to differ. Besides a turkey that was just right, there were two dishes that were extraordinary. Mom’s dressing was outstanding, and I have never been able to duplicate it. She never wrote down a recipe, but I still remember the ingredients—and yet I can’t duplicate it. She made a slaw that has my brother and I still searching for its duplicate wherever slaw is served. And she could prepare a brown gravy that seemed utterly simple to make, but mine never tastes like hers tasted. And while I am at it, I should mention that no one could mash potatoes like our dad. It was his job for the big feasts.

Advent preparation for Christmas turned Mom’s kitchen into a candy operation. Her “seafoam” candy (divinity) laced with walnuts was a hallmark. But Mom also made a “pineapple fudge” that still has me in search of a recipe that I have never found. Recently, one of my cousins reminded me of the pineapple fudge and asked if I had the recipe. I haven’t come across this kind of “fudge” made with pineapple either. If it exists, I would appreciate hearing about it.

Recalling Thanksgiving dinners and Advent preparations speak of fond memories and also future anticipation. It is natural to think of Thanksgiving Day and the beginning of Advent in association with each other and not only because they are tied closely by our yearly calendar. We think of past and present reasons for being grateful to God in our Thanksgiving Day observance and prayer. We reflect in joyful anticipation on the future feast of Christmas and the coming of God’s kingdom during the Advent season. We are grateful for the graces of the past, present and the future as well.

Gratitude is a fundamental virtue that is an expression of humble charity. To offer thanks is to acknowledge the truth of our indebtedness to our parents and all of the important people in our lives. Thinking of Mom and Dad in our simple kitchen of years ago is only a cameo of the precious gift they have been and continue to be for my brother and family and for me. I realize how blessed we were to have good parents.

Often, I think it was a blessing to live in simpler times. I doubt that I am alone in that I didn’t always appreciate these blessings as much as I do now. Maybe that is a major reason why our annual pause for Thanksgiving is important. We bring forward memories of otherwise forgotten gifts we receive as life races on.

One of the unique features of our Christian faith is the ability to be grateful for something that is yet to come in the experience of our future. While Advent is an anticipation of the birthday of Jesus past, it is also an anticipation of the coming of the fullness of God’s kingdom. We anticipate the personal experience of our redemption in the fullness of the kingdom.

One of the early themes of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI is the need for our culture to recover a sense of God. A world without God becomes violent and meaningless. A world without God darkens the awareness that we need the redemption from sin that was won for us by God’s own Son. Pope John Paul II used to say that a world that has lost a sense of sin is a world that loses a sense of God.

With the coming season of Advent, we have a graced time during which we can prayerfully check out our “worldview,” especially our view of what is to come in our lives. Do we get it right, do we place “front and center” the real meaning of the birth of Jesus Christ? As we pray during Advent, will we make the connection between the Nativity of the Savior and our lives now and in the future? Redemption has been won. It remains for us to claim the gift for ourselves.

The tastes and aromas of Thanksgiving and Advent preparations have extra value if they lead us to embrace the deeper meaning of these seasons of grace. We don’t want to miss a timely opportunity to delve more deeply into the meaning of life itself.

Thanksgiving Day and the coming season of Advent offer the opportunity for spiritual richness that adds depth to our lives, something more than the banal sense that we have done this before. †


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