Giving and Receiving Thanks
In the Fourteenth Revelation, Julian of Norwich considers the prayer of thanksgiving as “a true, inward knowing, with great reverence and lovely awe,” whereby we offer all our efforts and energies to the daily tasks that are God’s will for us, all the while “rejoicing and thanking inwardly.” Notice that Julian stresses the importance of rejoicing in the good works we are enabled to do by the grace of God. Not only that, she declares that our prayer and our trust should never be timid, but “both alike large,” which in Middle English suggests ample and even ambitious: “For if we do not trust as much as we pray, we do not give the fullest worship to our lord in our prayer, and also we hinder and trouble ourselves.”
We must constantly remind ourselves that “our Lord is the ground in whom our prayer springs,” and that prayer is itself “given to us by grace of his love”; then we will be able to trust that we will receive “all that we desire.”
Sometimes, in meditation, we may feel overwhelmed by the realization of God’s love. For this we must give continual thanks in and through everything we do: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thess 5:16-18). Of course, it is comparatively easy to give thanks for all the good and pleasant things in our lives; it is much harder to give thanks for what makes us suffer, what thwarts our plans or causes great hurt. But these, too, are worthy of thanks, for they teach and strengthen us in ways we will not understand for a long time, perhaps not until the Great Deed is revealed to us at the end of time. Sometimes the roadblocks, whether people or circumstances, force us to turn in a different direction. Our failures, too, can become sources of self-knowledge. And if we get up after every fall, we only grow more resilient, more determined in our resolve. For all this, we give thanks!
There is also another, more unusual, aspect to our practice of thanksgiving. We may remember the astounding moment in Julian’s Sixth Revelation, when she heard the Lord thank her for her service and her “travail”: that is, both her work and her sufferings. Can you even imagine such a thing?
This Thanksgiving, in addition to thanking the Lord for all you have received, why not allow God to thank you for all the ways in which you have tried to serve him during your life, every good deed you have ever done, everyone you have ever loved, every suffering or loss you have endured. In the silence of meditation, imagine Christ saying to you: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt 25:21). Let your deepest self be loved, and appreciated, and yes, thanked by God, even as Julian was. This can be a life-transforming experience and one that you will never forget. Blessings!
PLEASE NOTE: Translations from the Middle English and excerpts above are from An Explorer’s Guide to Julian of Norwich (InterVarsity Academic Press, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. Available from the Publisher and Amazon worldwide:
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All text copyrighted © 2013-2018 by Veronica Mary Rolf. All rights reserved. No copying or reprints allowed without the express permission of the Author.