“Give to your faithful Lord, a prayerful spirit of gratitude, that we may thank You for all of your gifts”, from intercessory prayers found in the liturgy of the hours in early November.

As I pondered this prayer, I became more aware of the liturgical season of Advent we will be entering.  It seems we all put on a spirit of gratitude through Thanksgiving. Keeping it going beyond the season is sometimes difficult. The word gratitude and its derivatives appear 157 times in the bible and the word thankfulness 71 times.

The thesaurus offers synonyms for gratitude and thankfulness like honor, grace, devotion, praise and reverence to name a few.  The Latin root of grateful is “gratus” meaning pleasing or thankful.   In the spirit of gratitude, I can list the many blessings that I am thankful for receiving. I also include the imperfections of life. We all have challenges, sadness and heartaches.  I am learning to be more thankful of the heartaches, tragedies and sorrows that befall me.  It is a work in progress.

It is said that we could not know joy and pleasure without the heartaches.  A thankful heart blesses God for large things and small things; the good things and the bad things. It is easy to be thankful for the good things in life. It is harder to be grateful in the challenges of life, such as loss in whatever form it takes.

In prayer, I realized, while there will always be little thorns in my heart from loses, I can find gratitude in any situation if I just sit with it in prayer long enough.  It may take a while, but it will come.

I have struggled writing this reflection. As I write these words, I realize the things of life are just issues, large and small and there are no words to express what the heart is feeling.  Gratitude is a state of being.  We have heard the words, “a servant’s heart”, I believe there is “a grateful heart”. All of this is an accumulation of who we are as humans and we must always be thankful for the graces we receive in this life even if we have to find them.  May we live in the spirt if Thanksgiving all year.

The tradition of Thanksgiving is secular, but it also has a place in our journey to prepare us for the liturgical season of Advent. My big—huge AHA reminder is being aware of how grateful I am for the gift of Mother Mary’s role in this season of Advent and salvation history.

Mary can be equated as Advent personified. Mary is honored for her unwavering faithfulness to God.  She said “yes” to the Lord through the archangel Gabriel guided by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26 forward). Thus, I give her thanks and praise, glory and honor, all words of gratitude.  Mary early on was filled with joy.  She was giving birth to the Messiah. She also knew early on as a mother she would experience heartache and she accepted it gracefully.

We as a community will journey through Advent with Mary and Joseph. With Mary as our model, we can ponder all these things in our heart and be grateful for her free will “yes” to our Lord and give glorious thanks and praise.  The Greek word Theotokos translates as God Bearer–The Mother of God.  Let us rejoice, give praise and thanksgiving to Mother Mary for saying “yes” and give to our faithful Lord, a prayerful spirit of gratitude, for all His gifts” because there is Jesus.