Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’




Happy Turkey Day, all!  Hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves.  Today, I would like to venture beyond film into the wider scope of the “dance” – the great meta-narrative that informs all other narratives, the great Dance that informs the dance of images and sounds in the film medium – with a reflection on Thanksgiving.  Not just the holiday, but the concept itself, and its deepest meaning for human life.

I will begin with a quote from Captain Obvious: “Thanksgiving is a time for celebration.”

Indeed, that is very true.  But what we tend to forget is that in some very real sense, thanksgiving and celebration are, in fact, the same thing.

Jean Vanier, the great Catholic writer, philosopher, and humanitarian, speaks of celebration as the whole purpose of life.  But he emphasizes that celebration is about more than just “partying” – indeed, genuine celebration can be trying at times.

At its heart, celebration is about living in community with others.  Family, friendship, fellowship … love –that’s what it’s all about.

Being surrounded by people who care and being situated in a place where we belong helps to affirm us in our individual worth, reinforcing our dignity as human persons with something to offer the world.  At the same time, this same situation can be very uncomfortable.  In the faults and weaknesses of others, we see mirrored our own faults and weaknesses; and it is often easier to harp on their deficits than to acknowledge our own.  In having to bear with other imperfect and flawed creatures, our virtue is tested.

Celebration, if we think about it, is all about the process of individual and community growth.  Thorns and roses alike are sure to abound (sometimes one seems to outnumber the other), but if we approach community in the right way, we are sure to be better for the journey.

So how does the act of giving thanks play into all this?  I would suggest that it relates to one of the harder and more disconcerting aspects of being with others in community: being naked.

Let me explain.  “Nakedness,” in this case, means the removal of all defenses, all “walls” we might erect between ourselves and others – sources of division and tension that, at their absolute height, can set nations at war and dampen the fire of charity in human hearts.  Let’s call it “nakedness of soul.”

Nakedness of soul can be just as difficult – and even humiliating – as nakedness of body.  And of course, prudence and reality forbid us from revealing everything of ourselves.  But think about what thanksgiving means, and how it relates to nakedness of soul.

Thanksgiving implies relation.  It implies receiving from another as well as giving gratitude in return.  Relationship always implies risk, and risk requires venturing outside of one’s comfort zone – especially the comfort zone within ourselves.

I’m not saying I’m good at this.  Unfortunately, I am not.  I hope I’m getting somewhat better at it, however slowly.  But it’s something we can all aspire to, especially at this time of year.

One final thought: Those of us who are Christian can celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving year-round by remembering that God Himself is a community, a Family.  In the eternal relationship of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – is infinite joy.  This is a joy so perfect and so abundant that God wishes to share it by the free and totally gratuitous act of Creation.  That being the case, I think we can say not only that all of creation is about celebration, but that all of creation is a celebration.  It is a celebration of the eternal love between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit that is its origin and end.

So when we offer up our harvests, when we gather to enjoy earth’s bounty, let us not be afraid to enter the joy of relationship with one another in which we catch a glimpse of the very life of God.

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