I sat by the lake the other day, sat in the grass to watch the waves breach the rocky barrier, just close enough so they could slosh on my bare feet. The strong east-northeast gale that held throughout the night had piled up the water along the west and southwest sides of the lake.
There’s something mesmerizing about waves. The irregular rhythms, the unruly sounds, the fine spray that dampens your face.
No one was out. No bikers, no walkers.
A lifelong resident of the area recently said to me, he wondered how I found beauty in this muddy lake. I wondered back, How could you not?
I grew up in love with water. My favorite haunts were the shores and shoals of Rhode Island. Narragansett Bay, Galilee, Point Judith, Wickford, Block Island, the Harbor of Refuge. And as a child I spent most of my summer sunrises contemplating a pond filled with cattails, fed by narrow stream near flowing from a nearby wood. It teemed with life. No matter their size or color, water’s seemingly fathomless mystery captivated my soul.
As I sat and watched the waves, felt the scented wind and the chilly water on my feet, I thought of my lifelong quest after beauty, everywhere, and was overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that beauty exists; and that I was in love with her.
Years ago, as I was writing my dissertation, I came across a text from the 14th century Dominican theologian, Meister Eckhart. I wish I could locate it. He spoke about beginning every act of thanksgiving to God not by calling to mind this-or-that benefit, but by giving thanks for existence itself. That there is anything at all, something rather than nothing. Existence is sheer gift, flowing from the without-a-why love of a God who willed for something other than Himself to share in the joy of being. Dayenu! If you, O God, had only created us to enjoy even a moment of existence, it would have been enough! But, my God, you are never satisfied with enough, so you have made us for eternity…
After my day at the lake, I wrote a reflection before bed.
O Eckhart, if only I could allow my minds
to encompass the magnitude
the sheer gratuity of being
and wrap my hearts around
unconstrained by necessity
choosing to speak creation
from non-existence into being.
My thanksgiving is inexhaustible
no need for justification beyond that
all else is surfeit, overflow
from this primal act of eucharist:
Something rather than nothing. My God.
Catch my breath
God has added to this infinitely More —
a creation of excessive splendor
a new creation in Christ
supra-excessive immortal splendor.
How can I keep from singing?
I sing as justice
with love, unfettered joy
threatens to overtake the world.
The end of Mass, at the command “Go!”
we run out crazed, dazed, amazed: “Thanks be to God!”
We shout it to all, everywhere gratefully living, wastefully giving
for Thou art God ineffable,
inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible,
ever-existing and eternally the same,
Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit.
Thou it was who brought us from non-existence into being,
and when we had fallen away, didst raise us up again,
and didst not cease to do all things
until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven
and hadst endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come.
For all these things we give thanks to Thee,
and to Thine only-begotten Son and to Thy Holy Spirit;
for all things of which we know and of which we know not,
whether manifest or unseen…
By no claim of justice, but wholly as gift, I am. May I live in thanksgiving, hands open, upturned, outstretched from this moment, henceforth, as I continue to be.
Glory to Thee for calling me into being
Tout est grâce. Grace is everywhere. Amen.