Bless What Is There for Being

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 — Week of Proper 26, Year 2

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1944

[Go to for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

(Book of Common Prayer, p. 991)

Psalms 61, 62 (morning) 68:1-20(21-23)24-36 (evening)

Ecclesiasticus 43:1-22 found in the Apocrypha; also called Sirach

Revelation 14:14 – 15:8

Luke 13:1-9

Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of officials and representatives; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Collect for an Election, BCP, p. 822)

It is election day. And though we do not know who will be elected President, we can be confident that tomorrow there will be no threat of a military coup. Whoever wins, the losing side will accept. We will all pray for the newly elected President and ask God’s wisdom and blessing upon him. We can be thankful for an orderly and peaceful process of transfer of power. Things will hold together.

Today in our reading from Ecclesiasticus, Ben Sira praises the whole of the created universe, in which, by God’s word “all things hold together.” In our reading from Revelation, the Son of Man fills the earth with Eucharist, his sickle gathering the ripe grapes which are “trodden outside the city” (an allusion to the cross) where the wine of Christ’s sacrifice covers the wholeness (the symbolic number 200 miles = 1,600 stadia = the whole earth). In Luke, Jesus reflects on the suffering of the innocent and says they were not punished because they “were worse offenders.” Then Jesus calls all to repentance.

These themes remind me of a passage from David Steindl-Rast’s book “Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness.” He writes:

Our heart’s most comprehensive vision shows us that all is gift — blessing. And, in response our heart’s most spontaneous action is thanksgiving — blessing.

But here my …question arises. What if I cannot recognize the given as a blessing? What if it is not sunshine that pours down on us, but hailstones like hammer-blows? What if it is acid rain? Here again, the gift within the gift is opportunity. I have the opportunity, for example, to do something about that acid rain, face the facts, inform myself about the causes, go to their roots, alert others, band together with them for self-help, for protest. By taking each opportunity as it is offered, I show myself grateful. But my response will not be full unless I respond also to the ever-present opportunity to praise.

W.H. Auden has helped me see this by his poem “Precious Five,” especially by its last stanza. ” I could,” says Auden there,

Find reasons fast enough

To face the sky and roar

In anger and despair

At what is going on,

Demanding that it name

Whoever is to blame:

The sky would only wait

Till all my breath was gone

And then reiterate

As if I wasn’t there

That singular command

I do not understand

Bless what there is for being,

Which has to be obeyed, for

What else am I made for,

Agreeing or disagreeing?

To bless whatever there is, and for no other reason but simply because it is — that is our raison d’etre; that is what we are made for as human beings. This singular command is engraved in our heart. Whether we understand this or not matters little. Whether we agree or disagree makes no difference. And in our heart of hearts we know it.

No matter how hard you strike a bell, it will ring. What else is it made for? Even under the hammer blows of fate the heart rings true. The human heart is made for universal praise. As long as we pick and choose, making praise depend on our approval, we are not yet responding from the heart. When we find our heart, we find that core of our being that is attuned to reality. And reality is praiseworthy. With clear vision the heart sees the ultimate meaning of all: blessing. And with clear intent the heart responds with the ultimate purpose of life: blessing. (p. 80-82)

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