G.K. Chesterton: Lord, teach us to thank you

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G.K. Chesterton: Lord, teach us to thank you

“Lord, it is not always easy for us to give you thanks. Teach us, we pray. Teach us to thank you when we would rather grumble. Teach us to see all that we have as gifts from you. Forgive our ungratefulness. May our first and last thoughts be mixed with thanks.” G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)

G.K. Chesterton in Advent and Christmas Wisdom from G.K. Chesterton, The Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends (Ligouri, MO: Ligouri, 2007) 47.

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Gregory of Nyssa on Riches and Temptation

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. 1 Tim 6:9-10

“Temptations would surely fail if they were not decked out with some fair color to entice the desire of the one they are deceiving.”

Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394) in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament IX – Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, ed. by Peter Gorday (Downers Grove: IVP, 2000) 210.

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Lee Strobel in “The Case for Christmas”

“After spending nearly two years investigating the identity of the Christmas child, I was ready to reach a verdict. For me, the evidence was clear and compelling.
Yes, Christmas is a holiday overlaid with all sorts of fanciful beliefs, from flying reindeer to Santa Claus sliding down chimneys.

But I became convinced that if you drill down to its core, Christmas is based on a historical reality–the incarnation: God becoming man, Spirit taking on flesh, the infinite entering the finite, the eternal becoming time-bound. It’s a mystery backed up by facts that I now believed were simply too strong to ignore.

I had come to the point where I was ready for the Christmas gift…the Christ child, whose love and grace are offered freely to everyone who receives him in repentance and faith. Even someone like me.

So I talked with God in a heartfelt and unedited prayer, admitting and turning from my wrongdoing, and receiving his offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus…the greatest gift of all.”

Lee Strobel in The Case for Christmas: A Journalist Investigates the Identity of the Child in the Manger (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) 90-91.

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Thanksgiving Proclamation of Abraham Lincoln

“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.”

Proclamation of President Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1863.

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Catherine of Siena: Thanksgiving Prayer

“O tender Father, you gave me more, much more than I ever thought to ask for. I realize that our human desires can never really match what you long to give us.
Thanks, and again, thanks, O Father, for having granted my petitions, and that which I never realized I needed or petitioned. Amen.” St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)

Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) in At Prayer with the Saints, compiled by Anthony F. Chiffolo (Liguori, MO: Liguori, 1998) 181.

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Venantius: Offering Prayer

“For joys of service, you we praise,
whose favor crowneth all our days;
For humble tasks that bring delight,
when done, O Lord, as in your sight.
Accept our offerings, Lord most high,
Our work, our purpose sanctify,
And with our gifts may we have place,
Now in the kingdom of your grace.”

St. Venantius (530-609) in At Prayer with the Saints, compiled by Anthony F. Chiffolo (Liguori, MO: Liguori, 1998) 180.

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Bernard Bangley: “Keep our Cool Because”

“When Jesus is with us, all is well and nothing seems insurmountable. But when Jesus is absent, everything is difficult. If Jesus does not speak to us inwardly, all other comfort is meaningless. But the slightest communication from him brings consolation.

Life without Jesus is like a dry garden, baking in sun. It is foolish to want anything that conflicts with Jesus. What can the world give you without Jesus? His absence is hell; his presence, paradise. If Jesus is with you, no enemy can injure you. Whoever finds Jesus has discovered a great treasure, the best of all possible good. The loss of him is a tremendous misfortune, more than the loss of the entire world. Poverty is life without Jesus, but close friendship with him is incalculable wealth.”

An obscure member of the religious order of Canons Regular, too humble to sign his name, is nevertheless given initial credit for these words about Christ. Thomas a Kempis first wrote these words in the classic Imitation of Christ.

Bernard Bangley formulated this contemporary paraphrase as recounted by Calvin Miller in The Book of Jesus: A Treasury of the Greatest Stories and Writings about Christ (New York: Touchstone, 1998) 166-167.

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Gerald Bray on James 2:1-7: Fight against the temptations of wealth by not showing favoritism and by focusing on heavenly blessings

My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man with gold rings and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while you say to the poor man, “Stand there,” or “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts. Listen, my beloved brethren. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you, is it not they who drag you into court? It it not they who blaspheme the honorable name which was invoked over you? James 2:1-7

“Salvation in Christ breaks down all barriers between human beings. It is clear that for James some of the most intractable problems on this score were influenced by economic factors. Rich people in the church were expecting and receiving special considerations from their wealth. This was an insidious attack on the gospel, which especially honored one who was poor in worldly goods but rich in spiritual things. To show contempt for the poor is as much an infraction of the law as murder or adultery, and it is even more serious because it is so common. Christians must learn to fight against the temptations of worldly wealth and concentrate instead on the heavenly blessings.”

Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove, IL: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000) 21.

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Oecumenius: Ancient Commentary on James 5

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are rusted and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You had laid up treasure for the last days. Behold the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you. James 5:1-6

“James makes their possession of wealth and their stinginess a source of lamentation for those who store up their riches for burial and loss rather than give them to the needy. For the person who gives his wealth to the poor does not lose it but keeps every penny.”

Oecumenius, early 6th century, as cited by Gerald Bray in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude (Downers Grove, IL: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2000) 53-54.

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St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica: possess temporal goods and thirst again; possess the sovereign good and never thirst again!

“Whether Man’s Happiness Can Consist in Wealth?

Reply Objection 3. The desire for natural riches is not infinite: because they suffice for nature in a certain measure. But the desire for artificial wealth is infinite, for it is the servant of disordered concupiscence, which is not curbed, as the Philosopher makes clear (Politics i. 3). Yet this desire for wealth is infinite otherwise than the desire for the sovereign good. For the more perfectly the sovereign good is possessed, the more it is loved, and other things despised: because the more we possess it, the more we know it. Hence it is written, (Sir.. 24:29): They that eat me shall yet hunger. Whereas in the desire for wealth and for whatsoever temporal goods, the contrary is the case: for when we already possess them, we despise them, and seek others: which is the sense of our Lord’s words (John 4:13): Whosoever drinketh of this water, by which temporal goods are signified, shall thirst again. The reason of this is that we realize more their insufficiency when we possess them: and this very fact shows that they are imperfect, and that the sovereign good does not consist therein.”

St. Thomas Aquinas in A Summa of the Summa: Essential Passages of St. Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica, ed. and ann. by Peter Kreeft (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990) 363.

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