What is Your Spirituality?

By Trevor Thompson, Director of Pastoral Ministries

This past week we celebrated two national holidays:  Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  Neither of these feast-days shows up on the church’s liturgical calendar, but I want to suggest that they both reflect kinds of spiritualities.  I imagine both of these spiritualities are reflected in our lives and are worth our consideration.

Let’s look at Thanksgiving.  We all know the story of the first Thanksgiving feast.  This American narrative is told over and over again in schools across the country where Pilgrims and Native Americans gathered in Plymouth to celebrate an abundant harvest.  Although this celebration did not become officially a national holiday until 1863, there persisted throughout the country many forms of thanksgiving harvest festivals.  Although now we usually associate this holiday with a kind of secular gathering, these feast-days were originally religious in nature, primarily opportunities for a community to gather communally and lift up prayers directed to God’s beneficence for all of the year’s blessings.  Thus, the spirituality of this holiday, I would argue, is essentially one of gratitude, a spirituality that says what we already have and who we already are must be considered undeserved gifts.  With this spirituality, we might be more inclined to accept the present moment and share our gifts with others.

Now, let us turn to Black Friday.  The commencement of holiday shopping to the day after Thanksgiving goes back to the late 19th century when the tradition of department stores sponsoring Thanksgiving and holiday parades was common.  Over time, this shopping season has grown in importance to these retailers because of profitable shopping fervor that the holidays elicit.  Through the last few years, especially with the attention of the media and the advent of on-line shopping, this classic American holiday is all the rage, netting retailers last year over 52 billion dollars.  Also, in the last few years, there also are reports of increasing shopping-violence as consumers approach the presumed scarcity of some desired products in a kind of uncontrollable frenzy.  The difference of the spirituality of this day with Thanksgiving is palpable.  This spirituality of Black Friday, I am suggesting, reflects a kind of ingratitude of spirit, a sense that what we have and who we are are not enough, a sense that something newer, flashier, better, and bigger will indeed satisfy our deepest spiritual longings.

I acknowledge that our desires for “more” and “better” are as basic to our spirits as gratitude, and there are real needs being met by the availability of cheap consumer goods.  Of course, I too have purchased things on Black Friday.  However, I have a hard time not thinking about the myriad of men and women, whom we consider saints, who have quelled their yearnings for “more” and “better” by bowing with grateful hearts before Christ as their king.  No wonder that many of these saintly people lived lives of simplicity, freedom, and joy.  I need more of these gifts this holiday season.

One of the ways our parish helps us think about our spiritualities during the holiday season is by conducting a parish-wide Advent Giving Tree.  I would encourage you to consider taking an ornament from the Christmas trees in the Stewardship Center that will direct you to opportunities to share out of your gratitude and abundance with those who are most in need in our community.