Thanksgiving is a holiday filled with tradition. Besides 5k Turkey Trots and football games, the most important tradition is to sit at a table with family and friends and share with each other a meal, at which everyone speaks about what they’re grateful for. This year, many are likely to say they’re grateful that it’s almost 2021. The “annus horribilis” of 2020 has been marked by a tumultuous election, civil unrest, economic stress, and more scandal in the Church – not to mention a global pandemic. Thanksgiving no doubt will be affected by the likelihood that we will not see many of the loved ones with whom we normally spend the holiday, including those whom we have lost this year. We might have to think a little bit harder about what we’ll say we’re thankful for as we sit around the table. Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, but in the context of all that is happening in the world, in some ways it has the bleak feel of winter.
In her book The Passion of the Infant Christ, the author Caryll Houselander writes: “The law of growth is rest. We must be content in winter to wait patiently through the long bleak season, in which we experience nothing whatever of the sweetness of realization of the Divine Presence, believing the truth, that these seasons which seem to be the most empty are the most pregnant with life.” Houselander alludes to the image of a seed that is planted in the ground, and lies dormant through the winter. Although invisible from the surface, which appears barren, new life is present. We must be patient during that time, and to trust, for something is happening to that seed that rests undisturbed in the soil. There it remains, until that time when the rays of the sun pierce the hard crust of the earth and the seed sprouts forth a shoot, which breaks through the soil into the sunlight where it will bear fruit. But first there is and must be the time of hidden rest in the soil, a time to be patient and trust.
Houselander likens this natural phenomenon to the Lord’s relationship to us in the midst of hardship. “During His winters in our soul, Christ is secret from us. Not only is He hidden from those around us, who in any case cannot see into our souls, but He is secret even from our own hearts. Now we cannot see or imagine his beauty, not the faintest echo of His word is heard in our minds, not the slightest vibration of His life stirs us. This is the moment of Faith, the hour of growth, the supreme darkness, in which Faith consents to God’s law and allows Christ to grow in us, because He rests in us and we rest in Him.”
Thanksgiving 2020 might be a day tinged with sadness, with no 5k races or the high school football games that we usually enjoy. We might be overwhelmed by grief over a newly lost loved one, or one not so newly lost. We might be left to spend the day without any guests, or maybe even alone. Indeed, this year the festival of the fall harvest feels more like a fallow season. But we must not be fooled. For it remains a time nonetheless to thank the Lord for all that He’s done for us, and for all He desires to do through the seeds that he plants, which for now lay buried and hidden in the midst of our current trials.