The “grace” that is that prayer preceding the meal reaches back to about the year 1200 and is rooted in the old French word “gracier”. Gracier means “to thank” so in the context of giving thanks in prayer – for family, friends, shelter, love, hope and more – “grace” does indeed make sense.
“Grace” in the divine sense has roots in both the Old French “grace” (circular etymology you say?) relating to God’s favor or help, and in the Latin word “gratia” relating to favor, esteem, regard (and which spelled with a capital G, is my first name!). One of the things that has prompted this musing is a passage in Anne Lamott’s book Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, which takes something of an oppostional tactic to these concepts of being favored, esteemed or well regarded. If you don’t know Anne Lamott you need to know she is a liberal thinker, in both politics and matters of faith. In this book which was written in 2005 she is not in the least bashful about her feelings about George W. Bush…they were not favorable. Her pastor tells her one day that “…if the president had been the only person on earth Jesus would still have loved him so much that he would have come down and died for him.” Lamott goes on to write “This drives me crazy, that God seems to have no taste, and no standards…”
And can’t we be thankful for that. There are days when I feel as though I have not lived up to God’s hopes for me, and yet I believe that God is willing to love me anyway. This for me, is the divine sense of grace: “God seems to have no taste, and no standards.” No matter what, we are loved. And in response, we then can offer up our “grace”: prayers of thanks for all that God has done, and continues to do – in spite of us!