What is the activity of the father toward the son? He gives his son gifts. And Giving is not an incidental activity, nor even some chosen discipline extrinsic to the father’s core — the giving of good things to the son ”is” the father. God is love.
This giving is not for any purpose. The father has no particular end in sight, except the blessedness of the son. And the greatest the son can receive is to receive the father. They love each other, and will, forever.
What is a gift? An ability. A power. A skill, knowledge, sensitivity, perception. There is no limit to the list, for the sum of all the gifts is the father’s character, which, insofar is the father is a father, is infinite.
Since all gifts are abilities, and that means a personal ability which the father possessed before he could give it, then all true gifts are personal and to recieve a gift is to participate in the personhood of the giver. Yet each gift frees the son ever more to be himself, since his own personhood is bigger now, and not at all a reduplication of the father, but rather a variation on the father, subsuming all that the father is, and then more, because the gift in the son is now the father/son in the son.
The common bromide, that the son must find his own life, is better than the oppression it is a reaction against, but not much. Finding your own life is only a good experience if the father failed.
Not all gifts are physical objects, but all gifts are given in this physical universe and are associated with physical objects. All gifts, then, carry both personal connection and a physical correlative. These physical correlatives are not distinguishable from the gift, though they may not be synonymous with the gift. They are symbols.
Each friendship, then creates its own sacraments, things in which reside the Real Presence of the giver — not as simply a subjective reminder, but as an actual piece of the giver’s person, living in the relational space between father and son, though the father be long passed away.
Hollow gifts are gifts not connecting the father and the son. They then function as debris in the life of the son.
Sentimentality is clinging to hollow gifts because of the factual knowledge that there ought to be a connection with the giver, even though there is not. Many people have nothing but sentimentality. They are impoverished without knowing it, having never received a gift. The mark of this form of dead gift is that the physical object can neither be disposed of nor used, so they sit around the house as weight on the living. A person raised in sentimentality will hate and be unable to discard the mementoes of his ancestors.
In contrast, the home is meant to be Eden, an indoor forest of sacramental objects, not heavy but light and life-giving in perpetuity.
Some gifts are alive but both people die and they fail to be passed on appropriately, and then are dead gifts. So a great sadness haunts museums and art galleries. A gift gone dead can be something of great beauty, but it cannot be touched, because we don’t know what its use was, and so any touch would mar it.
Physical objects and actions that used to be gifts fill the universe in various forms: religious forms that are just liturgical debris, kitsch, museum pieces, sentimental knick-knacks, curios.
No gifts should ever die. All should be passed on forever, each time augmented in an eternal growth. This is the living meaning of tradition. All of life should be tradition, newly received from the father but from his father before that, but new with the father because he truly received the gift, and thus unavoidably made it his own.
So The father seeks out his son every day and gives him a daily gift.
This daily gift from the father is the daily bread of the son, the food he has to eat that outsiders know not of.