Thanksgiving 1996


I have been puzzling over the matter of giving thanks for about a year. It seems to be something that is skimped, both in our personal and liturgical lives, let alone or societal and national.

On the explanatory page of Lesser Feasts and Fasts the feast of Thanksgiving Day is given all of 8 and 1/3 lines, where as St. Icckywuld of Lumplumpshire, d. 531 will receive a whole page. The good Lesser Feasts and Fasts says that all religions have feasts and points to the Jewish feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. There were some in the middle ages, which we don’t keep, and our own Thanksgiving Day has its origins in Massachussetts and Virginia and was later taken up by the Continental Congress.

Omitted in the above is any reference to the heavenly banquets referred to in the apocalyptic portions of the Old Testament, or in Revelation. The Jewish-Christian tradition has always held that there will be a heavenly banquet when the abundance of all good things will be over flowing, pressed down, and uncountable.

I miss the wonderful General Thanksgiving of Morning Prayer and my impression of Rites I and II of the Eucharist is that there is a predominance of petition and intercession and not much thanks. Of course the second half of both rites is called The Great Thanksgiving, but there the thanksgiving is more creedal in flavor and form.

In my personal life, I have noticed that my prayers are too often 95% petition and intercession and about 5% thanksgiving. I pray fervently that Faye will return unharmed through a rain storm from one of her weekly trips to Hartford, and then when she comes in the door I say, “Oh, are you home?”

Out of my musings on thanksgiving, I have observed the following: Thanksgiving is positive, giving, blessing, and affirming. It is a natural religious instinct, which we tend to fence in. And yet there is not a doctor who has witnessed the birth of a baby who has not marvelled at the birth. Nor is there a parent who has not felt intense thanksgiving at such a birth. It is instinctive to give thanks.

As a positive response, it reflects the nature of God, which is positive, creative, always generating and regenerating, always in process, always redeeming. This positive nature, of course is found most profoundly in the Incarnation. Our positive response of thanksgiving is part of our spirit, which reflects and joins the spirit of God in affirming and creating and redeeming life.

Are we as individuals, as society, and as a nation, not poorer when we fail to give thanks openingly, naturally, and joyously, as well as formally and liturgically? To give thanks is good. It is part of the goodness that is of God. Of course our ultimate form of thanksgiving is in the celebration of the body and blood of Christ, where we meet the goodness and love of God. Allow yourself to participate openly in the Eucharist and to become part of the body and blood of Christ. Allow yourself in your daily life to give thanks openly, freely, naturally, and joyously. Amen.