NOVEMBER 25, 2004- THANKSGIVING DAY- Col 3:12-17; Luke 17:11-19
MAY THE PEACE OF CHRIST INTO WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED INTO ONE BODY, RULE IN YOUR HEARTS. GIVING THANKS AT ALL TIMES. At the Last Supper, although Jesus was keenly aware he was about to suffer and die, instead of weeping or complaining, he gave thanks to God the Father for the bread and the wine that he was to consecrate as his body and blood. The early Church faithfully carried out the command that the Lord gave on that occasion: “Do this in memory of me”. Known first as “The Lord’s Supper”, this commemoration came to be called simply Eucharistia, “Thanksgiving”, among the Greek-speaking faithful.
This act of sharing a sacred meal in which the Christian community offered bread and wine and received the body and blood of the Risen Savior became the central rite of the Church. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Church grew around the Eucharist. All the more in that the proclamation of the word of God and the homily that commented on the readings soon was integrated with the sacred meal and prepared for the offering that followed. The sacrifice it made present had originally taken place as a celebration of the Paschal Feast. Jesus offered himself in place of the Passover lamb He enjoined his followers to commemorate him in this rite which was a thanksgiving meal celebrating the nation’s delivery from an oppressive bondage. “Do this in commemoration of me”. This Paschal meal was at once a religious and national festival for the whole of the Jewish people. It was at once a meal shared among family and close friends and the celebration of the entire nation. Our Lord took over both the intimate and the universal features of the Paschal meal, transformed it by substituting his own person for the slain lamb, so that in this sacred rite the entire community of the faithful would experience the salvation he won for us and at the same time the intimate sharing with him and those who share his life and ours day by day.
The Thanksgiving Day we celebrate as a nation has distant origins in early colonial days. In 1621 the Massachusetts colony, exposed to various dangers, after an exceptionally harsh winter, was threatened with famine. When the plentiful harvest was completed it represented deliverance from destruction and so a feast was declared to acknowledge God’s Providential bounty. It was not originally an annual celebration. President Lincoln in 1863, when the Civil War took a turn that promised victory to the Union, established it as a yearly feast. When each State of the Union ratified this act, the feast became the annual national celebration of thanksngiving, acknowledging God’s merciful bounty.
As we here celebrate this Thanksgiving Day we have the same intentions of our ancestors, giving public recognition to God for his Providential care of our nation. However, we have a further purpose and a more profound reason as we offer this Eucharist of thanksgiving to God. We thank Him for His own surpassing glory that He has revealed to us in His Son. We are grateful to God for the redemption effected on our behalf through the cross of Jesus, and for the gift of His Spirit, the pledge of eternal life. May he grant us the further grace to remain always grateful and to express it by seeking His face, that is by striving after his Will in all things and bending our efforts to attain to the knowledge of Him, revealed to us in the face of Jesus, our redeemer, the Lord of glory. And may the joy of His salvation rise from our hearts to the praise of His glory on this day of thanksgiving and all the days of our life. Amen.
Abbot John Eudes Bamberger
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