In the United States of America on the fourth Thursday in November, we celebrate a unique national holiday, Thanksgiving Day! Although the festivities have deteriorated somewhat into an orgy of food, football and now frenzied shopping.
However, for the Church, thanksgiving is not a new concept. In fact, we have been celebrating it for over 2,000 years. The word "Eucharist", taken from the Greek word "eucharistia", literally means "thanksgiving". The Church celebrates the Eucharist on a daily basis, "from the rising of the sun to its setting", as both Eucharistic Prayer III and the Prophet Malachi remind us.
Here is what Malachi notes:
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nation, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering.
That pure offering of thanksgiving is the Holy Eucharist. Along with being the manifestation of the Paschal Mystery, the Eucharist is also the fulfillment of the thanksgiving sacrifice of Ancient Israel, which was an offering of grain and wine, the Toda sacrifice. For the Church, she daily offers this sacrifice in praise and thanksgiving. It is her supreme act of worship to the Lord.
Thus, it is most fitting that on the day that our nation sets aside to render thanks, we, as Catholics, assist at the sacred liturgy, to offer God our thanksgiving sacrifice of praise, the Eucharist. Just as Ancient Israel gathered as a family around the Passover Lamb, the Church invites her children to gather around the altar of the Eucharist, exhorting us to, as St. Paul notes, "give thanks under all circumstances."
As we leave our particular Church after Mass on Thanksgiving Day, and move on to our domestic church (family home), let us remember the Prayer over the Offerings from today's liturgy:
God our Father,
from whose hand we have received generous gifts
so that we might learn to share your blessings in gratitude,
accept these gifts of bread and wine,
and let the perfect sacrifice of Jesus
draw us closer to all our brothers and sisters in the human family.
Through Christ our Lord.
May you and yours have a blessed Thanksgiving!