"It is right to give him thanks . . ." Introduction to
Preface at Mass.
Thanksgiving came early for me this year. I was in Toronto on Canada's
Thanksgiving Day (second Monday in October) and attended Mass at
St. Michael's Cathedral there. The congregation was encouraged to
be grateful for all our blessings and to pray for those "less
fortunate" than us. By "blessings" the preacher presumably
meant such traditional good things as a rich harvest, good health,
loving families, job security, and so forth. And indeed, we should
be thankful to God for all God's gifts.
But I found myself wondering about the Tsunami victims of last Christmastime,
the earthquake victims in south central Asia that very weekend,
our own Katrina victims, not to mention those persons around me
in church that day who may be living with cancer, or in abusive
relationships, or are unemployed and desperate. These persons and
the many like them - perhaps the majority of those with whom we
share this planet - don't seem to share the "blessings"
that are the ostensible occasion of our Thanksgiving celebrations.
Had not God blessed them? Is Thanksgiving a victory celebration
for the winners of a cosmic lottery? What is gratitude to God all
In my struggle to make sense of this, there was one thing of which
I could be absolutely certain: God blesses everyone. God's love
holds us in existence every minute of every day. As we say in the
introduction to the Eucharistic prayer at Mass, "It is right
to give Him thanks". Most Prefaces amplify that by adding affirmation
". . . always and everywhere . . ." In every circumstance,
no matter how good or bad it may seem. Thanks for the greatest of
all possible gifts, the gift of God Himself, the gift of Jesus.
The Liturgy, with its customary genius, skirts the secular symbols
of the season entirely - the cornucopias and pumpkins, the sheaves
of wheat and bunches of grapes - which some people do have, but
many do not. The preface for Thanksgiving Day goes directly to thanks
for God's promise that "all would be blessed, all could be
free", a promise, the words go on to remind us, fulfilled in
Jesus, who took on himself all our misfortunes, our shames, our
deaths, and by conquering them has destroyed their power over us.
It is for this that we rightly give thanks at every Eucharist. For
Christians everywhere, and particularly those who celebrate Eucharist,
every day is Thanksgiving Day. Do I perhaps too easily lose sight