Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Thanksgiving is not a feast day of the Church. It is a feast that was founded as a harvest festival by presidential fiat during the Washington administration in 1789. It was a time national thanksgiving to God. I doubt if we could get such a day passed in today’s anti-religious climate. It would be declared as a violation of Church and State or some such complaint. For all the religious rhetoric of the present administration, it is interesting that there is more virulent opposition to religion now that I can remember.
Thanksgiving today is more like Church-Lite. It has all the warm-fuzzies of a Christian holiday without having to go to Church, without having to be reminded of our sinfulness, without denominationalism or church-fights. What a luxury!
The original liturgies of Christianity were ones that were celebrated around the family dinner table. The Seder meal from which we derive much of the Eucharistic celebration comes from a thanksgiving meal. It was a meal that celebrated one’s gratitude to God for all one had, all one had received from God’s bounty and especially for the freedom to worship the God of their ancestors.
So the real question is which came first—the thanksgiving or the freedom to worship? And what kind of thanksgiving do we give in such secular times in which our family meal, the gathering of family and friends speak loudly of our gratitude toward a God who provides us with myriads of blessings and yet have a society in which the majority finds no reason to return thanks? We gather as families have done for millennia to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before and hope for a future that is rooted in our past. We will offer gratitude even when we don’t always know whom we are thanking. We find ourselves stuffed even when we know there are so many are starving. And hopefully we will have a twinge of conscience.
It is natural to give thanks. It is part of mature human nature to recognize that we all that we have does not come from our own personal talent. At some level we know that most of what we possess is from something or someone beyond us.
Perhaps what we celebrate this Thanksgiving Day is a recognition that we are not here simply because we have evolved into a turkey and pumpkin pie drugged existence. We have evolved into those who can give thanks to the one who began this whole existence. May it be so.