root of thanksgiving lies in the sacrament of the Eucharist | Chroniclers


Thanksgiving is not just an American holiday. He is Canadian and Liberian, Grenadian, German and Japanese. And there are similar celebrations of thanks for the harvest around the world.

Thanksgiving is essentially religious. It arises from a deep sense of the “gifts” of life. There is, in the depths of every human consciousness, the awareness that the beauty and peace that we see and feel is really, at the heart of it all, “Creation”, that we are “creatures”. And that there is indeed a Creator who is not only powerful, but above all Love.

Everyone knows, deep down, that everything is really a gift. No one does it alone. We feel in our bones the same humble and joyful gratitude experienced by the one leper (out of 10), who had all been healed and cleansed by Jesus. According to Luke 17: 15-19: “One of them, seeing that he was healed, turned around, praising God aloud; and he fell face down at the feet of Jesus, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus said, ‘Were they not 10 cleansed? Where are the nine? Hasn’t anyone been found to come back and praise God apart from this stranger? ‘ And He said to him: ‘Arise and go your way; your faith has healed you. ‘”

Thanksgiving has a long American history. President George Washington proclaimed the First National Thanksgiving on November 26, 1789 “as a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed in acknowledging with a grateful heart the many and insignificant favors of Almighty God.”

Seventy-four years later, on October 3, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that the nation would celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of each November.

The Thanksgiving feast was a survivor, a little remnant, of the much, much larger festival tradition of Christendom, both Eastern and Western. Before the 16th century, there were 95 Christian holidays in Merry Old England, in addition to the 52 Sundays. It was about 150 days a year that people had to go to church and have a day off.

The Puritans put an end to all these vacations, so much did it seem a frivolous waste of time and a costly loss of production. There was even talk of canceling Christmas and Easter (the original “war on Christmas” was a Puritan idea, not a secular one).

Arguably, with more than a little justification, Thanksgiving is a tongue-in-cheek reminder of a much more humane schedule and work schedule. It’s ironic because the Thanksgiving pilgrims were Puritans, who had legislated to end the festival tradition. The Thanksgiving ritual of feasting with family and friends and going to church is a memory of a time when we did this much more often, when we were better off.

In the 1500s, at the dawn of the modern age, a different and cooler culture took over from Christian society which revolved around the church calendar.

Certainly, medieval peasants worked long and hard, and it was never a cushy way of life. Yet there was a humanity that is greatly lacking today.

There was a “common” area in each village, where the peasant could graze his cattle, collect wood or hunt small game. The peasant could expect many religious festivals throughout the year. There would be a church liturgy to start the feast, but then there would be a real feast, sometimes for days, with community celebrations including parades, carnivals and theatrical performances.

Thanksgiving, as a festival tradition, was a part of the culture throughout the year. But now we’ve reduced the idea of ​​the “holy day” to a few feast days (like Thanksgiving and Christmas), and even these holidays are laden with so much anxiety and business expectations.

Even our own private vacations have been reduced to a lesser word: “vacation”. Think about it, the very term is negative. It’s about getting away from where social pressure tells you you really should be – work hard, never really leave the workplace, and with your smartphone, work is always on your mind.

Still, we have Thanksgiving. And I am grateful for it. It remains a testament to what Feasting really is. There is community. There is conviviality at the richly loaded table. There is a reflection and a remembrance of this deep and deep truth that the Life we ​​have is a gracious gift from our Loving Father.

At the Tobias Thanksgiving Table, towards the end of the meal, we each go around the table and express our thanks – for one another, for our friends, for the Providence we experienced last year.

And we remember where Thanksgiving really came from. Not Lincoln or Washington. Not the pilgrims. Not happy ol ‘England.

The ultimate root of thanksgiving lies in the sacrament of the Eucharist, the very heart of the central worship of Christianity. The New Testament Greek word “eucharistia”, found 15 times in the New Testament, means exactly that: “thanksgiving”. It is deeply linked to those holiest times when Jesus shared His Body and Blood with His disciples in communion:

“For I have received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, which the Lord Jesus took bread on the night that he was delivered, and when he gave thanks (eucharisteisas) he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body that’s for you. Do this in remembrance of me ”(1 Corinthians 11: 23-24).

This is the reason why, in the Orthodox Church and others, the “heart” of worship is not preaching. I tell my homiletics students at Christ the Savior Seminary that there is a simple reason why we Orthodox priests don’t preach long sermons, like 30 minutes or more, like my evangelical father did. For him and for many others, preaching is the essence of worship.

But for us, the sermon takes second place.

The center of our worship space is not the pulpit.

Rather, it is the altar, the “communion table”. Because the essence of worship is the Eucharist, Thanksgiving for the best, the greatest Gift of all – the life and presence of Jesus Himself, which we receive in communion.

All the feasts, all the thanksgiving began and were based on the Eucharist.

Jonathan Tobias is a resident of Edenton.

Jonathan Tobias is a resident of Edenton.

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