I suppose that some anthropologist or another has found a group of savages on the edge of some rain forest somewhere who speak a language which doesn’t have a word for “thank you.”
But that’s the point: people who can’t say “thank you’ are savages.
Gratitude is such a fundamentally human thing that most of what we need to know about it is built into the language which surrounds it.
We say “thank you” and when we do we are recognizing the most basic thing about gratitude: the words ‘thank’ and ‘think’ are in their origin, and this is not by chance, the same word. Same in German ‘danken’ and ‘denken’.
This is easy to understand, for as everybody knows, a person is truly thankful who thinks of the favour done to him.
He is thankful who thinks of, ponders, considers the generosity of his benefactor.
We say of the ungrateful man that he is ‘thoughtless’ or ‘inconsiderate’.
Today is not really a holy day in the sense that it is a feast of the liturgical year but a holiday. But every holy day is a holiday.
What you do on a holiday is you don’t go to work and the reason you don’t go to work is so that you can think – or to use the fancy word the church has for it ‘contemplation.’
This is something deeply rooted in Jewish-Christian view of things:
The whole notion of the Sabbath rest is an acknowledgement that the curse of work which our first parents brought upon us keeps us from looking at reality of God and of ourselves.
So too the Christian Sunday is not the time when we have to go to Mass, it is a time when we get to go to Mass, which from the standpoint of the world is a big waste of time.
Because when we go to Mass we are placed right into the middle of the great mystery of our creation and redemption. Every word and gesture says to us look at what God has done. Think and remember in such a way that past is not really past – it is a present reality.
That typical modern man Adolf Hitler said: "Any activity is meaningful, even a criminal activity; all passivity, in contrast, is meaningless."
No time to think is the motto of totalitarianism.
The beginning of the modern world with all its noise and business and activity for activity’s sake was the Reformation with its insistence that we keep busy and do something productive.
No more of the endless round of feasts, of holy days and holidays, it’s time to get back to work.
Even Sunday should be a time when we do something useful, hear a sermon about responsibility and then get back to work.
No more idle monks.
No time to think and so no time to thank.
We do not know how to keep a feast and I suppose that Thanksgiving is the best
example there is.
We have no time to think. With food preparation and guests. Not to mention the appropriately named Black Friday and the rush to the dark satanic malls, to paraphrase
Blake, Christmas is just around the corner. Get busy.
We are appalled by this but do not know what to do about it.
But the Church knows even if she often forgets. “Be still and know that I am God.”
That is the only really effective protest against the madness before us.
Beat the crowds. Get to Mass early and think. Make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament
and think. Receive the moments of silence which God is always giving us and think.
Think and be thankful.