Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 2013

Homily: Thanksgiving Day Mass: 2013

It is meet, right and our bounden duty.

For a priest not to think about the Eucharist on Thanksgiving Day is about as likely as everybody else not thinking about turkey. It is not just the etymology: the Greek word Eucharistica meaning ‘thanksgiving’. It is the conversation priest and people have not once a year but every day: “let us give thanks unto the Lord our God” and the response; “it is meet and right so to do”.

The words come tripping out of our mouths like a nursery rhyme because Archbishop Cranmer was convinced that it took more than one English word to translate a Latin word, which results in that sonorous and majestic and inevitably memorable prose of the Prayer Book. It is only with great difficulty that you get the words of the English Liturgy out of your head once they have been planted in your mind.

But the Latin original is simply verum et justum est: it is true and just or, maybe, it is truly just.

The most misunderstood virtue these days is not that of gratitude but of justice. Or we might say that gratitude is misunderstood only because we misunderstand justice. Thanksgiving is about the last thing we think of when we think of justice. More likely justice brings to mind an angry group of people shouting as loudly as possible ‘it’s not fair’ – ‘give us our rights’.

St. Thomas says that the virtue of gratitude is ‘annexed’ to the virtue of justice. What he means is that thanksgiving is bound up with justice - giving each his due-- because it is a matter of being indebted, of owing something to someone, not of someone owing us. It is not  a matter of the fact that others owe us, however true that may be, but that every human being simply by virtue of being born, of existing, finds himself in deep debt to others. St. Thomas mentions specifically God, parents and benefactors.

Our greatest thanks are due to God, for He is the first principle of all our goods; secondly, thanks are due to our parents, for they are the proximate principles of our begetting and upbringing; and, finally, to our benefactors, from whom we have received particular and personal  favors.  That  tells us something very important about the thanks which is ‘meet, right and our bounden duty’ namely that it is not primarily something we owe to groups of people, to the crowd,  but to persons, God, parents and friends.

The 1st century Roman philosopher Seneca said that “among all our many and great vices, none is as common as ingratitude … and the most ungrateful of all is the man who has forgotten a benefit.” We all know that is the problem: we forget, that great sin of the Old Testament and the sin from which Jesus wanted to deliver us from when he said the night before he was forgotten: ‘do this in remembrance of me’.

By all means let us remember today all the blessings of this life. Only not just today but in that action which defines and makes us who we are, every Mass in our preparation, as we pray the Mass and as we give thanks after Mass.

It is meet, right and our bounden duty.

1 comment:

LSP said...

I like that very much -- can I run it FIC? It'd be very helpful...

On a different note, you'll have seen that things are trending badly for Joni. Well, she was warned about hanging out with that Nash person!