Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day: 2015

Meet, right and our bounden duty

I am surprised that someone has not decided to protest that the observance of Thanksgiving is a violation of the rights of non-Christians. Probably someone has because it is a rare case of a distinctively Christian virtue being made the object of a national holiday. Of course gratitude is a natural human virtue as well as a supernatural one and it perfectly possible for everyone, all human beings, to recognize the need to give thanks. We can in any case we can be grateful that we have this publicly sanctioned holiday because it raises the question ‘to whom are we bound to give thanks?’

Presumably we are at Mass today not only to give thanks to all those to whom we are indebted but to Him to whom we ultimately owe thanks, almighty God. Which raises another question ‘thanks for what?’ Obviously everything in the case of God but thanksgiving is not an abstract thing but always particular and I suppose for many Anglicans it is the Prayer of General Thanksgiving in the Prayer Book which gives the particulars:

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give
most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all men.
We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

Fr. Ronald Knox points out that thanksgiving is one of the four ends of Christian prayer along with praise, confession and intercession and among these thanksgiving  takes the honorable second place. Praise comes first because we praise God not only because he does things for us but for who he is. Thanksgiving comes next before confession because sinful creatures that we are creatures before we are sinners. It comes before intercession because justice demands that we should ask God for what he has done for us before we ask him to do more.

The difficulty is that we have a severe and chronic case of amnesia: we are forgetful. Yet we can give thanks even for that. St. Augustine in the Confessions prays:

Most merciful God . . . You did not forget me, even when I forgot you. Remember Lord that you came to me even before I cried to you.

“We lift up our hearts’ and ‘give thanks to the Lord our God’ because he is always ahead of us, always giving us a thirst for him, ever drawing us to him. Not that we loved God but that he loved us.

Meet, right and our bounden duty

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