Thanksgiving Day (United States)
The greatest gift one can give is thanksgiving. In giving gifts, we give what we can spare, but in giving thanks we give ourselves.
—Brother David Steindl-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer
Father Richard shares how the sacred ritual of the Eucharist participates in the flow of gratitude and generosity:
At his Last Supper, Jesus gave us an action, a mime, a sacred, communal ritual that would summarize his core and lasting message for the world—one to keep repeating until his return. It’s significant that the meal and the metaphor are based in physicality; the incarnation continued in the elements of the universe. Good stuff, and yet it has always been a scandal to overly spiritual people, starting at the very beginning: “This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?” (see John 6:60).
The Eucharist, which means “thanksgiving,” has four main aspects. In our conscious participation, we become more like the one we follow:
First, we take our whole lives in our hands, as Jesus did. In very physical and scandalously incarnational language, table bread is daringly called “my body” and wine is called “my blood.” We are saying a radical “yes” to both the physical universe itself and the bloody suffering of our own lives and all the world.
Second, we thank God (eucharisteo in Greek), who is the Origin of all that life and who allows and uses even death. We are making a choice for gratitude, abundance, and appreciation for Another, which has the power to radically de-center us. Our lives and deaths are pure gift, and must be given away in trust, just as they were given to us as gift.
Third, we break it. We allow our lives to be broken and given away. We don’t need to protect them. The sharing of the small self will be the discovery of the True Self in God. “Unless the single grain of wheat dies, it remains just a grain of wheat” (John 12:24); the crushed grain becomes the broken bread, the whole and newly connected “Body of Christ.”
Finally, we chew on this mystery! This truth is known by participation and practice, not by more thinking or discussing. “Take this,” “eat and drink this”—not alone, but together, “until I return.” There we have the heart of the message, a “new covenant” of indwelling love that is not grounded in worthiness in any form, but merely in a willingness to participate and trust. Our drinking and eating are our agreement to “do what I can to make up in my own body all that still has to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body the church” (see Colossians 1:24). Eucharist is a risky and demanding act of radical gratitude for, solidarity with, and responsibility to the work of God—much more than a reward for good behavior or any “prize for the perfect,” as Pope Francis says.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 295–296.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Robin Wall Kimmerer on the Thanksgiving Address.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Aaron Burden, Untitled (detail), 2022, United States, photograph, Unsplash. Vidar Nordli-Mathisen, Laughing Nuns (detail), 2018, Italy, photograph, Unsplash. Aaron Burden, Untitled (detail), 2022, United States, photograph, Unsplash. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Thank you, Spirit, for life. Thank you for shared joy. Thank you for beauty. Amen.
Story from Our Community:
Now in my eighties, I am slowing down. Recent heart problems have made me realize how I have taken this faithful servant for granted. Recently, when I experience heart palpitations, I pause to thank my heart for its long service. I tell it I would understand if it wants to stop now to rest. This practice makes me value each moment. I find I am full of gratitude and quiet joy. —Diana L.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.