As Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving remember there is a prehistory or “prequel” of Thanksgiving rooted deeply in Christian tradition and echoed in Vincentian heritage.
Father Robert Maloney CM writes… “Basically, the word Eucharistic means “thanksgiving.” The New Testament repeats the word often with precisely this meaning.
“Actually, the earliest name found in the New Testament designating the Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper. A second, and later, New Testament name is the “Breaking of the Bread.” Like the name Eucharist, these names too bring out important aspects of the spirituality expressed by the rites. The name Lord’s Supper identifies the basic symbol of the Eucharistic celebration: it is a memorial meal in which the Lord himself is present in the midst of his people. The name “Breaking of the Bread” emphasizes the Eucharist as a sharing event in which the Lord communicates his life to his disciples and in which they are united with one another in him.
“But from the earliest time Christians saw the Eucharist as a thanksgiving meal, in continuity with similar Hebrew meals and prayers. The celebrant begins every Eucharistic Prayer by crying out:
“Celebrant:Let us give thanks to the Lord Our God Assembly:It is right to give him thanks and praise Celebrant:Father, All Powerful and Ever-living God,we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks…
“All of the classical Eucharistic Prayers express words of gratitude to God the Father, focusing on the gifts of creation and redemption. They center on the gift of his Son, who gave his life for all whom he loves.
“As mentioned in the first part of this article (I, 4), gratitude is one of the themes that St. Vincent touches on when speaking or writing about the Eucharist, but his emphasis does not fall precisely on the Eucharistic Prayer as a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s faithful love in the works of creation and redemption. Rather, he encourages the confreres and sisters to thank God, while they are at the Eucharist, for the gifts that they and their communities have received. Still, thanksgiving is a very important theme in St. Vincent’s life and prayer. With striking forcefulness, he states that ingratitude is the “crime of crimes.”
Here are some thoughts on Thanksgiving from our founders.
Abelly, one of Vincent’s early biographers wrote,
“He used to say that nothing was so efficacious in winning the heart of God as a spirit of gratitude for his gifts and blessings. In this spirit he had the custom of thanking God often for the gifts from his bounty to all sorts of creatures, going back to the beginning of the world. He also thanked God for the good works accomplished through the inspiration of his grace, and he urged others to do the same. Coming down to particulars, he often invited his confreres to thank God for the protection and graces given to the Church, and for the elements which made it up, especially the prelates, pastors, and other ecclesiastical workers engaged in its preservation and advancement. He was careful to thank God for the fruits produced by all well run companies and congregations.”
He was often heard to say, “We must give as much time to thanking God for his favors as we have used in asking him for them.â€ He complained vehemently of the extreme ingratitude of men towards God. He was referring to the lament of Jesus Christ reported in the Gospel on the occasion of his curing the ten lepers. He urged his confreres to practice this virtue of gratitude and thanksgiving, without which, he used to say, we make ourselves unworthy of receiving any favors from God or men.
Abelly, vol. 3, Ch. 17. His Justice and Gratitude
Louise de Marillac wrote,
“I rejoice with you, by thanking God for the graces His goodness has bestowed upon you, enabling you to continue to love His service by observing your Rules especially by the cordiality and support you show one another . . . You can be certain that God is with you.” L.619 Louise de Marillac to Catherine Gesse, 4 May 1659, ibid., 639.
Elizabeth Ann Seton wrote,
“Every day of life more and more increases my gratitude to God for having made me what I am.” [June 1817]
“One day, at San Jacopo, he took a piece of paper and wrote down, in the form of a prayer, an enumeration of the many ” little kindnesses ” he had received from God. ” We are not sufficiently grateful for God’s little benefits. We thank Him for having created and redeemed us, and
given us good parents, and a wife and beloved children”
Benedictine writer Brother David Steindl Rast’s website on gratefulness (www.gratefulness.org) contains abundant thanksgiving resources. See especially a video A Good Day and
Grateful Living Practice
Practices for Grateful Living
Essential Readings on Gratefulness – Essays that challenge and inspire us to live more gratefully.
Questions about Gratefulness
See also Thanksgivings past on FamVin –