From “Thanks” to “Giving” – An Ancient Tradition

by | Nov 20, 2020 | Formation, Reflections

This year we will miss many of the traditional trappings of Thanksgiving. I suspect that most of all we will miss the real presence of those who gave us life and those who make our lives meaningful.

But maybe there is a blessing. It would be a blessing if we could get back to the traditional biblical meaning of thanksgiving. At the same time, there is a challenge to move from “thanks” to “giving”.

Forgotten truths

About Thanksgiving

Among the forgotten truths about Thanksgiving may be the loss of consciousness of giving thanks to a God who has given us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We could also reflect on the lack of appreciation of the root meaning of Eucharist, giving thanks for God’s intervention in the Exodus to a Promised Land and, even more significantly, Jesus’ conquering sin and death. Our Holy Eucharist is actually the ultimate “prequel” to our secular Thanksgiving Day. Eucharist quite literally means giving thanks.

About Mary’s Song of Thanksgiving 

The “Magnificat,” Mary’s thanksgiving hymn after the Annunciation, has inspired gifted artists and countless hours of prayer. But often it is a case of not seeing the forest for the trees. We often have lost sight of her beautiful prayer as a prayer of thanksgiving for “God’s revolution.”

Her Magnificat is a prelude to the whole gospel, and the theme that God respects the poor, exalts the poor, cares for the poor, feeds the poor, remembers the poor, helps the poor. If this is not a revolution, I don’t know what is.

But the Magnificat has been viewed as dangerous by people in power. Powerful leaders in some countries– such as India, Guatemala, and Argentina — have outright banned the Magnificat from being recited in liturgy or in public. Mary’s Magnificat is what some would call a “dangerous memory”.


From “thanks” to “giving”


Mary not only gave thanks for this revolution, she intuitively realized she was part of the revolution. She did not just sit in stunned silence at all God did for her. If this was God’s way of acting with her, she intuitively knew she was called to act this way toward others. Immediately after the Annunciation, she hurried up into the hill country to help her cousin.

In this, she anticipated Jesus words and actions when he washed the feet of his friends he asked “Do you understand what I have done? If you do, do the same for all the lowly and marginalized of the world.

Popes have pointed to her as the pre-eminent disciple. It took the disciples some time to realize what Jesus did when he washed their feet. “Do you understand what I have done?… Do this in memory of me!”  We show our gratitude for what God has done for us in doing what God did for us in … loving all our neighbors just as Jesus loved.

We have spent 2000 years struggling to understand God’s revolution.

So the big question for your life and mine this Thanksgiving is: has God’s revolution occurred in our lives? Have things been turned upside down enough so that our lives now are dedicated to lifting up the poor, feeding the poor, helping the poor, remembering the poor? Has this revolution occurred in your life and mine?

It turned upside down the lives of Saints Vincent and Louise and the literally millions of their followers who walk in their footsteps today.


Living God’s Revolution

  1. Do we spend as much time giving as we do giving?
  2. Do we move from thanks to giving?
  3. Is there enough evidence to convict us of being God’s revolutionaries?

An earlier version of this post appeared on Vincentian Mindwalk.


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