November 28, 2013
Taylor Marshall has an interesting article on the first Thanksgivings – that’s right, it’s plural – in what is now the United States of America, but back then was termed the “New World” in European eyes. You’ll want to read Six Interesting Catholic Thanksgiving Facts You Need to Know. Even before I read his article I was meditating on the relationship this national holiday has with Christ’s birth. If Christ had not become man and died for our sins, we still would have much to be thankful for, but we would not have the greatest of all things to celebrate, our redemption.
It was Christ who gave us the great Thanksgiving at the Last Supper, and it is the Church that He founded upon Peter that continues to re-present to the Father that great Thanksgiving first celebrated before Christ’s agony, arrest, illegal trial, passion, death and resurrection. So it was, then, that the first Thanksgiving on the soil of the New World occurred on September 8, 1565 when the Timucuan Indians and the Spanish settlers held a great feast and celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in St. Augustine, Florida in thanksgiving for God’s blessings upon them.
We are days away from the beginning of Advent when the Church anticipates with eagerness the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “…Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Is.7:14). While we are walking with the Chosen People in darkness toward the Light by way of our sacred liturgy, we know in these days that Emmanuel, “God with Us” has already come and redeemed the world. He remains with us wherever two are three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20), and in every tabernacle all over this earth. The thankfulness we have on Thanksgiving Day for the fullness of the harvest is the same thankfulness we have for the Father sending His Son in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) to bring us the fullness of grace and eternal life in Him (Ps. 84). It is all thankfulness for the goodness and mercy of God upon this afflicted human race. If we look at Thanksgiving in any other way we do not know who we are – children of God and all of what that means.
In this world’s feast we share our food with others, an earthly analogy to the Mass where Jesus shares the heavenly food of His Body and Blood with all present. The one comes but once a year, the other, every hour of every day. If we carry this spirit of gratitude with us all the way through Advent we arrive at the night when we commemorate Christ’s birth with great joy and feasting, when we give gifts to others out of love for our Savior, and when we bring Him gifts, too.
The spirit of true gratitude engenders in us the desire to give from our hearts, not as a duty but as a privilege to love. What then are we thankful for, and what shall we present to the Baby in the manger on Christmas? How will we wrap our gifts to the Christ Child? We have all of Advent to prepare.
A few things I am grateful for and what I will give to Jesus on Christmas as presents to Him:
- Life and the chance for eternal joy. I will wrap my self-will in little, purposeful acts of self denial throughout Advent, for without surrendering my will to God my life is in vain.
- My still-functioning brain and body. I will wrap them in acts of kindness to others and more attentive participation in the sacred liturgy.
- My imperfect self with all my sins. I will wrap them in His Precious Blood to fulfill the desire of His Sacred Heart to work in me.
How will you carry your spirit of thankfulness from Thanksgiving to Christmas Day? What will you give to the Baby Jesus that night?
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