Saturday, November 26, 2011

"always and everywhere to give [God] thanks"

I am often provoked by people who fear faith so much that they want to relegate people of faith to second-class citizenship, something the current Administration seems intent on doing. I am equally provoked by others, coming from the opposite end of the spectrum, who are so worried about the purity of faith that they want to keep it safely locked away in the sanctuary. This causes me to think that perhaps the spectrum, rather than being linear, bends backwards at both ends, bringing the opposite poles into some kind of contact. What prompts this is an exception taken to the Thanksgiving Day greeting I posted on both Facebook and Google+.

For those who do not live in the United States, and even for some who do, Thanksgiving is a civil holiday set aside for the specific purpose of giving thanks to God as a nation. Hence, as a clergyman, I think it is useful to remind and encourage people in my country to recall the origin of this day and to observe it in some meaningful way.

When we gather for worship as the Church a major feature of our worship, but by no means the only one, is to thank God for what He does for us in Jesus Christ, which is certainly distinct from gathering around our tables at home. But, while distinct, the two should not be wholly unrelated. In the Sacramentary approved for use in the U.S., we even have a special Mass for Thanksgiving Day, complete with Preface.

The Greek word eucharistía is a feminine noun and refers to "the act of giving thanks." It is certainly not an abuse of the word "Eucharist" to employ it as a verb, simply meaning "to give thanks." So, there is nothing in the least untoward about encouraging people to make an act of thanksgiving, an eucharistía, if you will, to God no matter how else they observed Thanksgiving. This seems a safe enough point to make without sparking contention, but then few things are that safe.

In Eucharistic Prayer II, addressing God, the priest says (words from the new English translation), "It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ..." Yes, "always and everywhere" to give God thanks. What was I thinking? Let's not lose sight of the fact that very word "Mass" itself is derived from dismissal, helping us to see that the Eucharist is not an end in itself, but the means to God's end in and for the world.

All of this reminds me, again, of John O'Donohue's poem, The Inner History of a Day, "Where eucharist in the ordinary happens."

To those who are wondering, I have nothing to offer about the new English translation of the Mass. I am guessing this weekend will be rather clunky and awkward, but I think we will accommodate quickly. Hey, it's a great Sunday to invite someone along to Mass with you because they won't feel so self-conscious about not knowing what to do or say!

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