It's Thanksgiving here in the United States, a national holiday which for believers has come to have a significantly religious dimension. Actually it strikes me as I write this, that it is perhaps the most significant national holiday and interestingly the most religious of national "secular" holidays. The observation confirms for me that the separation of Church and State that characterizes U.S. democracy and religious freedom was not intended by the founding souls to mean an absence of religion from public life but rather to generate and sustain a climate in which the free expression of religious belief was tolerated (in the true sense of the word, not the minimalist one) and promoted.
Historically, Thanksgiving is complicated. The pilgrims sat down to a meal with the Natives to give thanks to the Creator for the blessings, that seems clear and straightforward. But let's not forget the price that the Natives and the native land have paid for colonialism. In thanksgiving, I pray for the lives and land lost as well for the freedoms and opportunities gained. One doesn't truly balance the other, but at this point, they are both fact and a part of the complex history of humanity. As beneficiaries of such a legacy, we must use what we have inherited for the betterment of all of humanity and the glory of God the Creator.
Religiously, Thanksgiving is a unique moment, one in which the nature of living a Eucharistic life (or at least trying ardently to do) is highlighted by this national pause to give thanks. For Christians, especially for Catholics who enjoy the immeasurable grace of the Holy Eucharist, "Thanksgiving" is what we are called to be each and every time we approach the altar of sacrifice and receive into our beings the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the very existence of God in sacramental form. So, in that sense, this national holiday can be a day of moving internal renewal when we realize that this is what are called to be each and every day: living witness of the Body of Christ, giving thanks, giving glory, feeding and making whole through our own presence to others.
Personally, Thanksgiving is truly bittersweet. It's a great day to be with family and friends and enjoy the gift of presence. It's also the last holiday we had a a whole family, the last holiday we enjoyed with my father physically still with us. Our last Thanksgiving as a family was perhaps the most simple but without knowing it also the most meaningful. It was the most stress-free Thanksgiving we had had in many decades, if not ever. It was a simple homecooked meal with the most important fixings, a family enjoying each other's company. I still miss my Dad very much, and I always will even thought I know he's still with me in a different way.
That said, I realize I have a lot to for which to be grateful, year after year and especially this year.
God's grace sustains me. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
My family loves me. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
My friends are my family. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I was able to be there for my cousin after his wife died suddenly. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I was graced to be reunited with a long lost friend after more than a decade and have the opportunity to visit him and see the parish where he is now a pastor. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I have a parish community with a precious pastoral team that has made a home for the soul. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I am blessed with a wonderful religious community of which I am a lay associate and a wonderful circle of religious friends from a variety of communities. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I have had the blessing of adopting two wonderful dogs this past year and, together with my friend, providing them with a loving home. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I have entered the world of weblogging and the circle of life that surrounds me has been expanded. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
I have had, amidst the worries and challenges of every day life, many moments of grace this past. For that I say, "Thank you, God."
To each of you who grace my life with love and blessings, I pray in song the words of St. Paul:"I thank my God each time I remember you,
which is constantly,
praising God for the blessings I have known
through your love."
What is the melody for your litany of thanksgiving?