Wednesday, November 23, 2011
National Day of Thanksgiving and Praise
I think one of the most often heard sayings around thanksgiving is: “Every day we should be giving thanks, not just on thanksgiving.” On the surface this would sound logical and even very Christian. Indeed it is both logical and Christian, but it also breeds a sort of bitterness towards the holiday as well. We all know the people who make their living crying out about the commercialization of the holidays; they are not entirely wrong, nor are they entirely right. The holiday itself is good. Read President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/thanks.htm). Here are some highlights:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God…”
“They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens…”
“and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
Now here we have some solid reasoning behind the necessity of Thanksgiving, not just a feeling a gratitude every day, but the a country unified by the realization of their countless blessings, humbly acknowledging from whence they came and imploring that same Benefactor, “the Most High God” to forgive us of our national perversity and heal the wounds of our nation. Indeed, that first national Thanksgiving must have been filled with reverence, awe and prayer, not turkey, beer and pie. Why a century and a half later have we forgotten what this ‘holyday’ was created to accomplish?
In it’s very core, as described above by the promulgator of this national holiday, Thanksgiving is not so much a time to gorge ourselves until our belts need to be loosened, but a time to recall the blessings of the past year with gratitude and “fervently implore” God to continue his provident care of our beloved America. Lincoln reminds us that the blessings we receive are so bountiful that we are prone to forget the Source of these blessings and this day of national Thanksgiving is a day set aside not to focus only on ourselves and all we have, but to render humble thanksgiving to the Source of the all we have. However Lincoln was careful to add another purpose to this day…a purpose I think America has all but discarded. We are to “observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens…” Praise!!! Our President at the time asked us to thank and praise God, our Father. Undeniably the vision that Lincoln had for the national day of Thanksgiving is glorious and inspired. Imagine if every American would, for one day, would gather together, as brothers and sisters, and thank God for the blessings he has heaped upon our country? You might say that is impossible or even crazy. Nowadays most certainly Lincoln would be considered a ‘conservative” and “politically incorrect”. The man who freed the slaves would possibly be labeled a bigot and be charged with discriminating all those who choose to ignore the God from whom all our blessing flow.
Yet on October 3rd, 1863, he proclaimed that “No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…” Lincoln knew that there was a higher power than himself; a power higher than the might of the American army; wiser than the government; more passionate than the American people. This Power, this God, is not an impersonal force who sits stoic upon a throne dealing out blessings and curses indiscriminately upon the creatures he created to be his slaves, but rather a Father, moved with love for His children, showering a bountiful harvest of material needs and spiritual consolations filling our hearts with His joy and charity. The only just response to a God like this IS a national day of Thanksgiving. Of course every day is a great opportunity to render thanks to God, but one day set aside for national praise and gratitude is exemplary. It shows that we as a nation recognize God and his benevolence and each year stop what we are doing to devote all our energy to glorify His holy name. Does a wedding anniversary mean any less because we have 364 other days to say “I love you”? NO! The anniversary means more because that is a day devoted entirely to the relationship you have with your spouse. Indeed on Thanksgiving, we should devote a day to our relationship with our Father in heaven.
So here we are. Thanksgiving 2011…The challenge remains the same. Choose life or death. Blessings or curses. A national day of gluttony with a brief mention of thanks to a god somewhere out there or a day of humility and gratitude, shared with our families enjoying the blessings our Father in heaven has bestowed on us. What will it be? Lincoln asked form the graces of peace, harmony, tranquility and unity to be the fruits of our prayers on Thanksgiving. I echo the same. May God our Father unite us in love and gratitude this and every National Day of Thanksgiving and Praise.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Men of the Curé of Ars