Blessed are you, God, our Father, for the gift of Christ, your Son. It is through Christ that we, as a nation, learn to offer fitting thanks to you. For Christ has taught us that in the midst of a world torn and shaken by war, thanks is given to you when we hold our brother’s hand in peace. He has likewise taught us that there is no material success nor joy in achievement which can compare to the praise given to you when one man reaches out to help his fellow man. He taught us, finally, that deeper than all human security is the bond of faith which unites us and the power of love which sets us free.
This we have learned from Christ, our brother. And now we recall how he himself gave thanks on the night before he died. On that night, he took bread into his hands; he lifted his eyes to you, God, his almighty Father; he thanked you, and broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, with the words: “Take and eat, this is my body which is to be broken for you.” Thus he also took the cup, said a prayer of thanks over it and said: “Take and drink, this is the cup of my blood of the new and everlasting covenant, which will be shed for you and for all unto the forgiveness of sins. Each time you do these things you will be commemorating me.”
Now, whenever we eat this bread and drink from this cup, we recall what Christ was really like in those days when he walked the earth. We recall that in the complexity of the times, and even at the risk of suffering and death, he asked very much of very ordinary people, as he gave very much of himself. He never placed security above faith, or laws above love, but neither did he free his disciples from the doubts and risks which following him involved. So, in love, in faith, in doubt, in risk, a community of Christ’s followers arose. And so, today, all who share this meal – black men and white men, the wealthy and the poor, old men who have visions, and young men you dream dreams, the violent and the meek, the suffering, the rejected, the self-righteous, the proud – we are, all of us, the Christian community, the new people of God. Christ does not apologize for our faults or explain to us the mystery of our calling; he bids us seek guidance from the Holy Spirit, and always and at all times, truly to love one another.
Mindful of our vocation, then, God our Father, we ask you to send over us the Holy Spirit, without whom our thanks to you would be in vain. Help us, through the same Spirit, to be creative, since this is how we become like you; open our ears that we may hear people cry; open our hearts, that we may thank you for the beauty of creation by helping the poor and the rejected of this earth discover their share of that beautiful gift; they, too, are children of the Father, born to love in the Spirit, destined to be free with the freedom of the sons of God.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Princeton Theological Seminary holds an enormous book sale (used, and sometimes even new) each Spring. The books are gathered from a wide variety of sources, and there are always gems among the gravel. The sale starts out at something like $5 for hardbound volumes and $3 for paperback, but that price goes down until, on the last day, you can fill a box with books and walk away for merely $5. Of course, by the time the last day rolls around, there usually isn’t much left. But, this past year I was able to pick up – on the last day of the sale – a little gem entitled Eucharistic Liturgies: Studies in American Pastoral Liturgy (Newman Press, 1969). For what it is worth, it was edited at various levels by three Jesuits. I thought it fitting, it being the eve of Thanksgiving here in the United States, to offer an except from one of these Eucharistic liturgies, specifically the “Canon for a Day of Thanksgiving.” The poetically aware formatting of the volume has given way to simply paragraph form. Enjoy!