The real reason for Thanksgiving!
Many are under the misconception that Thanksgiving began with the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock in the seventeenth century. But long before the pilgrims commemorated the first commercialized Thanksgiving, millions were celebrating Thanksgiving for centuries - all the way back to 33 A.D. The first Person to celebrate Thanksgiving was Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ when He elevated the bread and pronounced the words "Take this, all of you, and eat it. For this is My Body" and when He elevated the cup of wine and said, "Take this, all of you, and drink it. For this is the chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the new covenant which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins." Since that time those words have been repeated countless times on every Catholic altar globally, for nineteen centuries the ordained representative of Christ repeated the words, "Hoc est enim Corpus Meum" and "Hic est enim calix Sanguinis Mei, novi et aeterni testamenti: Mysterium Fidei: Qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem pecatorum." While Latin is no longer recognized as the one language since 1965, these words are said in the vernacular throughout the world. But it speaks one language no matter what dialect or tongue is used. Through these simple, loving and meaningful words and the proper intent of the priest, the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. That is the great Thanksgiving! The etimology of the word Eucharist comes from the Greek eu which means "to show or give" and charizethai which means "favor or thanks."' In fact, this is where the word also derives its root for "charism"' and "charismatic" for the Church is truly charismatic because the word means "gifts" and when we take charisms or gifts out of the Church, we are left with nothing. But, thankfully, through the Apostles, Disciples, Fathers and Doctors of the Church, saints and those entrusted with preserving the liturgy and traditions, this most beautiful gift we could ever receive is preserved today.
The Holy Eucharist is a gift God gives freely to us each and every day and yet, so few take advantage of this wondrous prize. We're either too busy, or too tired, or too wrapped up in our own schedules to make the effort to make Daily Mass a habit. In fairness, however, not every parish is accommodating the cultures of our busy, varied schedule today. Why can't more parishes offer Holy Mass at noon or in the evening after work? We understand priests are allowed to say only so many Masses a day, but with most parishes having at least two priests, that could translate to at least four Masses daily. That means two in the morning, one for the early bird - say around 6:30 or 7:00 and another at 8:00 or 9:00 for stay-at-homers; then noon for workers during their lunch break and to cater to those who work evenings. After all, what's more important: nourishment of the body or nourishment for the soul? To their credit many downtown parishes in cities across the country offer a noon Mass for office workers. But why not also offer an evening Mass around 6:30 or 7 p.m. when, quite possibly the whole family can attend. School's out, work is over, and television programs can wait. For those who don't agree, ever heard of a VCR? We're amazed how many church-related activities go on in every parish in the evenings, and yet the focal point of their whole Faith - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is absent. The sanctuaries are dark, sometimes locked, so social activities take precedence. While some of these parish programs are important to the life of the Church, many are excessive and liberal in content and should be pared back. The best replacement: a daily evening Mass and, in lieu of that, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There is no restriction on priests exposing Our Lord in the Monstrance even for a few hours, capped by Benediction. The only problem is finding enough souls to stay with Our Lord during this time.
We have become active in our parish on the Adoration committee and are startled by how hard it is to recruit worshippers on First Fridays when our pastor allows 24 hour adoration from after morning Mass on First Friday until Benediction the following morning just before First Saturday Mass. The committee begins recruiting two weeks beforehand at each Sunday Mass and the response is apathetic at best. Near the sign-up board for Adoration are other parish groups soliciting for attention for raffles, products such as tickets for this event or that event which mostly are secular in nature, and other assorted distractions which garner more attention than spending at least one hour a month with Our Lord. They forget His words in Matthew 26: 40, "Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?" What's even sadder is that we do not have the Tabernacle in the main body of the church. Our Lord is in a small, reverent chapel just to the right of the altar. In all fairness, our parish, which had been a mission church and now expanded to a full-fledged parish, is in a storefront configuration while the new church is being built. Nevertheless, you can count on one hand the number of people who take the time to walk a few steps to the chapel and say "hi" to Jesus in the Tabernacle. And every Sunday Mass is packed. But so many are more interested in socializing than remembering why they are there. Before the Offertory, at the petition so many have petitions to offer. Yet how many return to give thanks for petitions answered? If you think it's frustrating to us, imagine how frustrating it is to Jesus and His Blessed Mother Mary! Here we have the greatest gift in the Holy Eucharist, one with everlasting rewards and we're more concerned with temporal things. That's like opting for spam and vinegar at a lavish, gourmet meal! It just doesn't make sense.
Speaking of not making sense, the whole Y2K nonsense falls into that category. Our response to all the hubbub is to have our lamps lit, definitely, but the lamps of our souls first, then we can take care of the physical if necessary. One way to prepare is with Thanksgiving Mass Thursday morning, the final Thanksgiving of the millennium. We have so much to give thanks for. Another way is to prepare for the new millennium and whatever it holds in store by using that special crib sheet the Church provides for us - Advent, which is a time of preparation. If any liturgical season is Y2K ready it is Advent for it is millennium tested, with the four weeks of Advent leading up to Christmas representing the four millenniums before the coming of Christ.
Everyone seems to be making plans for New Year's Eve. The Church's New Year's Eve is this Saturday, November 27th for the First Sunday of Advent represents the first day of the Liturgical Year, this year utilizing Cycle B in the readings which recycles every three years. We'll be celebrating Saturday's "New Year's Eve" at Holy Mass and we'll do the same for the beginning of the official Jubilee Year on Christmas Eve, and a week later on the night we all usher in the new millennium. But Mass doesn't last more than an hour or so. And so, what is everyone to do for the next few hours before midnight? We have an excellent suggestion: If your parish doesn't have a special Adoration period scheduled in your parish for New Year's Eve, now is a good time to approach your pastor and ask if you can help organize enough faithful to spend some time with Jesus in thanks, praise, and adoration for all the wonderful gifts He has bestowed on each and everyone of us. We can't think of a better way to spend New Year's Eve. After all, with the spiraling cost of celebrations for this unique upcoming New Year's Eve, think of the money you'll save on food, drink, babysitting and favors! Ah, back to favors, as in Eucharist - the greatest favor of them all! And the real reason for Thanksgiving!