Join with Me in the Banquet Room of God and Give Him Thanks

“When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’ Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’” (Luke 14.15-16)

We are invited to the banquet every day. It is good to enter into the great banquet room of God, the very day He has made. We are invited to rejoice and be glad in this banquet room. While it may not appear to be the banquet room of God’s victory, we do not judge by appearances. We have eyes to see the redemption of all things. It is all the more good and fitting to give thanks to God in concert with the faithful. Join with me at the beginning of each and every day, knowing it to be the banquet room of the Holy One, and take time to extol the greatness of God in our lives.

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Psalm 9.1-2
1 I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds.
2 I will be glad and exult in thee,
I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.

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O Existing One, Master and Lord; O God, the almighty and adorable Father: it is truly proper, right, and befitting the majesty of Your holiness to praise You, to hymn You, to bless You, to worship You, to give thanks to You, to glorify You, the only God Who truly exists, and to offer You this our rational worship with a contrite heart and in a spirit of humility, for You have granted us the knowledge of Your truth. Who can relate your mighty acts? Or make all Your praises known? Who can tell of all Your miracles at all times? O Master of all, Lord of heaven and earth, and of all creation both visible and invisible, You sit upon the throne of glory and behold the depths. You are without beginning, invisible, incomprehensible, indescribable, and immutable. You are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the great God and Savior, our hope. He is the image of Your goodness, the seal of Your equal likeness. In Himself He is expressing You, the Father. He is the living Word, the true God, the eternal Wisdom, the Life, the Sanctification, the Power, the true Light. Through Him was revealed the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth; the Gift of sonship; the Pledge of future inheritance; the First Fruits of eternal blessing; the life-creating Power; the Fountain of sanctification. Through Him every creature of reason and understanding is empowered, worshipping You and sending up to You the eternal hymn of glory, for all things are subject to You. You are praised by angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers, and the many-eyed Cherubim. Around You stand the Seraphim, one with six wings and the other with six wings; with two they cover their faces, with two they cover their feet, and with two they fly, crying one to another with unceasing voices and ever-resounding praises, singing the triumphant hymn, shouting, proclaiming and saying:

Holy! Holy! Holy! Lord of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of Your glory! Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

With these blessed powers, O loving Master, we sinners also cry aloud and say: You are holy, most holy, and there are no bounds to the majesty of Your holiness. You are holy in all Your works, for with righteousness and true judgment You have ordered all things for us. When You created man by taking dust from the earth, honoring him with Your own image, O God, You set him in a paradise of delight, promising him eternal life and the enjoyment of eternal blessings in the observance of Your commandments. But when man disobeyed You, the true God Who had created him, and was misled by the deception of the serpent, he became subject to death through his own transgressions. In Your righteous judgment, O God, You expelled him from paradise into this world, returning him to the earth from which he was taken, yet providing for him the salvation of regeneration in Your Christ Himself. For You, O good One, did not desert forever Your creature whom You had made. Nor did You forget the work of Your hands, but through the tender compassion of Your mercy, You visited him in various ways: You sent prophets. You performed mighty works by Your saints who in every generation were well-pleasing to You. You spoke to us by the mouth of Your servants, the prophets, who foretold to us the salvation which was to come. You gave us the law as a help. You appointed angels as guardians. And when the fullness of time had come, You spoke to us by Your Son Himself, through Whom You also made the ages. He, being the Radiance of Your glory and the Image of Your person, upholding all things by the word of His power, thought it not robbery to be equal to You, the God and Father. He was God before the ages, yet He appeared on earth and lived among men. Becoming incarnate from a holy virgin, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being conformed to the body of our lowliness, that He might conform us to the image of His glory. For since through a man sin entered the world, and through sin death, so it pleased Your only-begotten Son Who was in the bosom of You, the God and Father, born of a woman, the holy Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, born under the law, to condemn sin in His own flesh, so that those who were dead in Adam might be made alive in Himself – Your Christ. He lived in this world and gave us commandments of salvation. Releasing us from the delusions of idolatry, He brought us to knowledge of You, the true God and Father. He obtained us for Himself, to be a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Having cleansed us in water, and sanctified us with the Holy Spirit, He gave Himself as a ransom to death, in which we were held captive, sold under sin. Descending through the Cross into Hades that He might fill all things with Himself, He destroyed the torments of death. And rising on the third day, He made a path for all flesh to the resurrection from the dead, since it was not possible for the Author of Life to be overcome by corruption. So He became the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, the First-born of the dead, that He, Himself, might truly be the first in all things. Ascending into heaven, He sat down at the right hand of Your majesty on high, and He will come to render to each man according to his works. (The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great)

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Psalm 145
1 I will extol thee, my God and King,
and bless thy name for ever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless thee,
and praise thy name for ever and ever.
3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall laud thy works to another,
and shall declare thy mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of thy majesty,
and on thy wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 Men shall proclaim the might of thy terrible acts,
and I will declare thy greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of thy abundant goodness,
and shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
8 The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The Lord is good to all,
and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord,
and all thy saints shall bless thee!
11 They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom,
and tell of thy power,
12 to make known to the sons of men thy mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of thy kingdom.
13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and thy dominion endures throughout all generations.
The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to thee,
and thou givest them their food in due season.
16 Thou openest thy hand,
thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call upon him,
to all who call upon him in truth.
19 He fulfils the desire of all who fear him,
he also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord preserves all who love him;
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

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Christ our God, You are the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. You have fulfilled all the dispensation of the Father. Fill our hearts with joy and gladness always, now and forever… For every good and perfect gift is from above, coming from You, the Father of lights. To You we give glory, thanksgiving, and worship, to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

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Steadfast Love of God

The fall harvest is upon us. The grapes are being harvested in the vineyards of Northern California. The feast of Sukkot will commence at the end of this month. All of this reminds me of the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. The God of growth the God of fruitfulness.

The steadfast love of God is the beginning of all life. He is life-creating. He holds all things in being. The steadfast love of God bears the fruit of life abundant in the life of His faithful who trust in Him. We give thanks to Him for He is the provider and provision.

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Psalm 52.8-9
I am like a green olive tree
in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

—————

It is the presence of God that, without cessation, draws the whole creation from the abyss of its own nothingness above which his omnipotence holds it suspended, lest of its own weight it should fall back therein; and serves as the mortar and bond of connection which holds it together in order that all that it has of its creator should not waste and flow away like water that is not kept in its channel.

God in the heavens is more my heaven than the heavens themselves; in the sun he is more my light than the sun; in the air he is more my air than the air that I breathe sensibly. He works in me all that I am, all that I see, all that I do or can do, as most intimate, most present, and most immanent in me.
Louis Chardon (1595-1651 French Dominican mystic and theologian), taken from The Time of the Spirit: Readings Through the Christian Year

We Understand/See/Know in the Context of Being Understood/Seen/Known

All is gift.

The moment of relational understanding, seeing, and knowing is not the result of a talent we acquire. It is a gift we are given. What is more, this gift is giving in the context of all of these being true regarding us. It is because we are understood that we can receive understanding. It is because we are seen that we can see, it is because we are known that we can know.

This is the one of the root lessons of the story of the encounter between Nathaniel and Jesus.

All is gift. All is to be received with gladness and gratitude — eucharisto.

Pope Benedict XVI articulated this mystery beautifully:

“…the Evangelist tells us that when Jesus sees Nathanael approaching, he exclaims: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile!” (Jn 1: 47). This is praise reminiscent of the text of a Psalm: “Blessed is the man… in whose spirit there is no deceit” (32[31]: 2), but provokes the curiosity of Nathanael who answers in amazement:  “How do you know me?” (Jn 1: 48).

Jesus’ reply cannot immediately be understood. He says: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (Jn 1: 48).  We do not know what had happened under this fig tree. It is obvious that it had to do with a decisive moment in Nathanael’s life.

His heart is moved by Jesus’ words, he feels understood and he understands: “This man knows everything about me, he knows and is familiar with the road of life; I can truly trust this man”. And so he answers with a clear and beautiful confession of faith: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1: 49). In this confession is conveyed a first important step in the journey of attachment to Jesus.

Nathanael’s words shed light on a twofold, complementary aspect of Jesus’ identity: he is recognized both in his special relationship with God the Father, of whom he is the Only-begotten Son, and in his relationship with the People of Israel, of whom he is the declared King, precisely the description of the awaited Messiah. We must never lose sight of either of these two elements because if we only proclaim Jesus’ heavenly dimension, we risk making him an ethereal and evanescent being; and if, on the contrary, we recognize only his concrete place in history, we end by neglecting the divine dimension that properly qualifies him. Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, October 4, 2006

A Prayer After Receiving Communion

I thank Thee, O Lord my God, for Thou hast not rejected me, a sinner, but hast made me worthy to be a partaker of Thy Holy Things. I thank Thee, for Thou hast permitted me, the unworthy, to commune of Thy most pure and Heavenly, Gifts. But, O Master Who lovest mankind, Who for our sakes didst die and rise again, and gavest us these awesome and life-creating Mysteries for the good and sanctification of our souls and bodies; let them be for the healing of our soul and body, the repelling of every adversary, the illumining of the eyes of my heart, the peace of my spiritual power, a faith unashamed, a love unfeigned, the fulfilling of wisdom, the observing of Thy commandments, the receiving of Thy divine grace, and the attaining of Thy Kingdom. Preserved by them in Thy holiness, may I always remember Thy grace and live not for myself alone, but for Thee, our Master and Benefactor. May I pass from this life in the hope of eternal life, and so attain to the everlasting rest, where the voice of those who feast is unceasing, and the gladness of those who behold the goodness of Thy countenance is unending. For Thou art the true desire and the ineffable joy of those who love Thee, O Christ our God, and all creation sings Thy praise forever. Amen.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.

“All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord;monk and cats
praise and exalt him above all forever.
All you mortals, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all forever.” (from Daniel 3.57-88)

Abba Moses replied: ‘…In another way, however, it is possible to look upon God, for the manner of contemplating God may be conceived  and understood in many ways. God is not only to be known in His blessed and incomprehensible being, for this is something which is reserved for His saints in the age to come. He is also to be known from the grandeur and beauty of His creatures, from His providence which governs the world day by day, from His righteousness and from the wonders which He shows to His saints in each generation. When we reflect on the measurelessness of His power and His unsleeping eye which looks upon the hidden things of the heart and which nothing can escape, we are filled with the deepest awe, marveling at Him and adoring Him. When we consider that He numbers the raindrops, the sand of the sea and the stars of heaven, we are amazed at the grandeur of His nature and His wisdom.’ Source

And Mary said: ‘My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.'”

Let us join in chorus with the Theotokos… (I wonder if she had a cat?! I mean after all is the Magnificat!)

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us join ALL the rest of creation and rejoice and be glad in it.”

Gratitude

“Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks…” (Luke 11.15-16)

Thank you, O God, for all the graces
Which unceasingly you lavish upon me,
Graces which enlighten me with the brilliance of the sun,
For by them you show me the sure way.

Thank you, O Lord, for creating me,
For calling me into being from nothingness,
For imprinting your divinity on my soul,
The work of sheer merciful love.

Thank you, O God, for Holy Baptism
Which engrafted me into your family,
A gift great beyond all thought or expression
Which transforms my soul.

Thank you, O Lord, for Holy Confession,
For that inexhaustible spring of great mercy,
For that inconceivable fountain of graces
In which sin-tainted souls become purified.

Thank you, O Jesus, for Holy Communion
In which you give us yourself.
I feel your Heart beating within my breast
As you cause your divine life to unfold within me.

Thank you, O Holy Spirit, for the Sacrament of Confirmation,
Which dubs me your knight
And gives strength to my soul at each moment,
Protecting me from evil…

Thank You, O Lord, for the Sacrament of Anointing
Which, in my final moments, will give me strength;
My help in battle, my guide to salvation,
Fortifying my soul till we rejoice forever.

Thank you, O God, for all the inspirations
That your goodness lavishes upon me,
For the interior lights given my soul,
Which the heart sense but words cannot express.

Thank you, O Holy Trinity, for the vastness of the graces
Which you have lavished on me unceasingly through life.
My gratitude will intensify as the eternal dawn rises,
When, for the first time, I sing to your glory.
–Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938)

It is gratitude that prompts us to exchange our production paradigm for a growth paradigm as regards Christian discipleship. All things are seen to “hold together” and be essentially one without the loss of uniqueness (rather the gain of true self — personhood) as a result of gratitude.

Thanksgiving – Eucharisteo

There are tons of wonderful websites that offer deeply inspirational reflections on “thanksgiving” (eucharisteo) in the life of the Christian. I commend them to you. Here is my meager offering:

Thanksgiving is life-giving and expansive in nature. (Eucharisteo)

The essential characteristic of life that makes life fruit-bearing (life-giving) is love. Love is expansive and transformative, saving all it touches by embracing it with love. Nothing can stand in the way of its progress. Even the gates of hell shall not prevail against its all encompassing progress. It is the saving enlargement of the heart of the faithful who embody and proclaim this message of Life and bring within their heart — the environment of salvation (God Himself by grace) all whom God loves.

Thanksgiving is joyful in nature. (Eucharisteo)

It is not dependent on happiness or sorrow. It fills and expresses itself through them both.

It is natural, a spontaneous and unending upwelling and outpouring toward not only the beloved but all that is beloved to the beloved.

Thanksgiving is sacrificial in nature. (Eucharisteo)

It does not count life something to be protected in order to be lived rightly, but rather to be offered in order to be lived rightly.

Thanksgiving as a sacrifice is costly. Cost is not counted using the criteria of this world but of the Kingdom. According to its measurement, the cost is no cost at all. It is all profit. It is all benefit. It expresses itself through forms of paradox. In fasting and feasting the faithful are always well nourished by it. In the multifaceted prayer life of the faithful they enjoy perfect communion with the Lord. In giving and receiving the faithful are rich beyond measure. In tears and laughter the faithful celebrate unceasingly. The faithful and the creation lack nothing.

Thanksgiving is beautiful in nature. (Eucharisteo)

Thanksgiving is the outpouring of the very heart of God — His inner life of thankful tri-unity. How beautiful, therefore, is the Lord and all the Lord has made. Worthy of our thanksgiving, expressed in all the various forms recounted in Scripture, is the One Lord our God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

At All Times and In All Places … Let Us Be Grateful

Celebrant    Let us stand well. Let us stand in awe. Let us be attentive, that we may present the holy offering in peace.
People          A mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise.
Celebrant    The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
People          And with your spirit.
Celebrant    Let us lift up our hearts.
People          We lift them up to the Lord.
Celebrant    Let us give thanks to the Lord.
People          It is proper and right to worship the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.

Celebrant   It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come. For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us… (The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom)

From “The Homilies on Matthew,” by St. John Chrysostom
Let us give thanks to God throughout our lives. For how wrong it would be, if every day we enjoyed his blessings in deed, and yet in word gave him no return, and that too when an offering of gratitude would but increase our advantage. For God needs noth­ing from us, but we need everything from him. So our thanks are of no profit to him, but they make us more worthy of him. For if the memory of their kindness towards us deepens our love for our fellow men, how much more will the perpetual memory of the Lord’s goodness to us make us more eager to keep his commands.

For the best safeguard of a kindness is to remember it with everlasting gratitude. That is why that awe-inspiring and life-giv­ing sacrament which we celebrate at every gathering is called the Eucharist. It is the commemoration of many blessings and the culmination of divine providence, and teaches us to give thanks always.

For if to be born of a Virgin was a great miracle, and the amazed evangelist wrote of it: All this happened, what can we say of the Lord’s sacrifice? For if the Lord’s birth was called all this, what should we call his crucifixion, the shedding of his blood, and his giving himself to us as a spiritual feast? Therefore we must give thanks to him continuously, and let thanksgiving be the motive of all we do and say. And let us give thanks not only for our own blessings, but for those of our neighbours too. Thus we shall be able to rid ourselves of envy, and increase our love and make it more sincere. For to continue to envy those on whose behalf we give thanks to the Lord will be impossible.

Therefore the priest too, when that sacrifice is set before him, bids us give thanks for the whole world, for the old dispensation and the new, for all that was done for us before and all that awaits us hereafter. For this sets us free from earth and turns us towards heaven, and makes angels out of men. Even the very angels, in heavenly choirs, give thanks to God for his goodness to us, as they sing: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men in whom he is well pleased.

But what is this to us who are not on earth and are not men? It means a great deal, for it teaches us so to love our fellow-servants that we rejoice in their good fortune as if it were our own. It is for that reason that St Paul in all his letters gives thanks for the blessings of the whole world. So let us too give everlasting thanks for all the gifts, large or small, that are given both to ourselves and to others.

 

Thanksgiving

As I enter into the celebration of another Thanksgiving, I have been led to ask this question: “To what degree do I live out of a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude?”

Let me explore the challenge contained in this question. I am grateful/thankful for a number of things. The list is huge. I don’t think the challenge is to be thankful. Rather, I believe the challenge is whether or not, on a practical basis, that gratitude is the soil that creates, nourishes and strengthens my thought life and actions.

There is a difference between “knowing” something in my head (and I mean even really being convinced) and having what I “know” be the real genesis of my thoughts and actions. What I may end up doing is allowing gratitude to have a voice or inform me in some relatively peripheral way, but not really be the basis of my life.

St. Paul puts it this way:

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.” (Romans 5.3-5)

“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5.16-18)

The saint is not advising me to allow thanksgiving to have somewhat of a voice or some input, but to be the very environment and raw material, when properly received and integrated, that generates and shapes my patterns of thought and thus all my actions.

As all of you know, I am certain, the Greek word for thanksgiving is εὐχάριστος “eucharistos.” The ramifications are obvious. The Lord desires for me to live a “Eucharistic life.” I am supposed to be continually abiding in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus (the fertile soil), which is not only the very environment that sustains my life, but becomes my very food and drink. As I digest Him spiritually He infuses every fiber of my inner life – my thoughts, emotions, will, desires, and consciousness with His life. Actions that witness to the Lord Jesus not just as Savior but reigning Lord are the fruit of this nourishment. It is no longer I who live but the Great Thanksgiver – Christ Jesus – who lives in and through me.

Eucharist – thanksgiving – is a celebration of the essential and dynamic operation of prayer. Abbot Meletios Webber of the Monastery of St. John says that three phrases “are indispensible and all-encompassing”:

  • Thank you.
  • Lord, have mercy.
  • Thy will be done.

By receiving and offering thanks in an appropriately repentant and surrendered way, I live and grow. I flourish.

Fr. Thomas

The Atheist Version of Thanksgiving and Events Similar To It

Here is a response from an atheist to a post that Darrell Lackey wrote on the subject of atheism and thankfulness. His blog, “Byzantine Dream,” can be accessed on my blogroll. I HIGHLY recommend reading his wonderful posts.

Anyway, the atheist said in response to Darrell:

“…the atheist is very generally thankful to be experiencing existence, rather than non-existence. Not that non-existence would be (will be; was) painful or unpleasant, but that existence has a special, powerful flavor and joy to it that, if one can savor it, one can also be thankful for.

Not thankful to anyone or to anything, but just existentially thankful for being. Simple as that. I realize that, since this natural impulse is naturally susceptible to objectification, even idolotry, people typically conjure up deities, beings, statues, etc. to be thankful to, but that is really unnecessary. I mean, when you say thank you, does anyone reply with ‘you’re welcome?’”

Darrell responded:

One can see it now. The family is gathered around the table. Candles are lit as a fire burns in the fire place. Moon light reflects off the windowpane as a light snow begins to fall. The table is steaming with roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and hot rolls. There is also salad, small bowls of cranberry, pickles, olives, and butter. The kitchen counter is full of pumpkin, apple, and cherry pies along with apricot and peach cobblers. Along with the champagne, wine, and fruit juices being served, one can smell coffee brewing and the tea kettle is hot.

The father, looking around at his healthy children and beautiful wife, raises his glass to make a Thanksgiving toast. His family and friends raise their glasses in expectation, looking his way, as they take in the moment. The father clears his throat, and states: “Let us be thankful we exist.” There is an awkward pause. Finally the youngest child asks, “Dad, you mean let’s be glad we’re not dead?” “Well,” the father replies but, before he can answer, the oldest daughter states: “But Dad, worms and maggots exist too, are they thankful?” “What I meant,” the Dad now stammered, “was, oh never mind, let’s just eat.”

I bring, the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann to this interchange. In his wonderful book, Celebration of the Faith, Vol. 3, he hits the nail on the head regarding gratitude. He links feasting with being authentically human. He says,

 It seems thousands of years removed from us, but it was not so very long ago that life was marked out by religious feasts. Although everyone went to church, not everyone, of course, knew the exact contents of each celebration. For many, perhaps even the majority, the feast was above all an opportunity to get a good sleep, eat well, drink and relax. And nevertheless, I think that each person felt, if not fully consciously, that something transcendent and radiant broke into life with each feast, bringing an encounter with a world of different realities, a reminder of something forgotten, of something drowned out by the routine, emptiness and weariness of daily life.

Consider the very names of the feasts: Entrance into the Temple, Nativity, Epiphany, Presentation, Transfiguration. These words alone, in their solemnity, their unrelatedness to daily life and their mysterious beauty awakened some forgotten memory, invited, pointed to something. The feast was a kind of longing sigh for a lost but beckoning beauty, a sigh for some other way of living.

Our modern world, however, has become monotonous and feastless. Even our secular holidays are unable to hide this settling ash of sadness and hopelessness, for the essence of celebration is this breaking in, this experience of being caught up into a different reality, into a world of spiritual beauty and light. If, however, this reality does not exist, if fundamentally there is nothing to celebrate, then no manner of artificial uplift will be capable of creating a feast.

[Feasts] …celebrate man’s divine meaning and the brightness of his high calling. These cannot be washed away or uprooted from human memory.

The sad, and yet grimly accurate picture of Thanksgiving has a glimmer of hope. The dad cannot just sit there. Even though he cannot articulate it, he KNOWS he must rise and say SOMETHING, however meager…

At least the atheist is willing to admit something of what I believe is really deep within his heart “thankful for being,” although that has a sad “thinness” about it. We all play “hide and seek” with God. Perhaps some are able to “shore up the make believe world” of atheism longer than others. Somehow, I think it takes more “magical thinking” to believe that God doesn’t exist and there is nothing to be thankful for or give one’s life for, than to just admit and celebrate, along with Gerard Manley Hopkins that:

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Fr. Thomas