CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
I went home for Thanksgiving this break, the first time I went home this semester. It was so good to be with my family! On Thanksgiving morning, we all got up, rolled out of bed and went to eat the most important Thanksgiving meal of the day.
I’m not very subtle, so I’m assuming by now that you know I am referring to the Eucharist.
Growing up in public education, some very simple Catholic knowledge went clear over my head. It was not until a confirmation class in high school that I first heard what the word Eucharist meant: thanksgiving. Silly as it sounds, this blew my mind.
Eucharist means Thanksgiving! When God comes into us, we are giving thanks to him. It is he who gives his whole self to us, to enter into the most intimate union: to bring His body, blood, soul and divinity into our body, blood, soul and humanity and to strengthen us transubstantially. And yet, somehow, in that great gift from God, we still have a part. Just in saying that “Amen” and opening our mouths, we are giving thanks.
That “giving” is an active word, not passive. So somehow, in this great mystery, God is bestowing his all, and yet our little action of acceptance translates into something unimaginably essential. I personally am in awe of this mystery, and even though I cannot wrap my mind around it, my heart yearns for the moment when Christ, humbly present in the Eucharist, enters under the roof of my mouth. And my soul is healed with each visit.
Advent has just begun, and in the eager anticipation for Christmas, I keep hearing debates over when Christmas music should begin – such a Franny dilemma. One friend said that Thanksgiving is the gateway into Christmas. I agree with that, though through a different understanding.
Thanksgiving is the gateway into Christmas; the Thanksgiving of our hearts in the mystery of the Eucharist. Christmas is the celebration of the Christ entering the world to be with his creation. He came to bring us – the cosmic us, all people – back to his Father. Every interaction with Him strengthened the soul of those He would meet. Why, even the seam of his garment had power through him!
The Eucharist is also about Christ entering the world. But more than that, he enters our bodies to bring us back to his Father. Every time we receive the Eucharist, our soul is strengthened. It has miraculous power.
Christ came into the world on Christmas, but that is not the only time he came. He came multiple times today, he came yesterday and will come tomorrow. He came on Thanksgiving this year and every year, and he comes every day, from the rising of the Sun to its setting, in the pure Sacrifice of the Mass. The blessing God gave us on Christmas was not a one-time gift. It is a gift that we may receive every day of our lives, if only we so choose.
So yes, Thanksgiving is the key to Christmas. I love the hubbub and excitement at Christmas time, and I love being with family, but really, we should have this joy year round. Jesus comes into the world daily. Every day we have the opportunity to celebrate Christ’s entrance into this world, and even better, this miracle is current. We do not need a telescope to the past to experience it.
And perhaps that has to do with why our “Amen” and reception of the Eucharist is an act of thanksgiving. If we are truly aware of Christ’s intimacy in the present moment when he is laid onto the throne of our hands or tongue, we would be absurd to not be overflowing with gratitude.
Lord, I am so thankful that you have allowed me to meet you, daily if I choose. You have blessed me by giving me my Catholic faith from the cradle, so I have been allowed to receive you from a young age, even though I do not always give you the appreciation you deserve. In fact, I am sure I have never given you anything you deserve, because you deserve more than I am. You love me with your whole heart, even though my heart gives out barely a drop of your love. You have brought me to a place where I can grow in your love, and grow with other amazing, broken people who are also aiming to love you. Thank you. Thank you for coming and giving me life, over and over again.