Go to Mass on Thanksgiving! There is no more fitting action in America on Thanksgiving Day than to do so. Think about the following: The word Eucharist actually means “thanksgiving”. How perfect is that? At the Last Supper, Our Lord gave thanks to the Father in instituting the Eucharist! The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Eucharist is “…an action of thanksgiving to God.” Above all other instances, when we go to Mass we unite ourselves to Christ Jesus and give the Lord thanks for creating us, for dying for us on the Cross and rising in order to restore to us the gift of eternal life. And in Holy Communion, we receive that same Lord Jesus Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist, which again, is thanksgiving! Many Catholic Churches have a Thanksgiving morning Mass. I consider it one of the most emotionally moving experiences of the whole year.
Then consider this fact about history, often times inexplicably left out of the school textbooks. The first American Thanksgiving was actually not a Puritan event celebrated in Massachusetts (by the way, even the famous Squanto the Indian was a Catholic convert, enslaved by the English and subsequently saved by Spanish Franciscans), but was actually celebrated many years earlier in Florida, by means of a very ceremonious Catholic Mass in 1589 at St. Augustine. At that sacred moment in history, Spanish Settlers came together with Native Americans and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated in gratitude to God. (For more information on this, see Taylor Marshall’s excellent blog article, 6 Interesting Catholic Thanksgiving Facts You Need To Know.)
So in light of this, it seems even more fitting that we commemorate Thanksgiving by attending Mass which commemorates and makes really and truly present the once-for-all Paschal Mystery of our Savior. The Thanksgiving event in Massachusetts was momentous and important, a wonderful occasion of thanking our God for his many gifts and blessings, but it was not the first, nor the greatest. Nothing compares to the Mass. Remember, the sacraments, including the Eucharist are not simply an event of the past, they are the means that our Lord, even bodily, remains with us at all times, including today and until his final coming in Glory at the end of Time. Christ is really made present to us, we really touch him as did his disciples, for in every age of the world God made man, the Word made flesh stretches forth his arms to embrace each of us, and most intimately so, in the Holy Eucharist. The Past reaches forth and touches us body, mind, and soul. And we plunge forth into the infinite ocean of God’s loving Mercy, into the 2000 year old depths of the Church. There we find the same loving God that was always there for us, and that is here for us today, tomorrow and for the rest of forever. Thus, can we say that the most profound and grand Thanksgiving meal of all is found at your local Catholic Church.
I must mention that our family has a new tradition of always brining our turkeys in a salt water bath the night before it is cooked. It increases the juiciness of the turkey. And now we have found an improvement on our already young tradition, to this brine we now add orange peels and orange juice along with a few other ingredients per a wonderful American cooking magazine. In light of the fact that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in Florida, the land of great citrus fruit, including oranges, our citrus brined turkey seems a bit of a harmonization of the Massachusetts and Florida Thanksgivings and a fitting tribute to that wonderful event of September 8th, 1565 when the Catholic Mass poured forth graces upon this One Nation, under God. And for the record, I love cooking my fresh cranberry sauce with orange juice and mandarin oranges, too.
We all have so much to be thankful for! A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, with love,