This month we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. Eucharist means “thanksgiving,” and in the liturgy, we as a community express thanks at many levels. For example, in the Gloria we offer a song of praise that not only thanks God for taking away sin, but also adores God’s own being.
An especially striking aspect of thanksgiving at the Mass is the constant, generous, mutual exchange between God and us during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. That generosity’s first movement begins with God. We thank God for the gifts that we are able to offer to be consecrated. Without God’s first having given us “the fruit of the earth,” we could not offer back to God “the work of human hands,” the elements of bread and wine.
When the celebrant lifts up the gifts, we lift up our hearts as gifts to God, too. We remember that to give thanks is both “right and just.” After the consecration, we are thankful for the presence of Christ in the consecrated host—Christ who is gift. But that gift of the Body and Blood of Christ also makes us increasingly a gift to God, as what is consumed transforms us, and we become more and more Christ’s body.
This back-and-forth exchange of gift from God to God, and back again, characterizes ordinary life as well. Everything that we have is a gift, whether material goods like fresh air, clean water, and healthy food; the gifts of family and friends; or natural talents that we might possess. We are asked to offer these gifts to God, wholly and without reserve, as in the Suscipe: “Take, Lord, and receive.” When we make the offer of all that we have and are to God, we find that we are never left empty for long. Rather, God always makes a generous return, even offering the presence of God’s self to us—sometimes in place of the other, more limited goods that we thought we desired but that do not truly satisfy.
Why is God so generous? In the eyes of God, we are cherished children. God desires to transform us, too, so that we who are already gifts to God can increasingly become people who are gift for one another.
We can give thanks for God’s many gifts to us and make a full return of them to God, knowing that God’s generosity and cherishing of us never end.
Image by John Donaghy under Creative Commons license.
Thank you for this beautiful explanation of thanksgiving in the Mass. I will be sharing this at RCIA this evening as we have been spending time exploring the meaning of the Mass with our inquirers the past couple of weeks. What marvellous timing!
You are welcome. I hope that the RCIA group finds it helpful.