One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

November 27, 2008

For Thanksgiving Day

Luke 1:39-55

The Puritans who had come here on the Mayflower in the year of our Lord 1620 celebrated their first harvest with a meal in the following year.
However, in the years that followed, they themselves did not keep any annual commemoration of that first grateful harvest festival.
Why not?
The Puritans rejected the notion of annual festivals because annual festivals were a CATHOLIC custom.
In the United States of America, our fixed annual day of national Thanksgiving to God did not begin until President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation of it on the third of October in the Year of Our Lord 1863, that is, two hundred and forty-two years after the first Puritan harvest in North America.
The Puritans were not even the first Christian colonists in what is now the U.S.A.
Fifty-five years before the Puritans landed here in Massachusetts, a fleet of ships carrying more than a thousand Catholic colonists landed here in Florida, on the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the eighth day of September in the Year of Our Lord 1565.
Symbolically, they let a priest carrying a cross be the first one to set foot on dry land: Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales.
The fleet’s captain general, Pedro Menéndez de Aviles, then stepped ashore to kiss the cross in the hands of the priest.
The rest of the colonists did the same.
They sang the ancient Latin hymn Te Deum.
That hymn is known in a German version as Grosser Gott, and, from the German has been translated into English as “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”— the hymn we shall use today at the end of Mass.
After the Florida colonists venerated the cross, they celebrated the Mass.
The Mass, the Celebration of the Eucharist— Eucharist being a word from the Greek, and meaning “thanksgiving”!
The Florida Catholic colonists offered Thanksgiving to God at Mass before they did anything else, and then they celebrated with a meal.
Then followed daily Thanksgiving to God at Mass by Catholics for fifty-five years before the Puritans landed here.
Furthermore, after the arrival of the Puritans, who rejected the notion of annual feasts, the Catholic colonists continued daily Thanksgiving to God at Mass for the next two hundred and forty-two years until President Lincoln created our yearly national day of Thanksgiving to God.
For the one hundred and forty-five years since 1863, our nation has kept one day a year for national Thanksgiving to God.
However, for just over three times as long, that is, for the four hundred and forty-three years since Catholics colonized in Florida, we have offered not once-annually but DAILY Thanksgiving to God at Mass.
That is what we are doing at this very hour and in this very place.
When we sing the Gloria at Mass, as we did in Latin today, we say to God, GRATIAS agimus tibi, “We give you THANKS.”
Then when the reader has finished voicing “The Word of the Lord,” we all say, “THANKS be to the God.”
In a few moments, the priest here will tell us to “Lift up your hearts” and “Let us give THANKS to the Lord our God.”
Then he will continue the lengthy Thanksgiving prayer that makes known and present the Eucharist, the Thankful Body and Blood of Christ.
Later, as the Mass is to come to a close, the priest will bless us, dismiss us, and then, as the People of God, the Church, we will have the last word, “Thanks be to God,” Deo GRATIAS— “THANKS.”
Four hundred and forty-three years of Catholic daily Eucharistic THANKSGIVING in this nation!
At the heart of this mystery is the Thankful-Eucharistic Flesh and Blood of Christ through whom all things were made.
God the Son received his own self from God the Father in the oneness of God the Spirit.
The everlasting answer of the Son to his Father is “Yes, Father” and “Thank-You, Father.”
It is by the “Yes” and “Thanks” of Jesus that we are saved— the “Yes” and “Thanks” that we take into ourselves in the Body and Blood of Christ.
We must take it in, but we must even more give it back by thought word and deed— choosing to live out both “Yes” and “Thanks”— as Jesus has told us: “Do this in memory of me.”
Only so will we rise from the dead into the everlasting joy of Thanksgiving in God’s renewal of heaven and earth for us.

That God Be Glorified in All