Has our heritage of the great feast day, the sacramental meal, gone stale?
Thanksgiving Day is our biblical holy day as a nation, set aside in memory of our founding as a chosen people, but its meaning is under strange and strong attack. On the one hand, the forces of secularism exemplified in the three-day weekend keep trying to turn it into the sorry situation of Independence Day, where even parades and fireworks with a quick community prayer are losing out to sleeping in or backpacking through “God’s” wilderness. Showing witness to the God “through whose mighty power our fathers won their liberties of old” is about “out.” A sign of these times may be found in the Episcopal Proposed Book of Common Prayer, which subtly changes that old collect by saying instead, “Lord God almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves.…” We are surely more than conquerors in his name, but did we establish the country or did he?
This is similar to the change of pace that has crept into our observance of Thanksgiving. In my university, urban community, at Thanksgiving there is an interfaith service with the combined choirs of all the churches and synagogues that carries with it a once-a-year togetherness that is beautiful to behold. But at the same time there is this stark tendency to depreciate the very cause of our being assembled under one temple roof. One of the best expressions of this tinkering with intention is again found in my own denomination’s Proposed Prayer Book.
Our old Thanksgiving collect echoes its biblical origins by saying simply: “O merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; we give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; ...1
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