Thursday, November 25, 2010

The General Thanksgiving

The Book of Common Prayer is never simply a guide to the details of worship. It always points to the wholeness of the Christian life, the restored and integrated vision with which the Christian looks at the world and sees the Kingdom of God very near: indeed, here in our very midst, though disguised and often ignored.

In some ways each feast in the liturgical year is really only a heightening of what is always present in the Eucharist whenever it is celebrated. This is particularly true of Thanksgiving Day, where the Greek word for Thanksgiving is “Eucharist.”

If each Eucharist is a time for thanksgiving—not only for specific gifts, but for the whole gift of life, creation, being made in the Image of God—whenever it is offered by God’s people, then each day has a clear Eucharistic “basis.” For, each day of our life as disciples of the Lord Christ is either a day preparing for the celebration of the Eucharist, or a day of thankfulness for having shared in it—a thankfulness to be lived out in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

This, in turn, means that our daily prayers always have something of the Eucharist implicit within them. Yes, our daily prayers, whether offered in community or individually, always must be “Eucharistic." They are part of the whole offering of prayer made by the Church throughout the world and through all ages, and are a grateful response to the gift of the Holy Spirit who calls forth prayer in us.

And so the Prayer Book gives us many ways to live this Eucharistic vision out. Perhaps one of the most concrete and helpful is the General Thanksgiving, which comes at the end of daily Morning and Evening prayer. This prayer stands as a joyful reminder that we are a people of gratitude: initially for being created and sustained by God, and then for the particular blessings we have received each day. But the prayer continues on, with deeper thanksgiving for the restoration of our being in Jesus Christ. In him we are given the ability to know God directly and intimately. It is this relationship that brings forth in us the state of consciousness of God, of the world, of our neighbor—that recollected state of being—which marks a truly Eucharistic way of life. Only Christians who enter into this deep sharing in Christ can take up their cross and follow their Savior through life’s journey.

Each Thanksgiving Day points to the Eucharist; each Eucharist points to fullness of life available in Christ to those who turn to him; each day for the Christian is a renewal in the Eucharistic vision of life, and each prayer is soaked in the power of that vision.

The General Thanksgiving

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving‑kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life [especially, ____________];
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you
in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages.  Amen.

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