I remember when I was a kid, it was common to go round the table at holidays or family meals and name one thing you were thankful for — especially at Thanksgiving, of course. I recall our family tried to do that a few times but it never became a regular ritual for us like it was for other families. I found myself wondering why, as it’s rather a nice practice. I think it’s because we were disciplined to say “thank you” regularly — to people, and to God in our prayers (even if it came with a parental nudge and subsequent childish eye-roll). Both are rituals, and can sometimes feel forced, but both help to build a posture of gratitude. Either way you approach it, the practice of intentional thankfulness is an important one to cultivate in our lives.
Thankfulness as a posture — whether an occasional ritual or a daily practice — changes our perspective. It helps us to see things differently. The ritual of thankfulness can indeed be helpful when thankfulness doesn’t come easily: for example, when one is going through a painful or challenging time. It may not negate the suffering but it can move the suffering away from the centre of our universe just enough to remind us that the centre is God’s rightful place, and to glimpse God’s presence in the midst of whatever we are going through.
The ritual of a Thanksgiving holiday, therefore — however you mark it in your own lives — can be an opportunity to wonder what has eclipsed God at the centre of our universe. In our busy lives it could be just about anything: money, work, family, study, hobbies . . . none of these things are bad, of course, but they do not belong at the centre. God does.
Becoming thankful reminds us there are so many things out of our control; it can be humbling in the best possible way, and frees us to remember we are not responsible for ordering the universe . . . just our posture towards it.
Download service booklet here: Liturgy at Home Harvest Thanksgiving October 10 2021