Boy, oh boy, we are starting some of the busiest days of our year–at least for many of us. Whether due to work parties, family gatherings, or the preparation for those events, our calendars are often bursting at the margins! As many of us prepare our homes for the celebration of Thanksgiving, I’d like to take this time to note the comparison between the celebration of the Mass and a Thanksgiving meal. The similarities point out that our worship is founded in principles that flow from our natural, God-given instincts and things that aren’t foreign to us as humans. Here are the components of Mass and a meal offered in the order of occurrence:
- At Mass, a priest/deacon wears special vestments, and (hopefully) we wear something nicer than our everyday clothing. We might do the same at Thanksgiving by wearing something a bit nicer to show that the day is special.
- At Mass, we start with the Gathering Prayers, including the Entrance, Greeting, Penitential Act, Glory to God, and the Collect. At Thanksgiving, we gather together, greeting one another and offering opening words of happiness or sorrow about the things that have happened since we were together last. We may even make amends with someone or praise God and thank Him for the gift of this time together.
- At Mass, in the Liturgy of the Word, we listen to the readings from our Church family and hear about our past, especially the life of Jesus. We also pray for our own concerns and those of our community. At Thanksgiving, we visit and share stories of deceased family members or other past events. We’ll often pray a special prayer, giving God thanks for things we are grateful for or including our families’ concerns.
- As we begin the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass, bread, wine, and other items are brought forward to prepare the altar. Special linens are used on the altar and to wipe the special vessels. At a Thanksgiving meal, we often prepare to set the table by using a special tablecloth and napkins. Then, we’ll set the table, using our best dishes.
- At Mass, the Liturgy of the Eucharist continues with the prayers of Consecration, including the Holy, Holy, and others. At Thanksgiving, we say “Grace” or another meal prayer.
- At Mass, the Communion Rite follows. That’s where we say the Lord’s Prayer, give the Sign of Peace, and more. That process of wishing peace to those around us, right after asking God to forgive our trespasses, as we forgive the trespasses of others, serves as a commitment of unity with God and others. Receiving Communion/Eucharist, however, is the most important part! It is when we are in deeper “communion” with each other. At Thanksgiving, the meal is often center stage in our celebrations. Just ask the cook! It is when we are gathered even closer than before, with our minds fixed on what we will receive. (Hopefully, that’s where our mind is with the Eucharist, too!)
- Finally, at Mass, the Concluding Rites include optional announcements, a blessing, and a dismissal. This sending forth out into the community to share the Good News is our commission for the week. At Thanksgiving, we might end our gathering by sharing information about our next gathering or any little reminders. Then we’ll send our guests on their way.
As you can see, there are many parallels between the Mass and a special meal, especially Thanksgiving. Now, I know some families do things a little differently, but I’m sure that my example still stands. One last note is that the word “Eucharist” is a Greek word meaning “Thanksgiving!” How perfect is that? Have a blessed holiday.