A family is pictured praying around the dinner table. In his column, Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier writes that the Eucharist holds a profound significance that can be linked to the essence of the Thanksgiving holiday. OSV PHOTO/COURTESY ARCHDIOCESE OF DETROIT
Thanksgiving and the Eucharist
BY DCN. JAY W. VANHOOSIER, OFFICE OF FAITH FORMATION
The holiday of Thanksgiving holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans. It is a time when families and friends gather together to express gratitude for the blessings they have received throughout the year. However, the connection between Thanksgiving and the Eucharist, which literally means thanksgiving, goes beyond the surface level of expressing gratitude. The Eucharist, as a central sacrament in the Catholic faith, holds a profound significance that can be linked to the essence of Thanksgiving.
At the heart of Thanksgiving lies the act of giving thanks. It is a time when we pause to reflect on the abundance of blessings in our lives and express gratitude to God for His providence. Similarly, the Eucharist is a sacrament of thanksgiving, where Catholics gather to remember and give thanks for the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ. In the Eucharistic celebration, we are invited to participate in the sacrificial offering of Christ’s body and blood, which was given for the salvation of humanity. This act of thanksgiving is not merely a symbolic gesture but a profound encounter with the divine.
Just as Thanksgiving is a time of gathering and sharing a meal, the Eucharist is a communal celebration where the faithful come together to partake in the body and blood of Christ. In the Eucharistic meal, we are nourished and united as one body, the Church. This unity mirrors the spirit of Thanksgiving, where families and friends come together to share a meal and strengthen their bonds of love and gratitude. The Eucharist reminds us that we are not alone in our journey of faith but are part of a larger community, bound together by our shared thanksgiving.
Furthermore, Thanksgiving and the Eucharist both invite us to cultivate a spirit of gratitude in our daily lives. The act of giving thanks on Thanksgiving is not meant to be a one-time event but a reminder to live with a grateful heart throughout the year. Similarly, the Eucharist calls us to live lives of gratitude, recognizing the countless blessings we receive from God each day. It challenges us to be mindful of the presence of Christ in our lives and to respond with gratitude and love.
Moreover, both Thanksgiving and the Eucharist invite us to move beyond a self-centered mindset and to embrace a spirit of selflessness. On Thanksgiving, we often extend our gratitude by reaching out to those in need, sharing our blessings with others. Likewise, the Eucharist calls us to imitate Christ’s self-giving love by serving others and being attentive to their needs. It reminds us that true thanksgiving is not just about receiving but also about giving, as we are called to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world.
The holiday of Thanksgiving and the Eucharist share a deep connection rooted in the act of thanksgiving. Both invite us to pause, reflect, and express gratitude for the blessings we have received. They remind us of the importance of community, selflessness, and living lives of gratitude. As Catholics, we can find inspiration in the spirit of Thanksgiving and allow it to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist. May we always approach the Eucharist with hearts full of thanksgiving, recognizing the immense gift of Christ’s presence in our lives.
Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit owensborodiocese.org/faith-formation, email [email protected] or call (270) 852-8324.
Originally printed in the November 2023 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.