In late November, we will feel the festivities of American Thanksgiving: the TV will bring us images of floats and football, being enjoyed over turkey, after long treks back home. And, with a kind of content curiosity, we will look on as these elaborate foreign rites are performed. After all, our own version of the holiday, which we will obverse this month, lacks a similarly central place in the Canadian national psyche, making it little more than a charmingly-named repetition of Civic Holiday in the fall. But this lack is, in fact, to our advantage, for the meaning of the day does not need to be recovered from the clutches of a commercial culture, and we can better hear the etymological echoes in the very word, “thanksgiving” –more easily perform the action that it prescribes.
The seasons of the year enact for us a kind of secular liturgy. Out of the sepulchre of winter come the first stirrings of new life: buds of primavera burn on every awakening tree-limb as spring rains drench and thaw; this nascent growth surges into strength as the summer sun glows fiercely through long days; but, finally, those same days shorten as, from the leaves which were once just buds, chlorophyll fades, turning our forests into florid arrays of autumnal technicolor; so does the rhythmic cycle run on.
“You crown the year with Your goodness” (Ps 65:11). The ancient acclamation of the Psalmist still resonates with the modern-day city dweller, feeling this arc of seasonal change even amid concrete and brick. To us, too, the earth’s miracles come, if only we bring to them our open hearts. Christ’s words in Saint Matthew’s Gospel are, thus, wrongly called a hard saying: “To those who have, more will be given…but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away” (Mt 13:12). Is this not so? To the grateful heart, thankful for its blessings, does not the world itself take on the aspect of a gift? And, to the amnesiac, sleepwalking through the paradisiacal garden that God makes of earth in the autumn, does not even the miracle of life itself become just another dull, inert, and brutal fact?
“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Ac 20:35). If we grant, to these words of Christ, the full force of their meaning, the true nature of this month’s holiday comes home. For the act of “thanksgiving” raises the grateful receiver to the giver’s own order of beatitude: when, in thanks, we give, we ourselves become more blessed.
In the crisp chill of the year’s fall, full of fragrant breezes, we recognize the truth of Albert Camus’ beautiful paradox: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” Yet, it is a fleeting time of year, and those leaf-flowers seem always to waft to the ground too soon. But the very brevity of this season teaches us to live in it aright: to greet the created world as a gift, and to carry on our heart’s lips true prayers of earnest thanks: for our nation and our families, for our daily bread and moment’s breath.
We at The Interim wish you and your families a most blessed Thanksgiving!