Happy Thanksgiving to all!
The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was the first Anglican Prayer Book to include liturgical Propers for this day (although the 1914 edition of the supplementary “Book of Offices” included “An Office for Harvest Thanksgiving”). Here they are:
The Book of Common Prayer 1928.
¶ Instead of the Venite, the following shall be said or sung.
O PRAISE the Lord, for it is a good thing to sing praises unto our God; * yea, a joyful and pleasant thing it is to be thankful.
The Lord doth build up Jerusalem, * and gather together the outcasts of Israel.
He healeth those that are broken in heart, * and giveth medicine to heal their sickness.
O sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving; * sing praises upon the harp unto our God:
Who covereth the heaven with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth; * and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains, and herb for the use of men;
Who giveth fodder unto the cattle, * and feedeth the young ravens that call upon him.
Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; * praise thy God, O Sion.
For he hath made fast the bars of thy gates, * and hath blessed thy children within thee.
He maketh peace in thy borders, * and filleth thee with the flour of wheat.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.
O MOST merciful Father, who hast blessed the labours of the husbandman in the returns of the fruits of the earth; We give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase, to thy glory and our comfort; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle. St. James i. 16.
DO not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
The Gospel. St. Matthew vi. 25.
JESUS said, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore be not anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
[If one is reciting the Office, the rubrics note:
¶ And NOTE, That the Minister may here end the Morning Prayer with such general intercessions taken out of this Book, as he shall think fit, or with the Grace.
Here, FWIW, are my recommendations for those intercessions:]
For Joy in God’s Creation.
O HEAVENLY Father, who hast filled the world with beauty; Open, we beseech thee, our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him by whom all things were made, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Our Country.
ALMIGHTY God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage; We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favour and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honourable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogancy, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Fruitful Seasons.
O GRACIOUS Father, who openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness; We beseech thee of thine infinite goodness to hear us, who now make our prayers and supplications unto thee. Remember not our sins, but thy promises of mercy. Vouchsafe to bless the lands and multiply the harvests of the world. Let thy breath go forth that it may renew the face of the earth. Show thy loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and so fill us with good things that the poor and needy may give thanks unto thy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Faithfulness in the Use of this World’s Goods.
ALMIGHTY God, whose loving hand hath given us all that we possess; Grant us grace that we may honour thee with our substance, and remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy bounty; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For a Blessing on the Families of the Land.
ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families; We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vain-glory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh; turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we be evermore kindly affectioned with brotherly love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For all Poor, Homeless, and Neglected Folk.
O GOD, Almighty and merciful, who healest those that are broken in heart, and turnest the sadness of the sorrowful to joy; Let thy fatherly goodness be upon all that thou hast made. Remember in pity such as are this day destitute, homeless, or forgotten of their fellow-men. Bless the congregation of thy poor. Uplift those who are cast down. Mightily befriend innocent sufferers, and sanctify to them the endurance of their wrongs. Cheer with hope all discouraged and unhappy people, and by thy heavenly grace preserve from falling those whose penury tempteth them to sin; though they be troubled on every side, suffer them not to be distressed; though they be perplexed, save them from despair. Grant this, O Lord, for the love of him, who for our sakes became poor, thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
A Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the Fruits of the Earth and all the other Blessings of his merciful Providence.
MOST gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew; We yield thee unfeigned thanks and praise for the return of seed-time and harvest, for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of the fruits thereof, and for all the other blessings of thy merciful providence bestowed upon this nation and people. And, we beseech thee, give us a just sense of these great mercies; such as may appear in our lives by an humble, holy, and obedient walking before thee all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all glory and honour, world without end. Amen.
Rector’s Ramblings: Thanksgiving
(Preached as a Homily at the mid-week service of Holy Communion, Wednesday, 23 November 2022, here at Christ Church Anglican, Southern Pines, NC.)
In the Name of God: ✠ Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our strength, and our redeemer. Amen.
Tomorrow, Thursday, November 24th, is the national civic holiday celebrated in the United States as Thanksgiving Day. It has long been one of my favorite holidays, for a number of reasons.
One is the fact that it has stoutly resisted commercialization to a degree that cannot be said about other holidays, including, sadly, Christmas. Yes, there’s the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but that’s about it. There may be “Black Friday” sales in abundance, but there are few Thanksgiving sales, aside from some discounts on turkeys at Food Lion or Harris Teeter! And it even seems that some of the “Big Box” stores are rolling back on their recent trend, to extend Black Friday backwards into Thanksgiving Day itself.
Another reason I love this holiday is that in its typical civic manifestation, it revolves around two of my favorite things: food and family. You can probably tell to look at me that I enjoy food!
And Thanksgiving has some of my favorites: turkey, stuffing, giblet gravy, cranberry sauce – and in days of old, my sister-in-law Susan’s famous broccoli casserole, and my sister-in-law Ginny’s equally famous sweet potato casserole, with craisins, brown sugar, and a lovely streusel-like topping, made with oatmeal!
And I have been truly blessed to have a good and loving family. That’s not to say that we don’t disagree on some issues, and could disagree sharply, if we let ourselves; but we seem to have mutually decided, without any formal discussion of the matter, to not let our political, social, or similar differences come between us as a family. It may limit the topics of conversation around the table, but it makes for a much more pleasant Thanksgiving dinner than some one hears about! There have been exceptions, on occasion; but in general hygge and gemutlichkeit tend to predominate.
Yet another appeal is the history behind the holiday. Those of us of a certain age grew up learning in school (and sometimes at home, too) the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, the voyage of the Mayflower, and the iconic “First Thanksgiving” which brought together the English settlers and the Wampanoag Indians for a celebration of the first successful harvest after a brutal, even lethal, first year of settlement.
We learned, too, of the English-speaking Indian known as Squanto, who helped the settlers learn to grow crops in a land and weather conditions new to them. Indeed, the English settlers and this group of indigenous Wabanaki people entered into an alliance against other, more aggressive native peoples that lasted a surprising length of time: an early example of true multiculturalism!
Nowadays, of course, historical revisionists have done all they can to demonize the European settlement, and European settlers, and minimize successful examples of peace, harmony, and cooperation. But the partnership between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag seems to have been authentic and mutual – at least for a time, though it did not, sadly, last past the first generation.
In any case, others have pointed out, this was not “really” the First Thanksgiving. The first to involve English-speaking settlers in what would become the original 13 Colonies – later States – was actually two years earlier, in 1619, at the Berkeley Plantation in Virginia. And that one has the special advantage, for us, of involving Anglicans! For unlike in Massachusetts, it was Anglicans who made up the majority of those who settled in Jamestown in 1607, and began to spread throughout what became known as Virginia.
Some would claim the “First Thanksgiving” honour for St. Augustine, Florida, but that was in Spanish hands at the time, and did not form part of the original Colonies that became the original United States. Nor did California, which can claim an even earlier Thanks-giving, with the famous privateer Francis Drake and his crew of bold freebooters! But for better or for worse, it was the Plymouth Plantation one that formed the basis for the Thanksgiving we now know and, for most of us, love.
And that had as much to do with the Mayflower Compact as it did with Thanksgiving itself: all the colonies had charters, but they were issued by “the King across the Water” – imposed from afar, and from above.
The Mayflower Compact was the self-generated charter of what was really an accidental colony: their original destination was, in fact, Virginia, and they missed it by quite a few hundred miles! As a result, they came together and on their own created their own model for self-governance. And it was that, along with the aid of the Wampanoag, that enabled them – or at least some of them, for many died in the early days of the colony – to reach that first Thanksgiving.
But the one thing that all of these Thanksgivings had in common is that they were Thanksgivings. They occurred in order that Christian colonists might offer thanks to Almighty God for His great blessings to them. As John Mason points out, in an article on the “Anglican Connection” website,
“In September or October 1621 the Pilgrim Fathers enjoyed a special meal expressing their joy and thanks to God. The feast that was within a month or two of the first anniversary of the settlement in Plymouth Harbor, reflected the practice of Harvest Thanksgiving celebrated in England since the Middle Ages.
And while only fifty-three of the original one hundred or so settlers had survived, a spirit of thanksgiving for God’s goodness and mercy prevailed. Furthermore, local Indians who had provided assistance during the year were invited to join the feasting.
The Pilgrim Fathers not only expressed their gratitude to God but also to those who had helped them through a difficult year.”
This is true, as noted above; but the primary point and purpose of these early Thanksgivings, whether in Massachusetts, Virginia, Florida, or California, was to thank God. This was something that our early forebears did not find as difficult as some of us seem to in this supposedly more “enlightened” age! They knew, beyond any doubt, how much they relied upon God for food, clothing, shelter, and all the necessities of life.
The times of thanksgiving to God in the early years of settlement became more formalized as time went on, especially following the Declaration of Independence, and the aftermath of the Civil War. And gradually they became more secularized, as well, as our growing industrial and later technological power, and increasing economic prosperity, led us to rely more on our own abilities and less on Divine Providence… conveniently forgetting the Source of those abilities, and the blessings we enjoyed, which is God alone.
Without Him, we would not have the faculties of intellect or physical abilities to do what we have done, to have those things we enjoy. How easily we fail to acknowledge our gratitude and thanks to those who have helped us or provided for us: both human and Divine! How easily we forget to thank God for all the good things we enjoy – and especially the gift of life itself, in all its fullness.
And we overlook the significance of the Incarnation in which the eternal Son of God took on human form, and in his humanity died the death we deserve, so that we might participate in the very glory of God. It is fitting, I think, that Thanksgiving is right at the cusp of Advent: for that for which we should be most thankful is precisely that which we are about to celebrate.
As St. James reminds us in our Epistle lesson for this day, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” He is eternal: He does not change, and neither does His love for us, for His will is ever directed to His children’s good.
And His greatest gift of all is our Lord Himself: the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. Let us therefore be thankful for all the gifts He has given us, from our very lives here on earth, to the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven. And let us heed our Lord’s call, that we might “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Who livest and reignest, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, now, and for ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Image: The First Thanksgiving – Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (c. 1930).