O give thanks unto the Lord, and call upon his Name, tell the people what things he hath done.

The Book of Common Prayer Morning Prayer, Rite One
for Occasions of Thanksgiving (40)

On All Saints’ Day, and for other major Saints’ days, we open service with these words: “We give thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”

Again, the congregants’ chant, “Oh give thanks unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness and come before his presence with a song.”

Always, always, always, during church services, and whenever we pray, we give thanks to Him!

Daily, we can see all around us, what magnificent things he has done. One must simply and truly “open one’s eyes” to understand the glory created by God, by which we all have benefitted. We have been truly blessed by him.

When early Europeans left their homeland to seek religious freedom, they arrived in this bountiful land nearly starved, sick, and without any welcoming homes to inhabit. The Lord saw to it that they not only survived, but they thrived. In recognition of this, these “pilgrims” held a great feast, in honor of what they’d been given, a huge Thanksgiving to God.

We now honor that first feast of thanksgiving with our national holiday of Thanksgiving. During this special season, we gather together with family and friends to celebrate our lives and show gratitude for all we have been given. What a very special memorial this is – each and every year – a memorial to all of life’s blessings.

Growing up in Carlsbad and attending St. Michael’s since very early childhood, I have fond memories of these special feasts. My family always had special holiday meals in the early afternoon. My mother would get up very early – before anyone else in the house was up – to stuff the turkey and get it into the oven so that it would be ready for our feast.

Then, while the turkey was roasting, we all went to church for that special Thanksgiving service, to give glory and thanks to God for all that we’d been given. First in the original church (now our beloved Chapel) and later in the newly built church. The altar was arrayed in autumnal décor, which my mother and others in the Altar Guild had worked so hard to achieve. I wish there were photos of those beautiful decorations for our altar!  The Altar Guild served with such dedication and such humble thanks to God every week; but on this special day of Thanksgiving, they spent many more hours than usual to make the church look lovely. It was an act of thanks on their part. That devotion continues to this day!

Only after our heartfelt prayers of thanksgiving for God’s blessings did we return home to a bountiful table of wonderful food. Often two different tables, one in the living room, and one in the dining room were necessary to hold everyone. When I grew old enough to date and found a boyfriend through the choir who was a Marine, he and his buddies were included in this feast of Thanksgiving. Often, in our home and that of others in our community, those outside the family – perhaps some lonely or unfortunate person – were included in this feast day. This was a fitting way to show thanks for what we’d been given.

Before the food was passed, a special blessing was pronounced, in thanks for all our many blessings. This of course was a more personal and intimate prayer of thanksgiving acknowledging the blessing of the family and friends surrounding our tables.

So, whether in church at St. Michael’s or in our homes in town later, we gave special thanks to God for all our many blessings! It is a wonderful tradition and inheritance that has been passed down through the years.

We at St. Michael’s are so very blessed by God and have much to give thanks for! Amen!

Join in this season of gratitude at the Thanksgiving Mass, Thursday, November 22nd from 8:30 – 9:30 am. A very special opportunity to prepare the heart before preparing for your Thanksgiving festivities!

This article was written by parishioner Ginny Unanue.