Thanksgiving is coming up this weekend and Canadians are getting ready to break bread with one another and give thanks for the many blessings that we enjoy in this country. I can already taste the pumpkin pie, smell the fall leaves. I can already see the cranberry sauce smudge that will inevitably appear on my pants.
Last Sunday, the priest at our church gave a homily on why giving thanks is important. He said that it completes the blessing. For example, he said, at the end of the opera, when the singers come back onto the stage, the crowd spontaneously erupts into standing ovation. Why? Because we feel the need to respond – to complete the blessing by giving our thanks.
Photo: Ezra Jeffrey
His example struck me as true. And if it’s true for the opera, then is it not also true for all of the blessings in our lives? And yet, so often we forget to respond to them with thanks. That made me wonder – all week I’ve been wondering – maybe giving thanks is more than a duty. Maybe it’s also a part of the gift itself.
If we don’t respond to blessings with thanks, we’re missing out on something. Or, more broadly, if we aren’t grateful for our lives, we aren’t fully appreciating the life we’ve been given. Like the audience at the opera, we are meant to stand up in acknowledgement of and thanksgiving to our Creator.
To help give thanks this weekend – and, really, all the time – I thought I would share some of the Thanksgiving prayers from the Anglican Book of Alternative Services and Book of Common Prayer.
THE HARVEST COLLECT
Creator of the fruitful earth,
you made us stewards of all things.
Give us grateful hearts for all your goodness,
and steadfast wills to use your bounty well,
that the whole human family,
today and in generations to come,
may with us give thanks for the riches of your creation.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.
(Book of Alternative Services, p 396)
A collect is a structured prayer that is said together. The Latin word collēcta means the gathering of the people together, from colligō, “to gather”.
This one comes from the Book of Alternative Services (BAS), published in 1985. It is the contemporary, inclusive-language liturgical book used in most parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada.
It is an adaptation of the older Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the medieval liturgy written and compiled by Thomas Cramner in 1549 during the English Reformation following the break with Roman Catholic Church. The BCP was the common liturgy used by the Anglican communion for over 400 years, with revisions and new editions along the way.
Thomas Cranmer, portrait by Gerlach Flicke, 1545
In 1962, the Anglican Church of Canada issued its own edition of the Book of Common Prayer. After the war and nearing its 100th birthday, Canada was coming into its own as a nation and was ready for its own edition that reflected the country’s unique concerns and challenges.
The following prayers – called Thanksgivings – come from the Canadian 1962 BCP, and reflect the context of the time. Maybe they are of historical interest to you, or maybe they still hold water for your life.
WE thank thee, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to build thy Church in many lands. We praise thee for the light of the Gospel, the labours of thy servants, and the ministrations of thy Church. We also bless thy holy Name for those who have lived, and suffered, and died for thy sake; beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may at last attain thy heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O GOD, the fountain of all wisdom, we bless and praise thy holy Name that thou didst move our rulers and statesmen to bring together under one government the scattered communities of this land, and to unite them into one Dominion from sea to sea. We beseech thee to grant that the heritage received from our fathers may be preserved in our time, and handed down unimpaired to our children; and that from generation to generation we may remain a united people, loyal to our Sovereign and our Country; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Deliverance in Peril.
ALMIGHTY God, who art a strong tower of defence unto thy servants in the time of trouble: We yield thee praise and hearty thanks for our deliverance from the dangers which lately encompassed us [and for thy gracious gift of peace]. We confess that it is thy goodness alone that hath preserved us; and we beseech thee still to continue thy mercies towards us, that we may always acknowledge thee as our Saviour and mighty Deliverer; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Favourable Weather.
O LORD God, who hast in thy mercy relieved and comforted thy servants by a seasonable change of weather: We yield thee hearty thanks for this thy goodness towards us, beseeching thee to give us grace to use all thy mercies to the honour and glory of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Ending of Civil or Industrial Strife.
O ETERNAL God, our heavenly Father, who alone makest men to be of one mind in a house: We bless thy holy Name, that it hath pleased thee to end the strife which hath lately prevailed among us; and we humbly beseech thee to grant us grace, that we may ever abide in unity before thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For Recovery from Sickness.
MOST gracious God and Father, we render humble thanks for the restoration to health of thy servant [NAME], for whom we lately besought thy loving-kindness; and joyfully do we confess that, as thy power is infinite, so also is thy mercy toward them that call upon thee for succour, in the name of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Advancement of Medical Science.
O GOD, whose Spirit filleth all the world, revealing the wonders of nature through each succeeding day: We thank thee for the continual advance in medical science, whereby the bodies of men are made apt for thy service; beseeching thee that those who minister to thee in nature may be consecrated to thee by grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Book of Common Prayer, 1962)
I work as a communications professional in Ontario’s health research sector, so I was shocked and excited to find a thanksgiving for medical science! Among other things, that’s something I will be thankful for this weekend – all of the incredible scientists who are making discoveries and saving lives.
What are your thanksgivings?
Wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving weekend!
Feature photo: Marius Ciocirlan