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All Praise and All Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, even those of you who live in a land that doesn’t observe the day as a holiday. The Greek word for “thanksgiving” will be familiar to anyone who has studied the Fathers. It’s there in the earliest documents — in the Didache and Clement and Ignatius — and it denotes the source and summit of Christian life. The Greek word for “thanksgiving” is “eucharistia” (the root of our “Eucharist”).

The word has deep roots. It appears in the Septuagint, the most common Greek translation of the Old Testament, in the Books of Wisdom, Sirach, and Second Maccabees. Another ancient Jewish translation, that of Aquila, uses the word “eucharistia” as the equivalent of the Hebrew “todah,” the thank-offering of bread and wine, so often alluded to in the Psalter, so often associated with the reign of King David. The rabbis of the Talmudic period predicted that, in the age of the Messiah, all sacrifice would cease — except the todah offering of bread and wine. (For more on the todah, see the extended discussions in Scott Hahn’s The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth and Catholic for a Reason III: Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass.)

Philo of Alexandria used the term “eucharistia” in several and varied ways, all studied in depth by the French patrologist Jean LaPorte in his book Eucharistia in Philo. In later work, La Porte went on to connect Philo’s “eucharistic” writings with those of the later Alexandrian Christians.

And there’s more. Taylor Marshall takes us to the eucharistic prehistory of the American holiday.

(Oh, and this also happens to be the forty-seventh anniversary of my birth to new life, my baptism. Every turkey has his day.)

7 thoughts on “All Praise and All Thanksgiving

  1. Thanks, Mike! The concept of Thanksgiving was central to the theology of the Fathers. Here is what Aristides wrote about the early Christians in his Apology (15) “Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God…”

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

  2. The best news here is that you were born and then baptized! The way to begin a perfect life, Mike, and you have been living it since that day. You are a much loved man who loves his Lord – and it shows! We are thankful for you this Thanksgiving Day! Keep writing!

  3. Looks like you and Michael Barber were on the same page this week. He has an essay up on the todah offering as well.

  4. Hi Mike –

    I too am very thankful that you were baptized and have gone on to share the faith with so many of us! A Happy belated Thanksgiving to you and your family!!

    While we’re on the topic of the Eucharist, may I take this opportunity to ask you another question which came up recently? The Bible verse Acts 2: 46 talks about how the early Christians were involved in “breaking the bread” in their homes. I have read that “breaking the bread” refers to the Eucharist, but there are many who believe these words may have a dual meaning, to include just having a meal involving bread in a home. Do we know for sure that “breaking the bread” refers ONLY to the Eucharistic celebration of the early Christians? Thanks for any insight. More questions come up, the more I learn about our faith. Keeps us humble! :)

    I’m still hoping to go to the Holy Land with you all in May. Pray that I get good results from an MRI tomorrow. Whatever God wills.

    Peace of Christ,


  5. Hi Maryella! I’m looking forward to the Holy Land. I’ll be thrilled if you can join us. Praying for the MRI.

    In the generations immediately after the apostolic age, “the breaking of the bread” is associated with the liturgy. For many, many years the Mass was offered in homes anyway, as there were no churches.

    In the generation of the Apostles (and, in some places, for many years afterward), the Mass was celebrated in the context of a larger feast called the Agape (see 1 Cor 11 and Jude 12). So the dual meaning could certainly have applied.

  6. Thanks for the explanation, Mike!

    I’ve signed up to go to the Holy Land with the
    St. Paul Center! The MRI worked out. Thanks for your prayers. See you in May,


  7. Awesome news, Maryella! See you next year — in Jerusalem!

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