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.)