(Nov. 28) A passage in the 1928 Episcopal prayer book says this: “It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto thee, O Lord.” The word “meet” is an archaic adjective meaning, “precisely appropriate.” This Thanksgiving, let us remember that it is both meet and dutiful to give God thanks, specifically for our blessings as a nation.

In his book, Gratitudeconservative leader William F. Buckley, Jr., asked: “How to acknowledge one’s devotion, one’s patrimony, one’s heritage? Why, one juggles before the altar of God, if that is what one knows to do … Americans growing into citizenhood should be persuasively induced to acknowledge this patrimony and to demonstrate their gratitude for it.”

There are two elements here, both of which were essential from the first Thanksgiving onward. The first element was, of course, the entity being thanked, the one God the Massachusetts settlers worshipped. The second element was that it was specifically for this new land, this America, and its abundance, that the settlers were thankful, not merely as individuals but by duly constituted civil authority.

In 1623, the order for a general Thanksgiving came from the colony’s governor, William Bradford, in his official capacity, who later explained the settlers “set apart a day of thanksgiving … By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine now God gave them plenty … for which they blessed God.”

Lest anyone think the next 175 years saw a wedge driven between American civil authority and public expression of faith in one God, President George Washington reinstituted Thanksgiving in 1789 by leading with words similar to those in the Anglican prayer tradition, namely by proclaiming “the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor.”…

[The full column is here. Happy (week after) Thanksgiving!]


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