Thankful for the Mass

News: Commentary
by David Nussman  •  •  November 25, 2021   

'We give You thanks for Your great glory'

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With Thanksgiving Day upon us, I thought it relevant to share some thoughts about gratitude.

The Holy Mass

Amid these dark times in the Church and the world, we can find solace and encouragement from recalling all the good things God has given to us.

I'm grateful for my job (and no, I'm not getting paid to say that), for my parish, for the roof over my head, for money in the bank account and for food in the cabinets.

If we want to talk about thankfulness in relation to something specifically religious, a natural place to start is the Holy Mass.

As some readers may have heard before, the Greek word for the Eucharist — "eucharistia" or "ευχαριστία" — means "thanksgiving." (Even today, in modern Greek, the way you simply say "thank you" is a related word — "efkaristo" or "ευχαριστώ.")

It's traditionally said there are four "ends" (meaning purposes) of the Mass: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication.

These are also listed as the four modes of prayer. It makes sense that the Mass — being the highest prayer of the Church — incorporates all four modes of prayer.

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When we attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we adore God in His majesty; we express contrition for our sins and ask for forgiveness; we thank Him for the many gifts He bestows upon us; and we bring before Him our petitions in humble supplication. 

Let's look at that third "end" of Mass, thanksgiving — the seasonally appropriate one, so to speak. Below are just a few parts of the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) in which the priest expresses gratitude to God:

  • In the Gloria in Excelsis Deo ("Glory to God in the Highest"), one section reads, "We give You thanks for Your great glory" ("Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam").
  • Before the Preface, the priest says (or chants at High Mass), "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God" ("Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro").
  • The priest says after receiving the Host and prior to receiving the Precious Blood in the chalice, "What shall I render to the Lord for all that He has rendered to me? The chalice of salvation I will take, and I will call on the name of the Lord" ("Quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi? Calicem salutaris accipiam et nomen Domini invocabo").
  • As Mass comes to a close, the priest says a phrase often translated as "Go, it is finished" ("Ite, missa est"). The response is, "Thanks be to God" ("Deo gratias").

So we can see how giving thanks to God is an important part of the prayers of the Mass. (Perhaps it's worth noting that of the four passages above, three of them are preserved in the Novus Ordo.)

In addition to giving thanks to God during Holy Mass, I think we should also give thanks to God for the Mass.

Christ Himself is truly present in the Eucharist. Let us never become numb to what a marvelous thing that is. At Mass, God gives us the greatest gift possible — the gift of Himself.

Christ Himself is truly present in the Eucharist. 

The other sacraments are also something for which we should be grateful, of course. What a wonderful thing that Our Lord instituted these sacraments; has guided His Church so as to preserve the sacraments over the millennia; and wills for us poor sinners to stay close to the sacraments throughout our lives.

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Every bishop in the country canceled public Mass last year. I am thankful for the good clergy who found creative ways to continue nourishing souls despite the restrictions. I find myself getting a bit emotional thinking of how one priest called my cell phone during Easter Week, asking if I had made my Easter Communion yet and offering to come bring me the Blessed Sacrament if needed.

Though times are dark, there is still so much to be thankful for.

Many of us were very scared at the time because we didn't know much about the new virus. It was so consoling to learn about priests doing private Masses and Communions, outdoor Masses, outdoor confessions — all signs that there are still clergy in this country who give a rat's hat about souls.

Though times are dark, there is still so much to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to all our viewers!

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