Following the Sursum Corda (“Lift up your hearts”) the preface of the Eucharistic Prayer opens with a call to thanksgiving, which, of course, it the meaning of Eucharist. Although there are many prefaces assigned to special days and seasons, they all begin the same. “It is truly right and just (“meet and right” -Divine Worship Missal), our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy.”
Additionally, many Eucharistic Prayers repeat that call to thanksgiving at the end of the Preface.
“You are indeed Holy, O Lord, and all you have crated rightly gives you praise…” Eucharist Prayer 3 based on the Anaphora of Saint James
“It is truly right to give you thanks, and truly just to give you glory, Father most holy….” Eucharistic Prayer 4 based on the Anaphora of St. Basil the Great
This call to thanksgiving is an invitation to experience the power of God activated in our daily lives through an attitude of thanksgiving in all things. “Rejoice always. Pray constantly. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
To give thanks in all things is not necessarily the same as giving thanks for all things. Even in our darkest hours, when we face grief and sorrow, we can still offer God thanksgiving, not for our sorrow, but in the midst of our sorrow, because we know God will give us the strength to carry our burden and find victory on the other side.
In Jesus’ darkest hour, as he prepared to undergo his Passion, he walked with his disciples from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane singing Psalm 118, “O give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.” This great Psalm of triumph continues, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Jesus focus was not on the pain and suffering of his Passion, but on the glory and victory of his Resurrection. Therefore, he could offer thanksgiving in the midst of his suffering, knowing the victory ultimately belonged to God.
In our re-enactment of Christ’s passion in the Eucharist, we open with a call to thanksgiving, following Christ’s example. The ability to offer God thanks in in suffering is the ultimate proclamation of our faith. We express our confidence in God’s ultimate victory even when nothing seems like it now.
As people share with me their pains and their requests for prayer, I am struck with how much sorrow there is in our congregation and the world. How do we carry such burdens? How do we hold onto our faith when grief is tearing our world apart? The same way Jesus held steady as he took the cross upon his shoulders and carried the weight of the sin of the world up the hill to Golgotha. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever.”