The Thanksgiving holiday is not only of great cultural significance, but of religious significance as well; the Pilgrims, who originated the tradition, were entirely religious as a group. Thanksgiving thanks, although still religious in many families, are often secular in our society and might be characterized as a general feeling of spirituality and focus on the family. Certainly, the opportunity to eat, drink, make merry, and spend a few days of peace and quiet with loved ones is a delightful thing, and it’s not, perhaps, emphasized enough.
That’s a statement with which Adrian Butash, the Santa Barbara-based author of Bless This Food, would agree. His book gives a historical overview of all the ways in which different cultures have acknowledged the delights of plenty and of the companionship of friends at a meal. For anyone in Santa Barbara who would like to say a few words over their holiday meal, but isn’t attending a specific religious event for Thanksgiving or doesn’t have a set-in-stone religious tradition of their own, here are three different ways of saying grace, excerpted from Butash’s book.
The first is drawn from the Itivuttaka, a volume of the teachings of the Buddha. This was written sometime around the fifth century B.C.; the poetry of the language and the applicability of the sentiment are astonishing, given its antiquity.
If beings knew, as I know, the result of giving and sharing,
they would not eat without having given,
nor would they allow a stain of meanness
to obsess them and take root in their minds.
Even if it were their last morsel, their last mouthful,
they would not enjoy eating without having shared it,
if there were someone to share it with.
According to Bless This Food, this second grace was written by Saint Cyril, who was “the twenty-fourth pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the most brilliant theologian of the Alexandrian tradition, and one of the greatest figures in early Christian literature.” It dates back to 850 A.D.
The Blessing of God
rest upon all those who have been kind to us,
have cared for us, have worked for us, have served us,
and have shared our bread with us at this table.
Our merciful God,
reward all of them in your own way.
For yours is the glory and honor forever.
This third was written by John Greenleaf Whittier, a Quaker and an Abolitionist who was born in Massachusetts in 1807. His life spanned most of the nineteenth century, during which he wrote a number of hymns.
Heap high the farmer’s wintry hoard!
Heap high the golden corn!
No richer gift has autumn poured
From out her lavish horn!
But let the good old crop adorn
The hills our fathers trod;
Still let us, for his golden corn,
Send up our thanks to God!
No matter how religious or secular your family’s Thanksgiving celebrations will be, enjoy the holiday to the fullest. Happy Thanksgiving from Your Worship and from the Independent.
Special Thanksgiving services will be held at the following places of worship in Santa Barbara:
Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, at the First United Methodist Church at 305 E. Anapamu St., Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 7:00 p.m. Call 963-3579 or visit fumcsb.org.
First Church of Christ Scientist, 120 E. Valerio St., Thursday, Nov. 22, at 10:00 a.m. Call 966-6661 or visit christiansciencesantabarbara.com.
Montecito Covenant Church, 671 Cold Spring Rd., Sunday, Nov. 18, at 7:00 p.m. Call 969-0373 or visit mcchurch.org.
Oaks Bible Church, 4485 Hollister Ave., Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 7:00 p.m. Call 967-9120 or visit oaksbible.org.
St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, 1205 San Antonio Creek Rd., Tuesday, Nov. 20 at 7:00 p.m. Call 683-4492 or visit saintbarbara.net.