St Aquinas On Giving Thanks*
(Homily XXXII — Three-fold Benefits)
Editor’s Note: On this Thanksgiving Day in the United States, in order that we might properly give thanks to God, we can read Saint Thomas Aquinas’ explanation of how Christ teaches us to give thanks … and then, put it into practice! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. May the Lord always bless you abundantly.
“And when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down.”
— Saint John 6:11
The gloss says that Christ, having given thanks, teaches us to give thanks for three benefits. Firstly, for corporeal benefits. Secondly, for spiritual benefits. Thirdly, for eternal benefits.
I. On the first head, it is to be noted, that we ought to give thanks for corporeal benefits, for three reasons:
- Because He ordained that they should be in the gift of nature: “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father, in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 5:20.
- Because He preserves them to nature by removing the evil from them: “And they that before had been wronged, gave thanks, because they were not hurt now; and asked this gift, that there might be a difference. Therefore they received a burning pillar of fire for a guide of the way which they knew not,” Wisdom 18:2, 3.
- Because He nourishes it by refreshing it with bodily food: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith.… and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving.… For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused.… For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer,” 1 Saint Timothy 4:1–6.
II. On the second head, it is to be noted, that we ought in like manner, for three reasons, to give thanks to God for spiritual benefits:
- Because He sanctifies us by conferring grace: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in Whom we have redemption through His blood,” Colossians 1:12–15.
- Because He instructs us, teaching by His word: “For this cause also we thank God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe,” 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
- Because He refreshes the soul in granting to it the food of the Eucharist: “And He took bread and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My Body, which is given for you,” Saint Luke 22:19. Inasmuch as Christ gave us His Body, with thanksgiving we ought to receive that ineffable food.
III. On the third head, it is to be noted, that we ought likewise to give thanks, in a three-fold manner, for eternal benefits:
- For the liberation of the just from eternal death: “Giving thanks unto the Father … Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness,” Colossians 1:12-13.
- For the just condemnation of the profane; for the high glorification and dignity of the saints. Of these two: “The four-and-twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying: ‘We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned. And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy Name,” Revelation 11:16-18.
*Ashley, J. M. (1866). Homily XXXII: Three-Fold Benefits: The Homily upon the Gospel Being Omitted in the Series, Another Homily of the Same Author Is Given to Supply Its Place. In J. M. Ashley (Trans.), Ninety-Nine Homilies of Saint Thomas Aquinas upon the Epistles and Gospels for Forty-Nine Sundays of the Christian Year (Vol. 4, pp. 56–58). London: Church Press Company.
Art for this post on giving thanks: Thanksgiving in the Parish Church Maria Himmelfahrt [Assumption of Mary] in Hollenthon, Lower Austria, photographed by Steindy, 12 August 2016 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons.