Thanksgiving

The term “Eucharist” is derived from the Greek for “thanksgiving.” This form of prayer reaches its apex in the celebration of the Eucharist, in which we participate in Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father, in a salvific work that encompasses the entire cosmos.

As the Catechism explains, “in the work of salvation, Christ sets creation free from sin and death to consecrate it anew and make it return to the Father, for His glory.”

Because Christ is the Head and we are the members of His Body, we too are integrally involved in this action. When we make our own offerings at Mass – of our time, resources, and most of all ourselves – all are taken up and absorbed into Jesus’ perfect sacrifice of thanksgiving.

But our thanksgiving is not limited to the Mass itself. Anything that we experience can become an occasion for thanksgiving. Although it is obviously easier to render thanks in happy circumstances, we should also learn to thank God even in our trials. St. Paul exhorts us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:18).

By offering thanksgiving to God in the midst of difficulties, we grow in trust, knowing that the Lord is ordering all things for our eternal welfare. In this way we keep our earthly lives in the proper perspective of our ultimate destiny.

God did not have to create us at all, or share with us His own divine life. If we maintain a spirit of gratitude for God’s great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification – which we could never merit on our own – we can better shoulder the burdens of daily life.

For more, see Catechism paragraphs 2637-38.

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Purgatory

Summary of Catechism paragraphs 1030-32:

  • Perfect union with God in heaven requires perfect holiness: “nothing unclean will enter it” (Rev. 21:27).
  • Those who die in God’s grace, but are still imperfect, are not yet ready for heaven; these souls must undergo purification, or Purgatory.
  • Purgatory is not a second chance after death; rather, such souls are already assured of their eternal salvation, and need only to be cleansed of any lingering imperfections.
  • Although this doctrine was formally expressed in such Councils as Lyons II (1274), Florence (1439-45), and Trent (1545-63), its antecedents date back many centuries earlier, as evidenced by Church Fathers’ reflections on Scripture.
  • Jesus implied that some sins are forgiven in the “age to come” (Mt 12:32); He also said in a parable that “you will not be released until you have paid the last penny” (Mt 5:26).
  • The Church has always believed that it was good and helpful to pray for the dead (see 2 Macc 12:46), especially by offering the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass.
  • St. Paul refers to being saved “as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15), and a similar passage in 1 Peter uses the imagery of being “tested by fire” (1:7).
  • A number of early Church Fathers wrote of souls experiencing a purging fire (such as St. Cyprian of Carthage in the 250s, Lactantius in the early 300s, St. Gregory of Nyssa in the late 300s, and St. Augustine in the early 400s.)
  • Others mentioned souls paying penalties in a state of detention, such as Tertullian (early 200s) and St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 350), while St. Basil (ca. 370) described souls being detained because of stains or effects of sin.
  • Church teaching on Purgatory thus explains and clarifies why we pray for the dead; our prayers and sacrifices help them during their purification.

Live Your Faith

Some erroneously imagine that Vatican II did away with the doctrine of Purgatory, but in fact, the Council reaffirmed it (e.g., Lumen Gentium 49 & 51).

We owe a debt of charity, especially to our deceased family members and friends, to pray for the repose of their souls.

Aside from the consolation we can afford them, we please God by performing this spiritual work of mercy, and we in turn benefit from their prayers for us.