It is a bit surprising that in the Hebrew Scriptures there is no exact translation for thanksgiving. Part of the problem is what we mean in English by the word. We primarily intend to express gratitude. We have grateful feelings or thoughts. In the Hebrew Scriptures we see words like praise or acknowledgement for something that God has done for us rather than just thanks.
The word saw-far’ in Hebrew means to ascribe, count, or declare. So rather than just say thanks to God, we declare how wonderful He is in His deeds to us. "Tell of all thy wondrous works." Ps 26:7
It seems that praise rather than gratitude dominates the notion of thanksgiving in the Bible. So we thank God primarily by praising Him. "He is your praise (tĕhillahka); he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes." Dt 10:21
"It is clear that the O.T. does not have our independent concept of thanksgiving." (Westermann, Claus)
This is especially interesting when applied to the Eucharist. The word implies joy (xara) rather than thanks. For me it speaks of the joy of the giving of the Body of Christ and the pouring out of His Blood in a sacrifice of praise to the Father. It is the ultimate act of Thanksgiving in praise!
Today thousands of people will go to church thanking the Father for the awesome Death and Resurrection of Christ! We human beings are made to praise God. It is our highest honor and greatest
responsibility. Implanted deeply in praise is the joy of gratitude. Gratitude is the cheerful child of praise. It has no real existence apart from praise. Gratitude is born from the realization of the wonders of God’s care for us! It sings out in a mighty shout of Alleluia, Praise God!
Fr. Bob Weiss, C.P. preaches Parish Missions and is a member of the Passionist Community in Louisville, Kentucky.