Giving Thanks for Advent
Advent and Thanksgiving overlap for Orthodox Christians this year. It is one of the few times that a great fast and a great feast fall at the same time. Naturally, it is impossible to both fast and feast simultaneously.
In Advent we are to give up meat, dairy, wine, and oil. At Thanksgiving we are to roast a turkey, smother our potatoes in butter, and pour the Pinot. While concessions could be made to make the Thanksgiving meal more Advent-ish (Tofurkey anyone?), this doesn’t really solve the fast/feast dilemma. Thanksgiving celebrates bounty, while Advent asks us to wait for the bounty.
Yet, the incongruity in Thanksgiving and Advent between fasting and feasting can be found in the person of Mary during Advent.
At the beginning of the Advent season, Mary has her bounty: Immanuel incarnate. Appropriately, Mary sings her thanksgiving upon receiving the good news. Thus while eating Thanksgiving dinner requires special dispensation from your priest, Thanksgiving dinner is still in some ways liturgically appropriate. We can sing the song of Mary at our Thanksgiving tables:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
Yet, even as she sings, Mary must wait for the full bounty. The gift denied to Moses will not be given to Mary until Christmas. She cannot see the face of God yet. Moreover, until her child is born, Mary must endure the sufferings of her pregnancy, while not forgetting the joys. So too do Orthodox Christians in good physical health endure the sufferings of the Advent fast to prepare for the revelations of Christmas without losing out on the joys of preparation.
O Theotokos, who art all ever blessed and blameless, pray for us this Thanksgiving as we enter Advent.