Should the Eucharist be part of our Fourth of July celebration?

Q. Some years ago you wrote about the desirability of making the Eucharist part of our celebration of Thanksgiving Day. I think the same is true for Independence Day, July 4. Do you agree?

By Father Michael Kwatera
By Father Michael Kwatera

A. Yes, in red, white and blue!

We do well to celebrate our national Independence Day by gathering to celebrate the Eucharist in our parish church or wherever we are spending the glorious 4th.

Really every Eucharist is a celebration of independence: It celebrates God’s delivering us from slavery to sin and death in the dying and rising of the beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

And every Eucharist commits us to establishing the reign of God in our country and in every country, a reign of justice, peace and freedom.

Our Independence Day is a welcome opportunity to commit ourselves to this anew as we celebrate the Eucharist.

Touching our soul

Fireworks light up the sky over Washington for Independence Day. The annual U.S. holiday marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. (CNS photo/Hyungwon Kang, Reuters)
Fireworks light up the sky over Washington for Independence Day. The annual U.S. holiday marks the anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. (CNS photo/Hyungwon Kang, Reuters)

We want our country to be “one nation under God” — not over God, or against God. For us, every day is “independence day” if we find in the Eucharist the strength to live the reign-of-God values that we celebrate there. How else can our country be a light to the nations and a place of hope, a place where all that is right and true will find a home?

Thomas Jefferson is remembered as saying that he would be content to let others write the laws of the new United States if he could write its songs and stories. He knew that songs and stories express a people’s soul. And what are the songs we might sing on Independence Day? Songs that match the various kinds of prayer:

  • a song of praise to the God who planted the seeds of our freedom in human hearts;
  • thanksgiving for a land so rich in natural and human resources, and for God’s work in and through the church in our country;
  • petition for what we really need to live as one nation under God, not as two nations: of the rich and the poor, of Democrats and Republicans, of white people and everyone else;
  • contrition — repentance. Yes, we need to sing a song of lament on this day, too, sorrow for our national and personal failures to provide liberty and justice for all, here at home and far away, sorrow for our failure to resolve the tragic situation of immigrants along our southern border, sorrow for the racial tension that threatens peace on city streets and in human hearts, sorrow for the hatred that turns joyful gatherings into places of death, sorrow for our failure to live up to our values and ideals.

And to whom do we sing these songs? To the God dwelling “on high … and in holiness, and with the crushed and dejected in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).

On Independence Day and every day, we direct our praise and thanksgiving, our petition and contrition, to the all-holy God, the God beyond time and space, who became one of us in Jesus Christ, who became peace and healing for us and for all people.

Rejoicing in truth

independence_day_prayerOnce at evening prayer in the St. John’s Abbey Church, I was listening to the reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. This is Paul’s lyrical praise of love. I heard these familiar words: love “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” And I asked myself: Is our country tempted to rejoice in wrongdoing, to tolerate wrongdoing? Does it strive to rejoice in the truth about God and creation and humankind and how all of these are interconnected?

The nation that came into being on July 4, 1776, must never rejoice in any wrongdoing that comes from surpassing power or arrogance or domination. It is always called to rejoice in the truth that since God gave so much to our country, much is to be expected from it in the service of peace and justice and economic security for all. These are not the privileges of a few, but the right of everyone. Should we not lament the fact that the richest are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer?

I, for one, want to live in a society that does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth — the truth that God has blessed America abundantly and wants us to use our many blessings wisely and share them generously, especially with the least ones. Happy Fourth of July!

Benedictine Father Michael Kwatera, a monk of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, serves as the abbey’s director of liturgy. Please send your questions on liturgy to him at mkwatera@csbsju.edu or at St. John’s Abbey, P.O. Box 2015, Collegeville, MN 56321-2015.

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