Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

At Thanksgiving, partaking of what is good

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published November 27, 2014

Eucharist is a word that found its way from Greek to Latin. It means thanksgiving. “Thanksgiving” is a very open word, one that can embrace many things. When I think of the gratitude Jesus had for all of life, every nook and cranny on this earth and throughout the universe, I am better able to understand the wealth of our Eucharistic liturgies.

We celebrate the Eucharist every day, and it can get to become routine. It is not uncommon for a monk or two or three to worry about their minds wandering through the course of the celebration. Frankly, I do not see anything wrong about that. The words of the Mass are like sparks that bring to life the embers of the heart. The Eucharist draws all of life to itself and celebrates the transformation of the world, a transformation into the image and likeness of Christ—even wandering minds.

Eucharist is living bread and wine for body and soul.

We recently had two guests here whose words revived in us the sometimes forgotten wealth that we share in every day.

David George came to us from Mepkin Abbey in South Carolina. He is the nurse for the Mepkin community, and we invited him here to seek his advice on proper nutrition. He is a delightful person, approachable and possessed of a great sense of humor. And he obviously loves what he does. We are not going through a radical overhaul of our diet. Basically, we are refraining from processed foods and other foods that are deemed non-nutritious. We are to be lean on the meat, white bread, white potatoes, and are to be pro anything green, anything organic, anything nutritious.

By the time he left us, I think we were all grateful that he came. You might say that David has a very incarnational approach to theology. Since the body is the Temple of God, it would behoove us well to take care of the God within us.

A week or so later, Martin Laird gave a few lectures here and preached at our Sunday Mass. He is an Augustinian priest and author who teaches at Villanova University. He too was good. Really good. He spoke of the fullness of God’s gift to us in this life—a God who not only gave us creation but also placed himself in the gift. And as the created world evolves, rejoices, suffers and groans, God is alive and at work in and through the process of creation. He moves it along from within.

Father Laird emphasized that we can never lose God or be absent from God. God is deep within us, along for the whole ride.

We were and are very grateful to have had, within the span of a few weeks, two guests who were so generous in their vision for us. Their words moved us to more deeply appreciate the sacredness of the human body, the longing of the human spirit—which constantly seeks to satisfy a desire for food that is good and holy, food that is eternal.

On the nights that Martin and David talked to us, I sensed that our minds did not wander very far. I suppose you could say that we had our own early taste of Thanksgiving, a few evenings set apart when we partook of what was offered us and found it good.


Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery web store at