"No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."
President Lincoln then urged Americans in every state, and those in foreign lands, and even those on the high seas "to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."
And so this week we eat turkey and stuffing and watch football with our families.
But President Lincoln urged more from us: Take care for the orphans, the widows, the mourners and all the victims of war, "with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience." And he asked us all to "fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."
The ultimate in gratitude is gratitude for the mystery of existence itself, for this whole world we did not make, and for the miracle that is our own existence, unasked for, unnecessary, glorious and easy to overlook in our travails and disappointment and ennui and anger and ceaseless strivings.
So this turkey day, notice your blessings, do penance for your sins in good works to others, and be grateful to God for all the good that you enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.