by Fr. James C. Meena
“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians, 5:20-21) Thanksgiving is so deeply embedded in the spirit of the Christian faith that it would be impossible to excise it without destroying the faith. While we understand that faith, hope and love are essentials of our belief, there are other essentials, components and characteristics which are also important in making up the totality of the Christian faith. Thanksgiving is one of these key essentials. We hear about the need to repent, to reach out to others to help them, to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to fast, to pray, but the quality of all of these things is enriched by a sense of gratitude, an understanding that all good things come from above, “From Thee, the Father of Lights”; that everything which is creative, constructive and positive comes from Him.
Now you have all heard it said about every feast that there is, “Every day should be Thanksgiving day.” True, yet it is appropriate that we set aside one day a year to emphasize our gratitude without diminishing the need to be grateful every day. Certainly, the spirit of Thanksgiving would be with us every day if we were indeed aware of our own “nothingness” in relationship to all that which God has created. Consider yourself, you, one person, vis-a-vis the whole universe. You are infinitely smaller in that relationship than the smallest grain of sand is to the widest beach on this planet. That’s how infinitesimal we are, yet, He has given us so much. He gave us the Prophets of old to teach us His ways, and when we rejected them He sent us His Son in order that He might teach us the good news that the Kingdom of God is close at hand. And when the establishment rejected His Son, He fulfilled His promise and made the ultimate sacrifice that from that moment on, not a drop of blood need be shed in order to expiate the guilt of man, for God shed His blood on the Cross so that once and for all time we might have the capacity and the agency by which our sins would be forgiven. Now that is a lot to be thankful for.
I realize that that becomes nebulous for us. It happened two thousand years ago, even though it happens every day. So why don’t we think in smaller terms since we ourselves are so small; the little things for which we ought to be giving thanks. Each morning to be thankful that He brought us to another day, like a ship through the night, and to dedicate to Him the newness of the day. When we look upon the faces of our loved ones, the members of our family, the abundance of our household, our tables literally groaning with food, the plenteousness; when we experience the freedom of our land, that we live in a nation in which we are free to express ourselves, free to worship God as we elect or not to worship Him at all if we choose that; get up in the morning and go to our automobile and just push a button to open the garage door, turn a key and the engine starts and we travel a distance from our home to our place of employment that our forefathers used to have to plan for a whole day to make the same journey; to come home at night to be greeted by warmth and love and security.
We have friends in our parish family who love us, who trust us, friends in the neighborhood with whom we have good fellowship. We have the opportunity to work and to support ourselves so that we don’t need to be dependent upon anyone for our livelihood. We have the opportunity to educate our children. So much for which to be thankful.
Unfortunately we have gotten used to taking for granted all these blessings, these “Good things which come from above, from Thee, the Father of Lights.” As we look now to celebrating another day of Thanksgiving, let us not forget that the purpose of the occasion is to remind us, “to give thanks for all things unto God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.
Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America