November 22, 2012
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18)
To the Most Reverend Hierarchs, the Reverend Priests and Deacons, the Monks and Nuns, the Presidents and Members of the Parish Councils of the Greek Orthodox Communities, the Distinguished Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Day, Afternoon, and Church Schools, the Philoptochos Sisterhoods, the Youth, the Hellenic Organizations, and the entire Greek Orthodox Family in America
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The vibrant tradition of the Thanksgiving holiday in this country is a special opportunity for the Church to offer a witness of the priority of thankfulness in our relationship with God and as a foundation for our lives in this world. As Orthodox Christians we bring an offering of thanksgiving to God when we gather for worship, praising and honoring Him as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. We commune with Him and express our faith in His grace and power through our participation in the Holy Eucharist, an act of thanksgiving for His mercy and salvation.
The priority of thankfulness in our worship and faith guides us to offer thanksgiving all the time, to live in gratitude in all of the circumstances of life. This is the true witness of Thanksgiving and of the power of God’s presence. Even in the midst of very challenging experiences and conditions, we express a gratitude to Him that comes from our deep faith in His promises and from the comfort of His love. This was in the mind of the great Apostle Saint Paul when he urged the Christians in Thessalonike: Give thanks under all circumstances (I Thessalonians 5:18). This has been the witness of so many Saints and Martyrs down through the ages who offered praise to God in the face of persecution and death. It was the witness of the Pilgrims, in citing the heritage of this holiday, who gave thanks as they faced tremendous challenges in forging a new life in this land. It was the hope of President Abraham Lincoln when he established a Day of Thanksgiving, seeking to focus the hearts of a wounded nation on a greater, spiritual power who offered healing.
Thanksgiving is also our witness of hope and the power of God. We can easily be thankful for material blessings, for our health, or for a life free from conflict and stress. However, we know these are not constant, and the true challenge is being thankful in the midst of crisis and struggle. When we are thankful in the most challenging circumstances of life, when we bring a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God even when so much has been taken away, when we continue to follow His will living in holiness and faith, others will see that our gratitude is not dependent on the temporal success and security of this earthly life, but on the promises and salvation of God!
As we give thanks on this day, may we be thankful for our families and friends, for our communities, and the many blessings and provisions that enhance our quality and experience of life; but may we first give thanks to God for His great love for us. May we deepen our gratitude to Him, a thankfulness that comes from our souls, knowing that His promises will be fulfilled, His love endures forever, and we will have life in Him for eternity.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America