Encyclical of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios for Thanksgiving Day 2005
Nov 18, 2005
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 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,
As we experience the beauty of the autumn season during these final months of the year, we arrive at our national celebration of Thanksgiving, a handsome occasion to thank God for the abundance of blessings that He bestows upon us each and every day of our lives. For many of us, Thanksgiving affords us an important annual opportunity to be reunited with long-distance family members and friends in a much anticipated celebration of life. More importantly, however, Thanksgiving is a sacred opportunity for us to come together to affirm our recognition that God is the source of the life and liberty that we enjoy in this great land.
The origins of Thanksgiving in our nation's history reflect this recognition. The colonists who had fled from Europe to escape religious persecution in the seventeenth century had found a home in America. The price of their liberty, however, did not come without substantial hardship or risk. For them, uncertain living accommodations, harsh weather, and perilous travel were the norm of the day. Yet through faith, the early settlers prevailed. They were overcome with feelings of gratitude to God because they knew that He alone was the source of the life and liberty that they had come to enjoy. Indeed, one can imagine the early settlers finding encouragement in the comforting words of the Psalmist, “Know that the Lord He is God; it is He Who has made us and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving…be thankful to Him and bless His name” (Psalm 99(100): 3-4). It was in this spirit that the first celebration of Thanksgiving was born in 1621.
Two centuries later our nation was engulfed in a brutal civil war. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued a Proclamation establishing “a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” In his proclamation, Lincoln did not ignore the calamities of war that were present at the time. Indeed, he appealed to the nation to pray for the healing of communities and families that had been torn apart by strife. Yet he also focused his attention on God, noting a heightened abundance of material and natural resources in the nation that year and stating, “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…”
This year at Thanksgiving, the times in which we live, for different reasons, are no less uncertain or no less threatening as they were in past centuries. Yet, just as our forefathers and mothers did in the midst of considerable anxiety, we too must be mindful and grateful of the beneficence of God, Who watches over us continually with care, Who delivers us from every adversity, and Who bestows continual blessings of life and liberty upon us. As Greek Orthodox Christians who are citizens and residents of the United States, we should reflect upon our history with the same conviction, confidence, and knowledge that God alone is the source of our every prosperity that we today enjoy. As we come together as families and communities across America, let us express our immense gratitude to Him, our beneficent Father, and let us affirm our dedication as worshipping communities of faith and service to others, so that all may come to know the endless love and mercy of our gracious and great God.
It is my fervent prayer that this Day of Thanksgiving may provide each of you with an opportunity to rejoice in one another's fellowship, to grow in your assurance of God's abiding protection, and to remember that the wondrous works and gifts of God are continually present in our daily lives. May God bless you and your families on this wonderful Day of Thanksgiving, and may God bless America.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America