I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart…
I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.
(Psalm 9: 1-2)
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,
I greet you in the love of Jesus Christ on the joyous occasion of our national celebration of Thanksgiving. This is truly a beautiful national holiday, for it presents us with an opportunity to come together as families and communities in gratitude for the tremendous blessings that God continually bestows upon us each and every day of our lives. Today, we are invited to enter into the same frame of mind as the Psalmist quoted above, for we set this day apart from other days in our national life to express our thanks for those gifts of God for which we are most grateful. Among these gifts include certain inalienable rights that God has given to all human beings: life, liberty, and the freedom of thought, conscience, religion and belief. These are fundamental freedoms that are central to American culture and to our way of life as citizens and residents of the United States of America.
When the early American colonists came to New England in the 17th century, they were escaping from the torment of being targets of religious persecution. They were seeking a land where they could manifest their religion without the fear of persecution. In the centuries to follow, the Framers of our Constitution knew quite well that it was very important to effectuate safeguards for religion, to ensure that the new government they were creating would never make any law "respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Today, this vital concern finds meaningful expression in the Constitutional safeguards afforded to us by these so-termed "religion clauses" of the 1st Amendment.
On Thanksgiving, it is natural that we pause to reflect upon the history of the early colonists to America, their reasons for seeking refuge, and the attending results that came about from their experiences as expressed today in the laws of our nation. It is also natural that we pause today to reflect upon our very own identities as Greek Orthodox Christians living in America, knowing that many of us also have roots that hail from Greece and, indeed from many places over the world, as we are an increasingly diverse community of faithful. Here in America, we have the freedom to express the beauty of our Greek Orthodox faith in its fullness, to share its eternal message of love and salvation with others, and to worship our God according to the Holy Traditions and Canons of our Orthodox Church. This is a blessing for which we are very grateful each day and particularly on this Day of Thanksgiving.
In reflecting upon these blessings and fundamental freedoms that exist with the United States, it is also only natural to remember that there exist many people of many faiths who cannot enjoy the same levels of religious freedom due to the policies of other nations of our world. This sad reality should not spoil our celebration of Thanksgiving; rather, it should remind us all the more that we as Americans have a paramount duty to promote freedom and democracy. This duty is rendered all the more salient when we consider not only the import of our colonial history as Americans, but also our venerable Hellenic heritage and our Orthodox faith, which extols the very same virtues of freedom and democracy. We therefore enjoy a special identity that places us in a unique vantage point in our world, and for this we have many reasons to give thanks to our loving and beneficent God.
It is my heartfelt prayer that as we come together on this Day of Thanksgiving, feasting in thanks and in gratitude with our loved ones, friends, and family, we may be cognizant of the very special blessings that we enjoy in this land and that we may strive in our daily actions to reflect that gratitude in the love we show to others. May our hearts be filled with gratitude to God for all His blessings of life, liberty, and the freedom to worship Him. May God bless each and every one of you on this Day of Thanksgiving, and may God bless America.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America