Protocol Number 143/10
November 25, 2010
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,
On this national holiday of Thanksgiving, we are blessed with the opportunity to gather with family and friends and observe a time of gratitude for our lives, for the fruits of the earth, and for the grace of God. As Orthodox Christians we know and affirm that this attitude of thanksgiving is not just reserved for one day of the year, but it characterizes the life in Christ each and every day. Giving thanks to God, showing our gratitude to Him for His love, is both an act and an attitude that offers a continuous witness to the world of the power of saving faith.
This witness of thanksgiving is related to our theme from our recent Clergy-Laity Congress. Our theme was and continues to be “Gather My People to My Home: Come and See.” In response to God’s call to gather all people into His Home, the Church, we invite them to “Come and See” the grace of God revealed in Christ, the truth of our faith, the beauty of our Orthodox worship, and the depth and strength of our fellowship as brothers and sisters in the Lord. We also invite them to come and see a true witness of thanksgiving to God.
The witness of thanksgiving is offered first and foremost through our worship, and specifically through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Not only does the word eucharist mean “to give thanks,” but it is an affirmation that this is a “Sacrament of Thanksgiving” -- it is an event of worship, grace, and communion with God imbued with a spirit of thankfulness. The petition, “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” calls everyone present to respond to God in gratitude for the grace revealed to us through Christ. We sing, “We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You….” The clergy lead the faithful in prayer saying, “We give thanks to You Invisible King,” and “To You we give glory, thanksgiving, and worship….” Through our worship, especially through the Holy Eucharist, and through our hearts, we give thanks to God for the life, grace and salvation He offers to us and to all humanity.
When we invite others to come and see, they should also see a witness of thanksgiving in the manner in which we serve God through the ministries of our parishes and in our personal lives. In thankfulness, we offer back to God what He has given to us. We have been blessed with sufficient and abundant resources for our needs. Around us each day are many who lack the basic essentials of life, who struggle to survive, and who need a response of compassion in the midst of tragedy. Our motivation in responding to these needs should be an attitude of thankfulness which comes from our experience of the grace of God and leads us to give back to Him by giving to others. In a world that is often characterized by self-centeredness, greed, and apathy toward those in need, we invite all to come and see a witness of thanksgiving through our compassion and service.
We also offer a witness of thanksgiving through our own struggles in life. In the beautiful tradition of our faith, we have the witness of so many Saints, who in the midst of great tribulation, under tremendous suffering, did not express sorrow or fear, but offered thanksgiving to God. This revealed their deep faith in the promises of God for salvation. They were strengthened in faith by the power and presence of God, so that even in the face of death they offered gratitude to the One who would lead them from this life into eternal glory. This same assurance and strength is offered to all of us, so that even in the midst of the most trying circumstances of life, we can give thanks to God for His love, for His great wisdom, and for His eternal promises. This is a witness of thanksgiving that is offered to others so that they can see the defeat of despair, the power of hope, and the triumph of love through our lives in Christ.
May I wish you and your families a blessed Thanksgiving holiday filled with fellowship and joy. May we also take time on this day to reflect on the true nature of thankfulness in our lives as Orthodox Christians, committing ourselves to living with hearts of gratitude each and every day, offering a witness of thanksgiving that will lead others to Christ and to salvation.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America