Protocol Number 206/15
November 26, 2015
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
My help and my God. Psalm 43:5
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,
As we celebrate this national holiday of Thanksgiving, we acknowledge that we often do so in the security and peace of this country in which we live. We are blessed with liberty and with a level of stability and provision that encourages words and sentiments of thanksgiving for these benefits and blessings. Certainly, we should offer our praise and gratitude to God for the opportunity to live in freedom and to know and experience the value of this freedom for human achievement, and most importantly, for our spiritual lives and our calling to share grace and truth.
However, we should also recognize that the act and attitude of thanksgiving is also related to struggle and hardship. The first Thanksgiving, which provided the origins of our national observance, followed an arduous and costly journey to this land by the Pilgrims. To escape persecution, they made a lengthy voyage to this continent, faced disease and death, and attempted to establish a new home in very challenging physical and natural conditions. Their survival of these hardships through faith and hope led them in 1621 to offer thanksgiving to God for His amazing grace and providence.
The official establishment of a national day of thanksgiving by President Abraham Lincoln in 1864 was also related to great hardship and tragedy. For almost four years the nation had been engaged in a deadly civil war; and as the conflict was coming to a conclusion, President Lincoln called upon his fellow citizens “to offer thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God…and penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land.”
From the Holy Scriptures the Psalms direct us to see the power of thanksgiving in struggle and affliction. In the midst of affliction and persecution, the Psalmist says, Why are you so sad, O my soul? And why do you trouble me? Hope in God, for I will give thanks to Him. My God is the salvation of my countenance (Psalm 41:12). Thanksgiving strengthens hope, and hope guides faith toward deliverance and salvation in the Lord.
As we see in the origins of Thanksgiving Day and in Scripture, true thankfulness and the character of our gratitude are revealed both in times when we are blessed with peace and abundance and in times of affliction and great challenges. In both we are called as God’s people to worship Him, to give thanks and praise to Him as our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, and to commune with Him in faith and commitment through the supreme sacrament of thanksgiving, the Holy Eucharist. In thanksgiving and grace, we offer from our blessings so that others in need might be blessed as well. In times of struggle, our witness of thanksgiving becomes more powerful. Our worship, offering, and gratitude in the midst of hardship affirm our trust in God, our faith in His deliverance, and our hope in salvation. With boldness in the face of adversity, we are able to proclaim, O, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever! (Psalm 135:1)
On this blessed Thanksgiving Day, in all of the circumstances of our lives, may we raise our voices in praise to Almighty God, offering a witness of the source and promise of our gratitude. May you and your families have a blessed day of gratitude, fellowship and peace.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America