November 26, 2009
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 gather together again with family and friends on this day of Thanksgiving, we offer our gratitude to God for His abundant grace and assuring presence which fill our hearts with joy and bring meaning and salvation to our lives.
This holiday, a traditional American day of thanksgiving to God, has been celebrated for generations, through times of peace and security and in times of great crisis and tragedy. Under all circumstances of life and at all times, it has been a day that offers an enduring witness to the power of thankfulness. This day originated with a call to prayer and expressions of gratitude to God in the midst of tremendous challenges. When President Abraham Lincoln inaugurated the national observance of Thanksgiving Day in 1863, this nation was embroiled in a terrible civil war. In the midst of conflict and loss, his proclamation was a call to bear witness to the One who could bring healing and restore peace to the nation.
Further, for over a century this day has been a time for the people of this country to pause from the labors of their hands and minds, to gather with loved ones, and to reflect on the blessings of life, family, relationship, community, and sharing. This gathering and reflection is another witness to the power of thankfulness, as we contemplate the aspects of our lives that are the most significant to our well-being, our nation, and the world. In the moments we share with one another or in service to those in need, we move beyond the thoughts of material things and personal ambitions to ponder the deeper and more enduring qualities of life and relationship.
It is also on this day, that we as Orthodox Christians affirm the power of thankfulness through the association of this holiday with our faith. At the very center of our life of faith is our spiritual and physical participation in a sacrament of thanksgiving. The very name of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist means “to give thanks;” and in our reception of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are called to give thanks to our Lord for what He has done for us. We give thanks for His gift of life and sustenance. We give thanks for His love and sacrifice for our salvation. We give thanks for His mercy and for the hope and peace engendered in our hearts through His divine presence. Through this communion with Christ and our expression of gratitude to Him, we offer a powerful witness to the world of all that is genuine, true, and eternal. In the greatest act of thanksgiving through the Holy Eucharist, we call all people to a more blessed state of life and relationship that can lead them through and above the challenges of this world and into the kingdom of God.
On this day of Thanksgiving, may our hearts be filled with gratefulness to our Creator and Giver of Life. May we bring honor and glory to God through our words of praise and thanksgiving, and may our lives be beautiful and constant witnesses of the power of thankfulness so that others may find peace and salvation in Christ and in the love that we share as the family of God.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America