ORTHODOX THANKSGIVING DAY
Preparation for Christmas
As Orthodox Christians, we celebrate Thanksgiving, not with sumptuous meals for we have learned how to fast and how to feast. In every season we render thanksgiving to God, and are now in the midst of the annual 40 day fast before the Nativity of Christ, preparing to celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ, being born in the flesh from the Virgin in Bethlehem. But we celebrate our American Thanksgiving with a feast of fish which we greatly enjoy. We strive to keep the our lives centered on the New Child to be born in Bethlehem lying in the manger. He is our Lord, for and the source of our lives and our existence who is also our great Benefactor. We also are most thankful for our country and its many benefits and we thank the Lord for our life in the United States of America.
There is something very important about the subject of thanksgiving to Orthodox Christians that sets it apart for us from everything else. While, according to American tradition, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day once a year, we celebrate and offer prayers and thanksgiving to God , not on one day, but every single day of our lives, for it is from Him whom we live and have our being. It is from Him that our country has received its bounty. No matter much and how often we offer thanksgiving to God, we can never offer enough gratitude, considering all that he has done for us and given to us. If we could offer him songs as numberless as the sand we would still have done nothing worthy of all that He has given to us. We will name a few. Our very existence and being. Our body soul and spirit. Our intellect, consciousness, our freedom and fervent hope.
The importance of continuous thanksgiving is apparent to us for it is the name of the mystery celebrated at every Divine Liturgy, which is “the Eucharist”, a Greek word which translated is
We offer thanksgiving to God for He made us able to communicate with Him. We thank God for giving us life and health or sickness as He determines. We thank God for His earth which we walk on, for His air which we breath. We thank God for the food we eat and the water we drink. We thank God for the snow and rain, the ice and hail, hot and humid days, and the warm and freezing days. We thank God for the beautiful sky, the high mountains, the majestic seas and deep green valleys. For flowers of every color and odor, beauty that makes our hearts soar. We offer our thanksgiving for the earth that supplies us with everything we need for abundant life. We thank God for the beautiful creation with the birds that sing, the lions that roar, the elephants that trumpet, and the butterflies and humming birds that flutter. We thank God for the sun that gives us light, and warms and nourishes us. We thank God for the lights that light up the night, the moon and the twinkling stars. These are some of the visible things the number of them is unlimited.
Beyond everything, we offer thanksgiving to God for our Holy Orthodox Faith which fills our hearts with constant joy and for which we offer our thanksgiving every day of the year. This thankfulness causes great joy to blossom in our hearts. It is this joy which makes everything in the present world less important and everything in the next world to be supremely important, and this joy fills our souls to the brim with fervent hope and great expectations. We all will spend a very short time in this present world. But the world to come is endless and it is in this world that we all will spend eternity. The life beyond this world is of much more importance than the present life. The alternative to eternal life is the second death which we must avoid at all costs.
This visible world a necessary part of our existence, but it cannot offer us real happiness and joy, for while it offers pleasures, they are mixed with pain, sickness and accidents and the fact that this life always ends in death. So the visible joy consists of matter and material things. We are much more than matter for we bear within us a spirit from God This makes it necessary to enter the beautiful and invisible world in holy Orthodoxy where we can fulfill our destination and the enjoyment of true happiness, for our faith is really the beginning of eternal life.
If we humans were not also partially immaterial, we would not have consciousness, intellect and the ability to offer and receive love. All these are not material just as ideas and concepts for they are all immaterial and immeasurable. Through the eyes of our hearts we see in the heavenly kingdom the wonderful world of Orthodoxy, for with our entry into the heavenly kingdom we behold Jesus Christ the Only-begotten Son of God and the Theotokos and Ever-virgin Mary. We see Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father, with His Mother the holy Theotokos, whom we magnify in hymns and songs, such as: “You are more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption you gave birth to God the Logos and are really Theotokos; we magnify you.”
Realizing the temporary nature of this world and the certainty that, we do not just die and get buried, death does not end life for there is a continuation of life after death. We are also certain that Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and will judge each man according to what he has done. We must be prepared and bring with us a good apology to present before the fearful judgment seat of Christ.
It is impossible that some men live in sins, living a vain life of illicit pleasure and the accumulation of goods, while others, being God fearing and God-loving men, behave well, never harming anyone but loving and being kind and good to everyone. It is certain that just as man cannot escape death, so he cannot escape judgment. But if he failed to be interested in these truths and find out why he is here and if he chose evil in place of good, how can he escape the judgment of our Creator who destined him to become His perfect image and likeness? Every man’s conscience either accuses or excuses his thoughts and actions, and in the end will testify for or against him accordingly. Having this knowledge and striving to do only good, struggling to become more like God. Being His image. is the main reason that our Orthodox Faith continuously produces thanksgiving in our hearts, for we know why we are here and the consequence of our behavior; we live not for the present which ends with death, but for the future wherein there is life awaiting us that never ends, All these things arouse the fervent hope of perpetual happiness even more. All that we mentioned here are truths that cause us to daily and hourly continuously offer our thanksgiving to the Lord.