"O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods." — Psalm 95:1-3
We set aside Thanksgiving Day to remind us that all we have is a gift from God. As a nation and people with unprecedented material wealth we have the privilege and responsibility to thank God, the ultimate source of our abundance. Hundreds of years ago, the Pilgrims called for a period of Thanksgiving, lasting three days, to celebrate the harvest after a very difficult first year in their new land and home. Deeply religious, they knew that their survival was the result of God's providential care and they paused to offer thanks to Him. Not only did the Pilgrims have a feast, they offered prayers and hymns to the Almighty God.
At every Divine Liturgy we thank God saying "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from You, the Father of lights." As the Psalm states, we approach God in praise so we may thank Him, not just petition Him for more. This posture of thankfulness should permeate our lives on a daily basis, especially when we consider all that we have been given.
Cultivating an attitude of thankfulness, however, takes more than a beautiful verse from Scripture, a holiday, or even a prayer in the Liturgy. Cultivating thankfulness is a daily activity. It begins when we notice and express appreciation for all that others do for us. We can pause for a few moments, turn our gaze to the horizon and see the glories of nature. This requires developing a sense of humility, recognizing our place in the world, showing respect for others, and reciprocating with kindness and joy.
Expressing thankfulness is a habit formed in our family, when parents and grandparents remind children to say "thank you", but also when children see the adults in their lives expressing thanks to one another. An attitude of thankfulness also develops in our homes when we regularly "count our blessings" and acknowledge the ultimate divine source of those good things in our prayers at home.
With these seemingly small acts of gratitude, everyday becomes Thanksgiving Day, not just one Thursday in November. We will certainly set aside this day for a celebration with family and friends, and at that celebration we should offer a word of thanks to God for all that He has bestowed on us. And, more importantly, after the celebration, we should continue to offer thanks to all and for all.
Wishing you and your families a most Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!
With Love in Christ,
+ G E R A S I M O S
Metropolitan of San Francisco