Thanksgiving Even in Hard Times

Dear Friends in Christ,

2009 has been a tough year for many of us, financially, socially, and spiritually. We are living in an era of great change, which leaves us often feeling unnerved and unsure. While affirming the difficulty that many of us are in, we also are nearing the time of Thanksgiving, when we pause and give thanks, even in the midst of these difficulties.

Some of us were born in places where there were wars going on; we may have had limited food to eat, limited career opportunities. Some of us came to this country via a boat, and some came as refugees. Still others were born here, but lived during harsher times, such as the Depression. In many cases, we were literally born out of difficulty, whether it be here or abroad. Even in a time of economic difficulty, however, we are reminded by the holiday to stop and think of the many things that are going right.

How often, when we are driving down the road, do we marvel at the fact that there is a paved road? And when there is a pothole, it actually does get fixed (eventually…)? We complain about traffic tickets, yet we know that the ticket, when paid, actually goes to the State most of the time, versus a corrupt official’s pocket? We can wake up on Saturday morning and decide to make bacon and eggs, but if we are not in the mood to cook, a restaurant is just down the street for many of us, and it will have food available. More importantly, when we are sick, there are doctors that often have a cure for us, unlike even 100 years ago. Those of us who are unemployed with little income know that there are programs to keep us from starving when we hit rock bottom, which is not the case in some countries even today. All in all, we are very blessed to be alive at this time.

I’ve often remarked that Thanksgiving seems to me to be the most Christian of the American secular holidays. I know others have thought that same way before me, but even an ostensibly religious holiday like Christmas has become so secularized by our culture that for many the Nativity of Christ is an afterthought. Thanksgiving, even though a secular holiday, celebrates the virtues that many of our earliest forefathers practiced, such as hospitality, giving back, and respecting others. When Thanksgiving rolls around, we pause and we acknowledge our blessings.

The Pilgrims were Christians, and they knew that the greatest gift was God’s self-gift of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He became man and lived a life of self-deprivation. Just image how Christ, who was the creator of the universe, must have felt, being confined in His mother’s womb for nine months. He emptied himself, humbled himself, and came to show us the ultimate love; self-sacrifice by His death on the Cross.

Holy Communion is still called the Eucharist by many. Eucharist is the Greek word for Thanksgiving. When Christ celebrated the Last Supper with His disciples, he gave thanks, then broke the bread. We bring our offering of bread and wine, which are not natural elements. It’s interesting to note that we don’t offer a natural fruit or an uncooked grain; rather, we prepare the bread and wine by our toil, and then offer it to God. The Eucharist is our participation in the gift of Christ, because rather than merely reenact the Last Supper, we actually partake in the Body and Blood of Christ, broken for us. Receiving Holy Communion is to give thanks to God and profess our faith in His suffering, death, and resurrection. It is a confession of faith and an acceptance of God’s blessings. Rather than merely give us material riches, He gave us His own life itself. For this, more than a road, food, medicine, or good family and friends, we must give thanks to God.

When Thanksgiving comes around and we are thanking God and each other for the material and personal blessings we have, let us remember first to give thanks for Jesus Christ, who gave us a far greater treasure—eternal life with God.

In Christ,
Fr Anastasios