Thanksgiving is the quintessentially American feast. Inspired by the legend of the seventeenth century Americans come together as families, as a nation, as those who are grateful to God for His many gifts.
For the rich harvest and the promise to survive through the coming winter as did the Pilgrims, for health in times of global pandemic and spiritual peace amidst the turmoil. For the school children, for the good sunny weather, and for the fact that there is no traffic jam on the way to the grocery store. For authentic prayer and for the gift of faith, for our dear ones both alive and departed. For the relations we cherish and the wounds that have been healed. For the mundane and extraordinary.
‘Gratitude is the most pleasing exercise of the mind’, Joseph Addison wrote. I loved that saying so much that I acquired Jacques Hnizdovskyy’s woodcut for my Lviv house. The English essayist, poet, and dramatist centuries ago came to the insight now confirmed by psychologists and researchers: gratitude does make our lives and mental health better. Studies show that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. It helps people “feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Simply put, gratitude should be a part of our healthy diet and should be practiced regularly.
This season is for me a special time to give thanks to the Lord: for the gift of life and for the gift of priesthood. I was born on November 24 1960 and on November 26 1998 received my priestly ordination in Saint George’s cathedral in Lviv. I am grateful to the Lord, to my parents and family, to my friends and students, to priests, religious and faithful here in the Philadelphia Archeparchy, back in Paris and Rome, in Lviv and Warsaw. For every prayer we said together, for every meal we shared, and all the love and support I receive from God through you.
Our gratitude has both earthly and celestial dimensions. Most of us do not realize that the Greek word Eucharistia means gratitude, thanksgiving. “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them … ” (Luke 22:19). In Greek, “he gave thanks” is “ευχαριστεί.” The Son thanks the Father and gives Himself to us, teaching us true Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is at the core of our Christian faith. It is not an abstract feeling or state of mind but an act of choosing. As Saint Paul wrote to Philippians. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4,4-7).
How encouraging these words read today! Normally at Thanksgiving America is on the move. Families and friends come together, people drive and fly a thousand miles to spend time with people they love. This year probably there were some solitary Thanksgivings, not without loneliness, fear, or anxiety. However, Paul says: Rejoice in the Lord always. Be thankful. This is the best advice in uncertain times. I wish you all true joy, peace, and gratitude as we prepare ourselves to the coming of the Lord as a newborn Child. To save the world. Not with the power but with tenderness.