The Tenth Day of Christmas Advent: Thanksgiving Day
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 Order of St. Andrew, 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,
I greet you in the love of our gracious God as we celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving. As we come together as families, friends, and communities from across the land on this wonderful day it is indeed appropriate to feast with one another in a spirit of Christian gratitude; for God has blessed us with gifts and treasures which we must never take for granted. Among the more precious of these God-given gifts that we remember on this day are the indispensable values of our democracy, our religious freedom, and our civil liberties.
Our celebration of Thanksgiving traces its roots to the 17th century experience of the early colonists to the New World and their interactions with the Native American peoples of what is today known as New England. This interaction and concurrent celebration of the so-called “First Thanksgiving” in 1621, continues to be a subject that is worthy on its own terms of more honest examination and study. More than two centuries later, by official Proclamation in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln established the holiday as a “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” It is in this broad historical context that our national holiday of Thanksgiving has become interwoven in the fabric of the religious consciousness of the United States.
Precisely because of its rich history and its express theological orientation, Thanksgiving Day is one of the few, if not the last, of our remaining national religious holidays. For us, the religious character of Thanksgiving resonates melodiously with our Orthodox Christian faith, as exemplified by hymns of doxology that we offer to God in our regular worship of Him: “We praise you, we bless you, we worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.” This short phrase constitutes one measure of the larger hymn of the “Great Doxology” that we as a Church chant and recite in our daily liturgical services. By these terms, Thanksgiving is quite literally for us a daily holiday that transcends the geographical boundaries of the United States and reaches out universally to all persons in all corners of our world, all of whom are recipients of God’s abiding love and comfort, particularly those who live in dire conditions of need for the love and comfort of God, whom we remember prayerfully on this day.
My beloved Christians, as we gather with our loved ones during this Thanksgiving holiday, worshiping God and feasting together in gratitude for His blessings, I pray that we may all continue to grow in our understanding of the tremendous implications and lessons of Thanksgiving Day. This is a holiday that is rich in history and in religious significance for our nation and for us as Orthodox Christians, who continuously give thanks to God for all His wonders and blessings. May God bless you and your families on this day of Thanksgiving, and may God bless America.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America