St. Basil the Great: On Giving Thanks to the Creator
As you take your seat at table, pray. As you lift the loaf, offer thanks to the Giver. When you sustain your bodily weakness with wine, remember Him Who supplies you with this gift, to make your heart glad and to comfort your infirmity. Has your need for taking food passed away? Let not the thought of your Benefactor pass away too. As you are putting on your tunic, thank the Giver of it. As you wrap your cloak about yourself feel yet greater love to God, Who alike in summer and in winter has given us coverings convenient for us, at once to preserve our life, and to cover what is unseemly. Is the day done? Give thanks to Him Who has given us the sun for our daily work, and has provided for us a fire to light up the night, and to serve the rest of the needs of life. Let night give the other occasion of prayer. When thou look up to heaven and gaze at the beauty of the stars, pray to the Lord of the visible world; pray to God the Arch-artificer of the universe, Who in wisdom hath made them all. When you see all nature sunk in sleep, then again worship Him Who gives us even against our wills release from the continuous strain of toil, and by a short refreshment restores us once again to the vigor of our strength. Let not night herself be all, as it were, the special and peculiar property of sleep. Let not half thy life be useless through the senselessness of slumber. Divide the time of night between sleep and prayer. Nay, let your slumbers be themselves experiences in piety; for it is only natural that our sleeping dreams should be for the most part echoes of the anxieties of the day. As have been our conduct and pursuits, so will inevitably be our dreams. Thus pray without ceasing; so your life be made one ceaseless and uninterrupted prayer.”
+ St. Basil the Great, from Homily V. In Martyrem Julittam, quoted in the Prolegomena in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers Series II Volume 8
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful , unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid such people!” – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Did you read the above quote? Did any, one thing on that long list of unpleasant attributes strike a chord within you? Can we identify any of those traits within ourselves? How frightening it is, if we can, since St. Timothy explicitly demands that we “avoid such people.” How can I avoid myself? I follow me around everywhere! What to do?!?
For me, I suppose the answer can be found, walking the sprawling, dirt-covered pathways of the Plimoth Plantation (spelled correctly) in Plymouth, MA (also spelled correctly). This picturesque, living history museum allows people to experience a Pilgrim village from the 1,600’s and an actual Wampanoag Tribe homesite. In other words, this place brings the ideals, visions and concepts of Thanksgiving Day to a blessed reality. Only a few miles away from Plymouth Rock, the Plantation literally sends you back in time.
The people who interact with visitors in the Pilgrim Village are character actors; dressing, speaking and “living” as people did upon reaching the blesses shores of our budding nation. The people in the Wampanoag Homesite are actual men and women of the Tribe. They are dressed in traditional clothing of the period, but they are not actors. Its and amazing place and I’ve been there, too many times to count.
As Americans, we have Thanksgiving Day as a National Holiday, dedicated to the recognition of gratitude. We may all have thoughts in our minds of what the first Thanksgiving Day may have looked like, there in the Massachusetts woods. Norman Rockwell paintings and elementary school programs put certain thoughts in our minds. These images give way to fall colors, basted turkeys, blustery days, football games and over indulgences. This is the modern and secular dynamic of celebrating Thanksgiving.
As Orthodox Christians, we have the opportunity, with every reception of the holy Mystery of Communion to be bathed in the concept of giving thanks unto God. We do not require a National Day of Recognition to understand the necessity of a thankful heart. We realize that God is worthy of our thanks. He is deserving of our praise. He is justified as the Giver of every gift, the Sustainer of every life and the Benefactor of every blessing. We have all we need to understand, submit, glorify and rest assuredly in His glory.
But then, there is St. Timothy’s pesky list of qualities that are less than desirable before God. And I believe, the chief among them is he who is unthankful.
The wicked is unthankful.
The godless is unthankful.
The rebel before Christ is unthankful.
The arrogant and unrepentant sinner is unthankful.
The blasphemer of the Holy Spirit is unthankful.
As we approach the day that was given to our Nation as an opportunity to reflect, pray, entreat and appeal, I invite all of us to be reminded of all that has, and will be given to us. Thanksgiving is not a day, it is a quality. It is a definitive trait of the Christian heart and it is the translator of God’s grace.
Go ahead, live in the fanciful and romanticized depiction of Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal, shaking hands and living as one. This is the Thanksgiving of our youth. There is no need to abandon this image completely – especially since most lessons we learned as kids are fading away quickly – Christopher Columbus was a bad guy who did nothing like what we learned or sung about, and Thomas Edison did not invent the light bulb. We’ll leave the Pilgrims alone.
But by all means, and in everyway, make Thanksgiving a daily, prayerful exercise. Practice gratitude. Humble ourselves before God. Partake of the Mysteries and in all things, give thanks.
Enjoy the blessings of Thanksgiving Day. They will sustain, inspire and guide us. In gratitude, I remain,
In Christ’s Love,
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Thank you for your recent participation in our Parish Assembly, this past Sunday. It is critically important that we come together as a community and pray, discuss, deliberate and move on the administrative issues which help to organize and govern our parish. I thank you for your patience in what turned out to be a long meeting, filled with many important topics.
Please keep in mind, today and always, that every parish assembly, every parish council meeting, every ministry organization, every social gathering, every outreach project, every outing, every opportunity we take, to assemble as a St. Anna family, will always be connected to the Altar. We are a people of faith, connected by the fruits of the Holy Spirit and the ministering grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This week’s Bulletin is filled with a myriad of activities and services. As we continue to “come down to earth,” with the closing of one real estate chapter, and the anticipation of all that the good Lord has in mind for us, let us be filled with our love for one another, and grounded in the spiritual principles which led to the creation of our parish.
Notably, we have on our schedule, our Gala, to be held on December 9th. This is intended to be a family celebration of all that has been accomplished by our work with the Capital Campaign. It is not intended as a fund raiser, but rather an opportunity to give thanks to our parish for all that’s been done in 2017. In the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah of Denver, and in commemoration of one of the Feasts of St. Anna, the Conception of the Theotokos, we have much to celebrate. Please join us!
Thank you for your continued love and prayers towards our parish and let us look to 2018 for all that is to come, unto the glory of God and for the benefit of His faithful.
Much Love in Christ,
ORTHODOX MARRIED LIFE MEETS THIS EVENING AT 7:00 PM.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE WOMEN’S MINISTRY TEAM HOLIDAY BOUTIQUE, TOMORROW IN THE STM GYM
GOYA MEETS NEXT TUESDAY AT THE HOME OF STAR DANNER. THE ADDRESS IS IN THE BULLETIN.
PRAY FOR OUR VETERANS. GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS!