Pastoral Letter November 19, 2017

“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,

Fr. Anthony