“O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endures forever.”
Dearest Spiritual Ohana,
The Holiday Season has come upon us once again! And in the month of November we enter into many Feast Day Celebrations, make our journey into and through the Nativity Fast, and come to the American Thanksgiving Holiday.
As we gather around our tables laden with sumptuous food fare on Thanksgiving Day, let us never forget to be mindful and give thanks to Almighty God for everything He did, does, and will do for us (past, present, and future). Let us not become overly focused on the things that are mundane and secondary: our clothing, what we are going to eat, on the material things we seek, or the things that will bring us temporal happiness, entertainment, amusement, etc. I think of what our Lord says in the Gospel according to St. Matthew 6:31-34: 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Therefore, let us rather remind ourselves that our very lives, our families, our friendships, and every gift and blessing come from God. Being mindful of this, let us respond to God by loving Him in return through our actions, in that we “commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God,” as we pray in our Orthodox Liturgical Services over and over again.
Our loving response to God is our constant striving and working toward imitating Christ, Who in His human nature is the “mark” which we try, with unceasing perseverance, to reach for as a goal throughout our daily lives, of course, with His help. This is what we call “Theosis,” a perpetual process toward “being saved.” This requires us to build our relationship with Him especially through the tools of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer is our connection to God and our intercession for one another. Fasting allows us to hunger for God and to have control, command, and dominion over the passions, rather than allowing the passions to be in charge of who we are. Almsgiving is our “love in action,” in that we are charitable to our fellow human beings in which the “image and likeness” of God dwells. In loving all the people encountered in our daily lives, we in return express and direct our love toward God.
With all of this in mind, I wish all of you a most blessed month of November! As we enter into the Holiday Season, let us have the continual remembrance of our Lord upon our hearts at all times. Let us give thanks to the Lord for His Abundant and Immeasurable Love for us. And a most “Happy Thanksgiving” to All!
With Love in Christ,
Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna; Proterios, Archbishop of Alexandria; Gorgonia the Righteous, sister of Gregory the Theologian; Damian the New Martyr of Mount Athos; Boswell, Abbot of Melrose Abbey