Thanksgiving to God
“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart, I will tell of all Your marvelous works.” ~Psalm 9:1
When you sit down to eat, pray. When you eat bread, do so thanking Him for being so generous to you. If you drink wine, be mindful of Him who has given it to you for your pleasure and as a relief in sickness. When you dress, thank Him for His kindness in providing you with clothes. When you look at the sky and the beauty of the stars, throw yourself at God’s feet and adore Him who in His wisdom has arranged things in this way. Similarly, when the sun goes down and when it rises, when you are asleep or awake, give thanks to God, who created and arranged all things for your benefit, to have you know, love and praise their Creator.”—St. Basil the Great
Dearest Spiritual ‘Ohana,
November is here! We approach and enter into one of the most major of all Holiday Seasons of the year. As Orthodox Christians, we begin the journey of the 40-day Nativity Fast, beginning November 15th, ending with continuous feasting on Christmas Day, with the Celebration of the Lord’s Nativity. The celebration of Thanksgiving Day comes upon us taking place on a Thursday toward the end of the month. By “economy” and dispensation, we have the liberty to suspend the Fast, at our discretion, on this one special Holiday. Then with the end of the Thanksgiving Celebration, the Christmas Season, at least secularly, officially begins.
It is noteworthy that we begin a special Fast, early on, in the midst of a season typically filled with lots of commotion and celebrations (though greatly altered in these challenging times). This is not by accident that this Fast takes place during this time. The Fast does not have a tone of somberness nor sadness, but rather a spirit of joyful anticipation in contrast to Great Lent which focuses on our repentance. There is a purpose for this Fast! This purpose is to live a “focused” and less distracted life with our attention on the joy that the Lord has brought humanity through His Incarnation (taking on of human flesh) out of love for us humans, guiding us to a purpose-driven, joyful and fulfilling life in Christ.
“Focus” is the keyword in the purpose of utilizing our given tool of fasting! Our focus is the realization, in our human nature, that the Lord is the fulfillment of our deepest and inner-most longings, since we are made in God’s Image and Likeness. We naturally yearn for our fulfillment and joy in Him. Only He can truly fill any and every void in us. If we lose sight of this, we futilely attempt to substitute the need for His Presence in our lives with everything, secondary, that we erroneously think will ultimately make us happy, satisfied and gratified.
As we begin the Holiday Season with fasting, let us be mindful, remain focused and heed the words of St. Basil, quoted, and turn to God at all times with gratitude, adoration, glorification and praise, offering Him our love and total commitment in response for all He has done, and does for our benefit and salvation out of His Immense Love for us and all humankind.
It looks very likely that we will remain in the challenging times of pandemic throughout the Holiday Season and beyond, well into the 2021 year. Who would have thought that we would be challenged with COVID-19 from the month of March to this day? I look forward to the day we can gather, normally and without restrictions, as a Spiritual ‘Ohana, in our worship services. Until then, I pray you keep the faith alive in your personal lives and in your homes.
The Holy Fathers compel and guide us to take the troubling and challenging times as opportunities to remain solid in our relationships with God and one another and not allow them to lead us to isolation and despair. I have some ideas, but I am sure all of you have better ones! I would like to provide opportunities for all our faithful, especially those who are over 65 years of age, those who are at risk physically, and those who have not been able to come for in-person services to have opportunities to receive Holy Communion safely as households and individuals. Precise plans for this are being thought out and developed. I also would like all of you to put your “thinking caps” on in helping to develop plans and strategies for small groups and teams to facilitate fellowship, discussion and sharing with communication platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet during these times. I believe we all have the gifts, talents and capabilities to provide solutions, even in these challenging times, to help one another maneuver through them.
Have a Most Blessed Holiday Season! Please be safe and stay well!
With Love in Christ,