In the rush of daily life there are many times each day that we have much to be thankful for, and doing so we can consciously and dramatically change our lives. First we can notice all the good things God brings us personally from others and from Him. Secondly we can see deeper into the challenges in our lives to see them as blessings to help us grow and become aware of choosing a Godly life. Thirdly we can embrace the chance to live a spiritual life in Church, at home, and at work, so that every part of our life is truly blessed.
It is hard to be really more conscious, to notice that goodness is all around us, and that we have physical, emotional, and spiritual things come to us each day that are a gift beyond our own efforts, but are goodness unforeseen, and even often unasked. If we start to look this way, our minds and hearts open quickly, and we are naturally thankful. Then especially we need to say thanks out loud and often, both to others who show us love and kindness and care, and who take the time to listen, to sympathize, and to give of themselves, and then to God Who has inspired others to give as He gives, and to love as He loves. This is the first kind of deeper awareness and so then we can acknowledge and often practice thanksgiving.
The second deeper thanksgiving takes more thought. It looks deeper than the surface to see that human challenges are sent to us to give us the opportunity to grow, and to see the great pattern of life here as a means to have a more and permanent life beyond the limitations of our present life and all of its seeming circumstances. It starts us on the path of a Godly life, as Jesus Christ lived here on earth, and all of those who followed Him too.
Christ gave thanks to His Father often, in prayer and in action, and His Saints gave thanks to God too. Christ didn’t complain about misunderstandings, abandonment, suffering and pain, and even betrayal, and His Saints didn’t complain either. Christ even forgave those who were killing Him, saying “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” His Saints forgave everyone everything too. Seeing deeper, giving thanks for challenges, even painful, and forgiving everyone for everything, this together is the second and fuller form of thanksgiving.
Lastly, we can live our life with our hearts and minds intent on truly entering the Church, which is the body of Christ on earth, not just outwardly but also inwardly. Let us look around us and see His icon everywhere, for inside every person is buried His Image and Likeness. When the priest censes around the church, he censes both the icons, and also all of the people, giving honor and respect to these windows into Heaven. When we go deeper into prayer, and try to live with Christ moment by moment, something wonderful happens. We become alive in a different way, because Heaven and true life are always present when we are with Him.
The word thanksgiving in Greek is eucharist, and that is why the church service when we can receive communion is called this greatest of all thanksgiving. We receive not just a promise of God, but receive Him bodily, mentally, and spiritually. All of Heaven is present there–all the Saints, all the Angels, and the Holy Trinity Itself. We receive life, and life more abundantly. May we give thanks then gratefully, consciously, and often for our earthly gifts and for others, for circumstances both easy and hard that can bring us towards Heaven and a Heavenly life, and for the living Church that feeds us, sustains us, and prepares us to live each moment of our life prayerfully with Christ, and giving loving thanks for His mercy.
O Lord Jesus Christ, soon to be born as a little Child, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
“We thank Thee O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly gifts, deprive us not of Thy Heavenly Kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy Disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come to us and save us.” (Prayer at the end of supper)
The Monastics at St. Isaac of Syria Skete
and at the Convent of St. Silouan
and the Faithful at St. Nicholas Church
and the Staff at Orthodox Byzantine Icons and St. Isaac’s Bookstore.