On Giving Thanks to God

(On the occasion of Thanksgiving Day)

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Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.
(Psalm 102:2)

All of one’s life is filled with God’s beneficence. There is no day, hour or moment in which our soul finds itself without Divine assistance. Like a never-setting sun, God’s goodness never ceases to pour out His bountiful gifts upon us: “These all wait upon thee; that Thou mayest give them their meat in due season. That thou givest them they gather; Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good...” says the Holy Prophet David. (Psalm 103:27–28).

It would be impossible to enumerate all of God’s gifts sent down upon us. Everything good is of God, everything sinful is of ourselves. As St. Tikhon of Zadonsk says, “When God removes [from you] what is His, all you have is your sins.”

Let us call to mind the Gospel account of the nine ungrateful lepers who forgot their Divine Healer just as soon as they had received healing by His Almighty Word.

We also often do not want to notice God’s kindnesses toward us, or without being thankful, we forget about them. Yet, in our entire life there is not enough time in which to adequately thank our Creator, Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, Who redeemeth thy life from corruption… (Psalm 102:3-4). This is why the Gospel and our Orthodox Divine Services call upon us to daily offer up the sacrifice of praise.

True Christians consider it their irredeemable debt to emulate the Angels and constantly raise up praise for their Creator. No yoke of deprivation, suffering, or poverty could keep the Saints, who recognized God’s goodness, from singing His praises. Such a blessed state, something incomprehensible to those estranged from God, engendered in them the Lord’s boundless kindness, which the Saints profoundly felt in their thankful souls. In their hearts it was always a Feast Day, filled with Paschal Joy.

“My joy, Christ is Risen!” is how St. Seraphim of Sarov greeted everyone, regardless of the season. “Glory to God for all things!” St. John Chrysostom would constantly repeat, even just before his death, which he encountered on the martyric road into exile.

Giving thanks to God brings us abundant grace, protecting us from the sin of ingratitude. When a person forgets good done to him by another, we refer to his attitude toward us as frank ingratitude. Yet, we are incapable of determining the depth of our own ingratitude toward our All-good God. Forgetting Christ’s great gifts and kindnesses, we devote barely one tenth of our prayers and thoughts to praise and thanks to God. In our prayers, we ask more than we thank, and we complain and mourn more than being satisfied with what we have been given.

We need to fundamentally change our prayer life, and not forget that we should extol and offer thanks to our Creator for enabling us to see another day of His kindness. Whenever we go to bed, we should thank God for the passing day, whether good and joyous or difficult and sorrow-filled, for tomorrow the Lord can turn sorrow into joy, if only we would believe in His help and not become despondent. After all, through adversity that cleanses us of sin, the path to spiritual joy in Heavenly Eternity opens to us. In the Old Testament, the righteous Job sang “Blessed be the Name of the Lord,” in praise of his Creator, and through the devil’s envy, he was deprived of everything: his family that perished in the ruins of his house, his wealth, and finally, his health. He was covered in sores of leprosy, and a terrible stench emanated from him, but his lips continued to raise up God’s praises. And the Lord glorified Job who exalted Him.

Thus, Be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:19), and In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (I Thess. 5:18).

Archpriest Victor Potapov
Parish Life, November 2023
St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Washington, DC


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