In 1863, President Lincoln issued the “Proclamation of Thanksgiving”, in which he suggested that Americans “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens”.
This Thursday, many families will sit down together for one of their favorite meals of the year, and they will give thanks to God. We thank Him for how He takes care of us and provides for us. We thank Him for the families and friends He has given us. We thank Him for clothing and shelter. And we thank Him for the food He has graciously placed on our tables. . . . delicious turkey, steaming stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes & gravy, sweet cranberry sauce, and don’t forget the hot pumpkin pie!
The purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday is to remind us to thank God.
And the turkey is often the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal.
However, there is a far more glorious “Thanksgiving” meal Christians have been eating for 2000 years, and it doesn’t include turkey. Throughout Church history, the practice of “giving thanks” has been closely connected with our remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection:
And he took bread, and gave thanks, and broke it, and gave unto them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.’ Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.’ (Luke 22:19-20)
In the early Church, many Christians spoke the Greek language, and the Greek word for “giving thanks” is “Eucharisteo” (εὐχαριστέω). That is why the Church calls Communion the “Eucharist”. It is a time of thanksgiving, when we lift up our praises to God. We thank Him for the gift of salvation, because the body of Jesus was broken for our healing, and His blood was spilled for the forgiveness of our sins.
Every Sunday, Orthodox Christians gathered together to pray, to hear preaching, and to partake of Holy Communion. Every week, they gave thanks, and celebrated the Eucharist.
That is why we celebrate the Eucharist every week. As the Church has always done, we come together in the presence of God every Sunday, participating in Christ as He feeds us with His own body and blood.
We love thanksgiving so much that once a year isn’t enough for us.
We celebrate “thanksgiving” every Sunday!