Chaplain's Corner: Godless Thanksgiving?
Sadly, a couple weeks ago I heard a line said by the star of a newly released Hollywood film to advertize its opening. The line, a quote from the film’s script, spoken in a derisive tone, went something like this: ‘The last time I thought about God, was when I was high-tailing it away from the cops.’ What is most sad about this is that not only was this mocking the God, who is our Creator and Provider of Blessings, but it was reflecting the attitude of many in today’s society who relegate God at best to a sort of good luck charm or talisman which has about as much value as other magical trinkets, or, at worst, consider that God is irrelevant and to be ignored.
How different is the spirit and tradition in the Eastern Church with its remembrance of God and thanksgiving for His benefits which we have all received. In the Divine Liturgy and daily prayer of the Church thanksgiving is a central theme. The Eucharist, which Eastern Christians affirm as the very real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning: grateful, thankful. God is acknowledged and given thanks likewise in all the Churchs’ Holy Mysteries and in its many special blessing prayers.
Judaism and Islam, in common with the Eastern Church, acknowledge and are thankful for God’s blessings throughout the history of mankind. The Psalm of David (27: 6-7) from the Hebrew Scripture testifies to this: “I wash my hands in innocence, and go about thy altar, O Lord, singing aloud a song of thanksgiving, and telling all thy wondrous deeds.” In Islam the word in the Koran for thanks is “shukr.” “If ye are grateful, I will add more (favors) unto you; but if ye show ingratitude, truly My punishment is terrible indeed.” (Ibrahim 14:7). From God (Allah) “shukr” is a reward and appreciation, humanly it refers to recognition and favor.
How sad, in this month of “Thanksgiving,” if Americans simply view the parades, await the arrival of Santa Claus, watch football games, anticipate the season of shopping, or see this as a time merely defined as ‘eating, drinking and making merry’. How sad if some would boastingly echo the movie star’s own words: “The last time I thought about God was……”
Rather, let us begin this season which could be so holy, by making it holy in our hearts and minds. The words of our holy Eastern Church Father, St. Isaac of Syria, can enliven our Godly spirit, not only in this season but in all our lives: “The mouth which is continuously giving thanks receives blessings from God. In the heart that always shows gratitude, grace abides.” (Brock, S. (1997). The Wisdom of St. Isaac the Syrian. Fairacres Oxford, England: SLG Press.)