The act of giving thanks is among the most fundamental acts of love. It lies at the very heart of worship – in which, in the words of Archimandrite Zacharias of Essex, there is an exchange. In giving thanks we make an offering which itself is always inferior to what we have received – but which is itself an enlargement of the human heart. To live rightly in the presence and communion of God is to live in a state of constant thanksgiving. For from Him we receive all that we have – our life and existence, all good things, the hope of redemption, and the joy of communion. The offering of thanksgiving is the acknowledgement within our heart that we ourselves are not the author of any of these things, but are rather the recipients – those who receive gifts from God.
The offering of our heart in the giving of thanks is itself an act of joy and of love. It is a moving away from ourselves as the center of our existence and the recognition that our true life is centered elsewhere – in Christ Himself.
We are also the recipients of many things from others around us. No one is self-sufficient. There is no such thing as a “self-made” man. The offering of thanks is a matter of living in our right mind – the failure to give thanks, an act of insanity (unwholeness).
With all of these things in mind, the teaching of Scripture to “give thanks always for all things” becomes yet clearer. We offer thanks not “from time to time,” or “whenever we feel grateful,” but always and for all things. Such an offering is itself an act of communion, a receiving of the love of God through gratefully acknowledging His gifts. To refuse to give thanks is, for the same reason, a rupture in our communion with God.
The Holy Eucharist (eucharist=”thanksgiving”) is thus not simply a sacrament which is celebrated in the Church on an occasional or even regular basis – but a description and revelation of the truth of our life. We were created to live “eucharistically,” always giving thanks to God.
It seems to me no coincidence that St. John Chrysostom, the author of the most common Eucharistic prayer in the Orthodox Church, offered his last words as a Eucharistic offering. Exiled to the very edge of the empire by an ungrateful Emperor, St. John’s last words were, “Glory to God for all things.”
Wonderful post, Father. Thank you.
Also a beautiful image at the beginning, where is it from?
So true, Father, but we forget in the midst of our worries and struggles to live thankfully!
I always thought it interesting, too, that Eucharist (thanksgiving) and χάρις (grace) are related etymologically, and that in Latin one and the same word means thanks and grace.
It’s the Dome at St. Nicholas Cathedral (OCA) in Washington, D.C.
Thank you for posting these encouraging words!
…all pouring out of a heart of gratitude!
My priest says that not being grateful is the greatest sin. He has a point, since pride is only one component of ingratitude.
Calls to mind Psalm 116: 12-13:
What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me?
I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
MrsMutton, my priest told me the same thing. One time I was complaining about someone that was annoying me and he told me, that’s easy: just thank God for them, too. Ouch.
James, I’m sorry, but all I can say is — lolol!! When I think of some of the people *I* complain about, that I should give thanks for them — !!! And yet…yeah. It makes sense. In a very ascetic sense. If only because it helps us to realize how very far off the mark we are. Thanks for the chuckle, and the reality check!