Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Thanksgiving Special
Volume 6 No. 385 November 22, 2016

By Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

This Thursday, November 24, 2016, is celebrated as the Thanksgiving Day in the US. Having a grateful heart is an important part of Christian living. We hardly ever give any credit to God for the blessings, grace and mercy we received. Let us examine the importance of gratefulness for Christians.

The importance of giving thanks to God is explained in Psalms. For example:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Psalm 100 [NIV]

So what shall we render unto the Lord? Thanksgiving and praise; blessing His
Holy Name!

How often should we thank God, our Lord. David says we should never stop thanking God:

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Psalm 30:12

What should we thank God for? Is that for blessings received? Psalm says,

"For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations."

When the psalmist says, "For…his mercy is everlasting," he is pointing out that he is giving thanks because the Lord has bestowed much that he has not deserved. That is mercy. Mercy is "one-sided love; the benevolence, mildness or tenderness of heart that disposes one to overlook injuries, or to treat an offender better than he deserves."

Ralph Bouma says, "True gratitude is based on mercy and a love for the Truth."

Just saying, "I thank thee, Lord," is not enough. True thanksgiving must come from our hearts. Again, Psalm provides some clues. Psalm 116 says:

12 What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me?
13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
14 I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
16 O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
-Psalm 116:12-17

So, one way to show our thanks to God is through the servant leadership as taught by Jesus and being a true disciple. Psalm says about the "sacrifice of thanksgiving."

Our holy qurbana is called a living sacrifice. In Greek, Qurbana is called "Eucharist." Eucharist means "thanksgiving." So, when we attend and participate in holy qurbana, we are actually giving thanks to God for the abundant blessings and mercy we have received from Him.

Monsignor Charles Pope explained this well:

Indeed, how can I possibly thank the Lord for all the good He has done for me? Notice that the psalm (116:13) points to the Eucharist in saying, The cup of salvation I will take up …"

We cannot thank God our Father adequately, but Jesus can. In every Mass, we join our meager thanksgiving to His perfect thanksgiving. Through the priest, Jesus takes up the cup of salvation and shows it to us at every Mass. This is the perfect and superabundant thanks to the Father that only Jesus can offer.

In every Mass, Jesus joins us to His perfect sacrifice of thanks. That is how we give thanks in a way commensurate with the manifold blessings we have received."

WOW! So, every Sunday is a Thanksgiving Day for us. We go to church to offer our gratitude to God for the abundant blessings and mercy we have received.

An old gospel song says this well:

I've got so much to thank God for;
So many wonderful blessings and so many open doors.
A brand new mercy along with each new day.
That's why I praise You and for this I give You praise.

For waking me up this morning,
For starting me on my way,
For letting me see the sunshine, of a brand new day.
That's why I praise You and for this I give You praise.

So many times You've met my needs,
So many times You rescued me.
That's why I praise You.

For every mountain You brought me over,
For every trial you've seen me through,
For every blessing,
For this I give You praise.

I recently came across the story of a widow in India. During a harvest festival, this widow arrived at her church with an extraordinarily large offering of rice - far more than the poor woman could be expected to afford. The priest of the church did not know the widow well. But he did know that she was very poor and this offering, like the offering of widow told by Jesus, is a very generous offering for her. So he asked her if she was making the offering in gratitude for some unusual blessing.

"Yes," replied the woman. "My son was sick and I promised a large gift to God if he got well."

"And your son has recovered?" asked the priest.

The widow paused.

"No," she said. "He died last week. But I know that he is in God's care; for that I am especially thankful."

That is true faith!! This widow knows how God answers prayers. It is not always what we ask. But God always know what is best for us. We should thank Him for it.

While we are discussing Indian stories, I came upon another story about our beloved Taj Mahal.

As those from India know, Taj was built by Shah Jehan as both a mausoleum and also as a monument of his love to his beloved wife.

There is a legend told about Taj. The legend says that during the long process of building the Taj Mahal, the emperor often visited the site to check on its progress. He kept bumping into a dusty box which was constantly in his way. Highly irritated, one day he ordered, "Get rid of it!" People around him did not know what that box contained. They complied with the order of Shah Jehan and disposed of the box. Only later, they discovered that the box contained the remains of the very woman the building was built to honor!!

I do not know if this story is true. But it provides us a teaching moment about our observance of Thanksgiving Day. We all know the purpose of Thanksgiving Day; but somehow in the very process of planning the day, we lose sight of its purpose.

Thanksgiving was designed to give thanks to God. The pilgrims who came to Plymouth, Massachusetts observed Thanksgiving Day after an year of toiling with the elements, Indians etc. to thank God for providing a bountiful harvest. The God mostly has disappeared from our Thanksgiving festivities. It has become a family holiday, for watching football, and getting ready for the Black Friday sale that follows.

Johnny Tan, a student from Malaysia, came to Louisiana, USA for studies. He recalled his first Thanksgiving in 'the Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.' In his article, 'What I Learned from My First Thanksgiving' Johnny Tan reflected on what made Thanksgiving Day special for him:

"The magical day, filled with a bountiful feast and the generosity of new friends, gave birth to my understanding of the true essence of Thanksgiving. Once a year, this uniquely American holiday reminds me to reflect on those blessings for which I am grateful, including the people, situations and events that have enriched my life. There were years when I was able to gather with my family; years when I experienced the holiday spirit thanks to the generosity of friends; and still other times when I found myself counting my blessings in solitude. Regardless of the situation, I have always focused on appreciation, and that has brought joy and love to my heart."

Well said.

Yes, Thanksgiving Day is a day to acknowledge our gratitude and thanks. As E.P. Powel observed:

"Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude."

So, it is appropriate to thank all those who helped us as well as those who supported Malankara World. Special thanks go to our Patrons and our Advisory Board for their helpful suggestions and help. I also recall all those who spread the word on Malankara World to others so that they could also benefit from this resource.

We wish you all a happy and memorable thanksgiving.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World


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