22nd Sunday after Pentecost
As I have done in the past years on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day, today I will read someone else’s sermon.
This sermon was written by Father Alexander Schmemann, who was a great and influential theologian of the 20th century, a liturgical scholar, and also a loving teacher and pastor.
He was the dean of Saint Vladimir’s Seminary for a couple of decades. He delivered this sermon on Thanksgiving Day of 1983, which was the last Liturgy he celebrated in his earthly life.
He died from cancer not long after, on December 13th of the same year. This sermon was written in the form of a prayer, a thanksgiving prayer of a man, who knew his journey on this earth was coming to an end.
Father Alexander never wrote down his sermons, always delivering them extemporaneously. But on that Thanksgiving Day in 1983, he came out before the Seminary congregation, took out a piece of paper, and said,
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Everyone capable of thanksgiving is capable of salvation and eternal joy.
Thank You, O Lord, for accepting this Eucharist, which we offered to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and which filled our hearts with joy, peace, and righteousness of the Holy Spirit.
Thank You, O Lord, for revealing Yourself to us and giving us the foretaste of Your Kingdom.
Thank You, O Lord, for uniting us to one another in serving You and Your Holy Church.
Thank You, O Lord, for helping us to overcome all difficulties, tensions, passions, temptations, and restoring peace, mutual love, and joy in sharing the Communion of the Holy Spirit.
Thank You, O Lord, for the sufferings You bestow upon us, for they purify us from selfishness and remind us of the “one thing needed” (Luke 10:42) – Your eternal Kingdom.
Thank You, O Lord, for giving us this country where we are free to worship You.
Thank You, O Lord, for this parish, where the Name of God is proclaimed.
Thank You, O Lord, for our families: husbands, wives, our parents, and, especially, the children, who teach us how to celebrate Your holy Name in joy, movement, and holy noise.
Thank You, O Lord, for everyone and everything.
Great are You, O Lord, and marvelous are Your works, and no word is sufficient to celebrate Your miracles.
Lord, it is good to be here!
Slightly adjusted for the use in our parish.
Thanksgiving Homily, 1983
Father Alexander Schmemann celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the last time on Thanksgiving Day. This was particularly appropriate since Father Alexander had devoted his whole life to teaching, writing, and preaching about the Eucharist; for the word eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving. At the conclusion of the Liturgy, Father Alexander took from his pocket a short, written sermon, in the form of a prayer, which he proceeded to read. This was a strange occurrence since Father never wrote his liturgical homilies, but delivered them extemporaneously. These were his words, which proved to be the last ever spoken by him from the ambo in Church.
- The Orthodox Church, Vol. 20, No. 2, February 1984, p. 1:1
If there is one secular holiday that Christians can totally sign up for, it is Thanksgiving Day. One of the most important things we do in our Christian life is give thanks to God, and give thanks to each other.
We do it first of all during the Liturgy. In fact, one of the names for Liturgy is Eucharist. Which comes from a Greek word that means thanksgiving.
We don’t have to wait for one special day in the year to give thanks. We do it every day. But to have one day as a reminder that all things belong to God, and give thanks to Him, isn’t a bad idea.
Below is a sermon that was delivered by the late Father Alexander Schmemann, who did a lot in terms of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ on American soil.
He died in December 1983 from cancer. The last Liturgy he celebrated was on Thanksgiving Day that same year. And this was his last sermon. It’s in the form of a prayer, a thanksgiving prayer of a man, who knew his journey on this earth was coming to an end.
The sermon was edited slightly for the use in our parish, where Father Aleksey reads it every year the Sunday before Thanksgiving Day.
Here are the words of Father Alexander Schmemann: