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:
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 are purifying us from selfishness and reminding 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 and, especially, 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!
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