Chaplain's Corner Short essays written for the La Jolla Veteran's Hospital newsletter in La Jolla, California
Although Christmas is a national holiday by act of Congress (5 U.S.C. 6103), all in Western countries know Christmas is under attack and that any religious significance is being marginalized from its celebration. Unfortunately, many Americans, and others throughout the world, hold to the value system summarized by the well-known adage: 'money talks but everything else walks.'
Our only hope for retaining some sense of a transcendent God, and the recognition due Him for the blessings we receive throughout the year, may be Thanksgiving Day. In 1863, following the irregular local, regional and national recognition of this feast since its first celebration by the Puritan-Protestant Pilgrims and indigenous Native Americans in 1621, President Abraham Lincoln made an official proclamation: "I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens."
Now it almost goes without saying that 'thanksgiving" is fundamental to most of the world's major religions. The Thanksgiving Prayer of the Eastern Church, said immediately after the Divine Liturgy, reads: "O Master, Christ our God, King of the ages, and maker of all things: I thank thee for all the good things which thou hast bestowed upon me . . . ."
Thanksgiving is fundamental to the Hebrews; Moses records God's word: “You shall keep the feast of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the feast of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.”(Ex 23: 16). Throughout the psalms, King David continuously gives thanks to God for numerous blessings received by his people and himself. One example: "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" (Ps 106: 1).
The Islamic Koran states: "Your Lord has decreed: "The more you thank Me, the more I give you. But if you turn unappreciative, then My retribution is severe. [14:7]"
In Buddhism we find: "People who are thankful for each day of life and for nature’s blessings can also feel happiness in little things."
On Thanksgiving Day we have the arrival of Santa, Thanksgiving Day sales and football galore. The secular-worldly value of the god of money seems to reign. But we have other options. It is not too late. It is also the biggest travel day of the year. Many share thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.
The Akathist (Prayer) of Thanksgiving, composed by Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan Tryphon of Turkestan, can be our spiritual guide. The Godly Archbishop Tryphon tells us what our response to our blessings from God should be: "O all-good and life-giving Trinity, receive our gratefulness for all thy goods and show us worthy of Thine eternal treasures, so that we may multiply the talent entrusted to us, reach Thy kingdom and enter into the joy of our Lord, singing to Him the victorious song: Alleluia!"
Yes, the operative phrase is "that we may multiply the talent entrusted to us." Let's let go of "money talks" and walk the path of "giving." What greater way to "give thanks!"