Tuesday, November 20, 2012

How Shall We Give Thanks to God?

It’s a typical question around Thanksgiving. “How should we thank God?” God who needs nothing has given us everything as we pray in the Divine Liturgy, “You have brought all things out of nothing into being.” How can we possibly give thanks to God, presuming of course, that we want to give thanks to Him in the first place?

Our ancient Holy Tradition has given us a clear understanding of how we should give thanks to God. We thank Him by making an offering to Him in worship. Cain & Abel, Noah after the Flood, Abraham after He rescued Lot and again after He promised life; these are all ancient examples of how, long before God established the Law with Moses, human beings expressed their gratitude to God. In fact the Thanksgiving Offering, which for us Christians is the Eucharist, is considered a communal experience between the he who offers and He who receives. It was believed in the ancient times that when offering a burnt offering to God on the Altar, God received the “burnt parts” while sharing the “cooked parts” with the person making the offering. This is why we say in the Divine Liturgy, “For You, Christ our God, are the Offerer and the Offered, the One who receives and is distributed.”

In the ancient world offerings were of many sorts; wine, oil, bread, wheat, animals, incense, and even money. These each represented an offering equal to our labor. For instance, Cain “brought a sacrifice to the Lord from the fruits of the ground,” (Genesis 4.3) representing the fruit of his labor. His brother Abel did the same, but from his flock of sheep. What represents the fruit of our labor? For most of us today, our money represents the fruits of our labor, but offering money is also nothing new. When Abraham wanted to thank God for saving his nephew Lot, he, “gave him a tithe of all.” (Genesis 14.20)

As Greek Orthodox Christians and especially as Americans, we have much to give thanks to God. We begin by coming to worship, most especially the Sunday Divine Liturgy ON TIME, and participating fully in the service by preparing for and receiving Holy Communion. Then we make our offering to God, which should represent not only our labor but the level of our thanks. The more we have to be thankful for, the more we should thank God. And when the offering is from our heart, as it was from Abel, the Lord will respect it. (Genesis 4.4)

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