Thanksgiving is the fitting response of one who has freely received from another a favor, gift or blessing that, though not deserved in strict justice, was given to benefit the receiver in some way. In other words, whatever good you have done for me that is “beyond the call of duty” becomes my vocation to give thanks.
In God’s case, everything He has done in creating and holding the world in existence, as well as in freely redeeming an ungrateful world for an eternal destiny of glory and fulfillment, is a summons to thanksgiving.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. — James 1:17
Every day begun with a litany of thanksgiving, acknowledging every gift given, would be a day in which nothing else could be accomplished! “If I count them, they are more than the sand” (Ps. 139:18)! And in Romans 8:28, St. Paul ensures us that absolutely nothing of what happens to those who love the God of Christ crucified-and-risen can be excluded from our litany of thanksgiving:
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
All things, in the light of eternity, bear within them seeds of the resurrection. Faith, hope and love, the three fountains of thanksgiving, alone can germinate those seeds.
…and not only do I rightly give thanks for the literally countless particular gifts I have received, I also give thanks for existing at all. And even more, I give thanks that God is, and that he is love. This is mind-blowing, breathtaking, and every time I call this truth to mind afresh, I feel a fresh rush of joy and relief that, behind this world filled with violence, death and pain, is beginning-less, endless and omnipotent Love — who says,
Behold, I make all things new. — Rev. 21:5
A last thought. Though it is true that God gives all his gifts freely, once received these gifts carry within them an exigency, a demand to give them away. Equally as true as the saying, “you can’t give what you don’t have,” is the saying, “you can’t have what you don’t give.” Or in Jesus’ words, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8). The grateful are generous, and the generous are cheerful because they are grateful.
The Anaphora of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom offers an expression of gratitude that I have committed to memory and often use throughout the day as a litany of thanks. Please join me in praying it, and may your Thanksgiving be bountiful this holiday for all things…
It is meet and right to hymn Thee, to bless Thee, to praise Thee, to give thanks to Thee, and to worship Thee in every place of Thy dominion. For Thou art God ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same, Thou and Thine only-begotten Son and Thy Holy Spirit.
Thou it was who brought us from nonexistence into being, and when we had fallen away didst raise us up again, and didst not cease to do all things until Thou hadst brought us up to heaven, and hadst endowed us with Thy Kingdom which is to come.
For all these things we give thanks to Thee, and to Thine only-begotten Son, and to Thy Holy Spirit, for all things of which we know and of which we know not, whether manifest or unseen…
1. For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth
Over and around us lies.
Refrain: Lord of all to Thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.
2. For the wonder of each hour,
Of the day and of the night,
Hill and vale, and tree and flower,
Sun and moon, and stars of light.(Refrain)
3. For the joy of human love,
Brother, sister, parent, child,
Friends on earth and friends above,
For all gentle thoughts and mild.(Refrain)
4. For the church, that evermore
Lifteth holy hands above,
Offering up on every shore
Her pure sacrifice of love.(Refrain)
5. For Thyself, best Gift Divine.
To our race so freely given,
For that great, great love of Thine,
Peace on earth and joy in Heaven