We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty!
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The tradition of Thanksgiving Day has a long history in this country, beginning with the celebrations of early settlers who offered thanksgiving to God for safe passage to this land, for their freedom from religious persecution, for the strength to endure many hardships, and for the opportunities that were before them. In 1789 following a resolution passed by Congress, President George Washington issued a Thanksgiving Proclamation designating November 26 as a day “for rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; …and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.”
The institution of Thanksgiving Day as a annual national holiday followed in 1863, when in the midst of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for the people “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…and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
These foundations of Thanksgiving Day, and its place within the history and life of this nation as a regular observance have made this a holiday shared by many as well as a time for families to gather in fellowship and gratitude. The focus on giving thanks to God, the attitude of gratefulness for the blessings in our lives, and the traditions centered upon the family resonate with our emphasis on the family as a dwelling of Christ and a witness of His Gospel.
On this day when families gather to give thanks to God, they are gathering in His name, and Christ is in their midst (Matthew 18:20). As a day of Thanksgiving, it is a day of worship and prayer. It is a day to celebrate the life that comes from our Creator and is transformed by our Resurrected Lord. It is a day when the fruits of the Holy Spirit are shown in the fellowship of the home. Thanksgiving Day is a day when families share in what the family and home should be throughout the year – a place of praise and thanksgiving and a dwelling of Christ.
This strong relationship between our faith and the observance of Thanksgiving Day also shows that this is a time when families can offer a witness of the Gospel. Through the commemoration of this day, families have the opportunity to offer a witness of the Gospel by acknowledging that Christ is in their midst and by offering visible gratitude to God for His abundant blessings. In addition, the fellowship among members of the family nurture the bonds that are shared, affirming that the family is a place of love, care, healing, and forgiveness. In a home that is a dwelling of Christ with a family that is connected to God, each member can experience the love that flows from God’s love for each of us. Friends and guests can see a testimony of the power of faith and grace, and lives can be drawn by this witness to the Gospel of salvation, which renews, transforms, and saves.
On this blessed Thanksgiving Day may we offer our deep gratitude and jubilant thanksgiving to our Almighty God. May His abundant blessings be upon your gatherings and fellowship, and by observing this strong and vibrant tradition of our nation, may Christ be in your midst as you offer a witness of His Gospel of truth and love.
With paternal love in Christ,
Archbishop of America